The industry is growing: Employment for PR pros is up 9% from 2016

Jun 17, 2019
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The industry is growing: Employment for PR pros is up 9% from 2016

According to research from the Holmes Report and USC Annenberg, 87% of PR executives believe the term "public relations" does not describe their future.

From the type of work PR pros are doing to the actual job titles themselves, the industry is in a constant state of change.

As technology advances and public opinion shifts, there will always be flux in the way people approach media. The demand for communications professionals who can exert their expertise and create tangible results for brands is at an all-time high.

PR is something that every brand needs, meaning the trade spans all industries, from the nonprofit sector to healthcare to technology, and everything in between.

As a result, US employment for public relations specialists is expected to reach 282,600 in 2026, up 9 percent from 2016, according to projections from the Labor Department.

But what exactly will those nearly 300,000 professionals be doing?

An evolving field

As the field shifts and evolves, so do the job titles.

Fewer jobs that requires PR skills actually contain the word PR in them. This appears to be a common trend in the media world, as the same shift can be seen in the journalism world as well.

With those shifts in title come a plethora of new skills required to successfully perform the tasks at hand.

As in the past, written communication skills are still a key skill for someone working in PR, with 86% of PR pros agreeing on its importance in the field. But surpassing even this most fundamental PR practice, 89% of PR executives surveyed said strategic planning is an important skill PR pros will need for future growth.

Even further, the ability to analyze “big data,” skill in video production and knowledge of search engine optimization tactics are ranked among the top skills needed for the evolving PR field.

Among the transitions in job titles and the skills required to excel in PR, wage growth continues to be an area of change for the industry.

Salary growth in general continues to be on the rise on the agency side, according to research from PRWeek. Agencies tend to be more entrepreneurial, increasing compensation significantly in short spans of time to reward and promote quality employees.

That doesn’t mean you should overlook the opportunities in-house, however.

While there may be an opportunity for a large bump in salary at an agency after proving your value for a period of time, the median income for in-house, corporate positions continues to be higher, averaging around $132,000, compared to the median at agencies of $95,000.

With those higher salaries comes company loyalty— PR pros are staying in jobs longer. According to the PR Week Survey, only 12% of this year’s respondents changed employers in the past year, down from 15% last year, 17% the year before, and 23% three years ago.

What does it all mean?

Diversification means more opportunity for specialization.

And specialization leads to the chance for a better salary.

Today, the median salary in PR is nearing (or in many cases hitting) the six-figure mark according to data collected by PRWeek.

Competition is fierce on the employer side.

Although fewer of currently employed professionals are actively seeking change, employers can’t get complacent.

Employers must work hard to keep quality PR pros on their team who have advanced knowledge of their niche and the media landscape overall.

As Karen Bloom, principal at recruitment firm Bloom, Gross & Associates notes, "On any given day, almost 80% of your workforce could be persuaded to leave. But if you have benefits and perks to remind them, ‘Hey, I have a good thing here,’ that might keep them."

There are growing opportunities for freelancers.

A rise in technological advancements coupled with the desire among PR pros for lifestyle change has led to a rise in independent PR pros.

And the opportunities for them are out there.

“I’ve seen a distinctive uptick in companies exploring and hiring independents in lieu of traditional PR agency solutions due to negative past experiences, an overall sense of disenchantment and a desire for something different, “ says Nicole Jordan, founder of Radix Collective.

Additionally, many agencies are looking to freelance PR professionals to help supplement gaps in their account teams, seeking their technical expertise and ability to self-manage.

Public relations is still the core competency

Despite diversification, PR pros bring to the table a set of transferable skills that businesses need.

Expertise in written and verbal communications is still a must.

Media relations skills still have a home in the future of the field. Being able to separate what is newsworthy from what isn’t, and create concise pitches to attract attention from your audience is still key, regardless of the job title you hold.

What other PR employment trends have you noticed? Let us know on Twitter!

Mike Schneider is the Head of Marketing for Muck Rack, where he helps to shape the company’s strategic development and growth of marketing, brand and revenue.

Photo via Pexels

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