PR is like writing or acting, in that everyone thinks that if they just give it a go, they can do it. It’s true you can learn the basics of all of these skills, someone can teach you the basics of acting and there are certainly enough acting classes out there. Similarly with PR, you can certainly learn the basics and be in a much better spot to implement a campaign than if you just decided to wing it. But, along with being a skill, PR is also an art and simply learning information or know-how is not enough to really succeed.
Unlike hiring a full-service PR firm, that will create, develop and implement your entire campaign for you, a PR consultant will generally act as a guide or a coach. He ( using he in this example; it can just as easily be she) can help you create your campaign, write your press releases, work with you to develop your stories, help you create a targeted media list; teach you how to meld social media and traditional public relations, etc.
But, staying with the earlier comparisons, unlike an acting or writing coach, a PR consultant can not only guide you through the PR minefields, but can also do much of the heavy lifting. For example, if you need a press release written, or if you need someone to make the media follow-up calls for you, that can be part of his job description. You can tailor your business relationship with a PR consultant based on your specific needs and your budget. It’s best to consult with an expert before trying your hand into any field, that way if you do run into any problems; professional help is just a phone call away.