"Reflecting the views of more than 1,500 professionals, #StateofPR returns for 2019 to paint a picture of a commercially robust industry that isn't always the people-focussed profession it aspires to be."
This is the first thing that I read about the latest research into the UK PR profession by the CIPR and I'll be honest, it didn't exactly make me want to read more. It sort of depressed me.
But it's important to know what's going on in the PR industry, especially on my quest to help transform it with my book Inbound PR so I wanted to dig in to understand why this statement as a summary of the research.
I cover the StateofPR every year (here's 2018, for example, which to me was all about the need for business acumen in PR). This year, I noticed 5 key issues that I want to share with you below.
#1 PR is growing but still has a skills gap
The very good news this year is that the industry is growing both in agency and in-house as well as salary-wise.
The industry is moving towards more professionalism through qualifications but there's still a noticeable gap, especially at senior level, between what skills employers want and what PR professionals have to offer.
Those skills include research, evaluation and measurement, corporate governance, strategic planning and people management.
#2 PR is failing at diversity
92% of PR pros classify as white. In addition, those who attended a private paid school seem to hold a senior position and are paid more than those who didn't.
What's most discouraging is the fact that the industry is two-thirds (67%) female but men occupy nearly half (44%) of the industry’s most senior roles.
In addition, the average difference between full-time income for males and females, before regression analysis, is now £9,991 which £579 less than 2018 and £2,325 than 2017. When a multiple linear regression analysis of full-time income is conducted, which takes into consideration all factors that influence pay such as seniority and length of service, the true gender pay gap is £5,202 which £1,523 less than in 2018.
As the report says, findings like these "paint a picture of a profession which lacks self-awareness and consciously or unconsciously disadvantages people based on who they are rather than what they do. While the profession may look to changing recruiting processes, these statistics beg the question; does public relations suffer from a cultural problem, resulting in a failure to support and retain diverse talent?"
And now I get the statement from the top.
#3 PR is failing at mental health
Mental health is yet another major problem for the PR industry.
The majority of practitioners find PR stressful, with workload, unsociable hours and unrealistic expectations driving stress. 63% of respondents rated the stressfulness of their job at 7 out of 10 or above. The average score among practitioners was 6.7. Just shy of a quarter (23%) said they had taken sickness absence from work on the grounds of stress, anxiety or depression.
With this, the statement at the top makes even more sense and becomes rather alarming.
#4 PR is still more tactical than strategic
In both senior and junior roles, ‘copywriting and editing’ and ‘media relations’ are the two most commonly undertaken activities.
A majority of senior in-house practitioners (59%), consultancy and agency practitioners (57%) and independent practitioners (68%) influence their organisations or clients’ overall business strategy.
When asked if they are directly responsible for business strategy these figures drop significantly – 4% for senior in-house practitioners, 23% for consultancy and agency practitioners and 16% for independent practitioners. Under-representation of public relations practitioners at board level was identified as the second biggest challenge facing the profession (down from first place in the previous two years).
#5 Social and digital the top challenge for PR
If we look at the overall picture of what PR pros consider their biggest challenges, I'm frankly yet again shocked to see social and digital at the very top.
But am I surprised? No. I've just heard this from a client - a large, global B2C organisation with multiple PR agencies - who told me that they keep on educating their agencies when it comes to online. It's not the first time I've heard this and it makes me sad. (If you are a struggling PR agency in need of transformation, I can help.)
If I have to summarise the findings, it seems like the PR industry is making strides to improve and the most positive sign is its growth - it means that clients recognise the need for PR. However, the challenge for PR becomes to meet those needs especially with such an evident gap in skills and knowledge around digital, social and analytics that are so needed in our digital reality.
Do you agree?
I'll leave with some useful resources.
Here's a good video with the key stats:
You can also read the full study here: