3 important stats about the future of the PR industry
There’s always lots of talk about PR trends when it comes to topics like influencer relations, social media and measurement of results. But, what about trends around the PR industry itself?
Where do PR professionals think the industry is headed?
The USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations set out to study this question in the 2017 edition of its Global Communications Report.
This survey of more than 800 PR executives from around the world offers important insights about both the present and future of the industry that touch on everything from how to describe the term “public relations” and whether PR is an aspirational career, to how the industry positions the occupation and compensation.
1. 87 percent of PR pros agree that the term “Public Relations” won’t accurately describe their work in five years
Not to worry, the PR industry is certainly not going anywhere! In fact, if you’re a PR specialist, there’s only an 18 percent chance a robot will take your job.
Instead, PR work is becoming more closely integrated with marketing and advertising.
And, most PR pros believe that PR needs to be more broadly defined to keep up. In many cases, day-to-day responsibilities are expanding to include tasks that are traditionally thought of as “marketing” or “advertising” work.
The changing definition of the PR “role” is something to keep a close eye on. In five years, the average consumer will not be able to distinguish between paid and earned media, according to most PR pros. As media shifts, the PR role is likely to shift as well.
2. 58 percent of PR students believe that PR is positioned as an aspirational career
While this is a majority for soon-to-be graduates, existing PR executives are lukewarm: 32 percent agree, 36 percent disagree and 31 percent neither agree nor disagree that PR is an aspirational career.
Seasoned PR professionals are not confident that the PR industry is positioning itself well, which begs the question: Does PR need better PR?
According to PR recruits, the answer is a resounding no. The Global Communications Report also polled 700 PR and comms students, who were overwhelmingly excited about a career in PR. If students think PR is aspirational, clearly something is going right!
And, not only are students enthusiastic, they’re also well-prepared. Students are most interested in digital storytelling, social listening, social purpose and big data -- the same four communications trends that PR and marketing officials identified as most important going forward for the advancing industry.
3. The majority of PR pros (60 percent) and students (54 percent) agree that the role of a PR professional could be better defined -- offering better compensation couldn’t hurt, either
This is no surprise, especially given the evolution of the field.
But, PR newcomers want to know what they’re getting into, so they can be even better prepared.
For example, as the PR role expands to include some marketing and advertising tasks, PR students and interns should be working on mastering more varied skills, like media buying and branding.
The second-most pressing issue on students’ minds? Compensation. At least one third of the students polled wished for a better entry-level compensation package.
As students prepare to make the leap into the corporate world, they want to know that there will be a high quality of life in their chosen field.
It’s not just salary and bonuses, however. Studies have shown that millennials value work-life balance and flexibility, whether it’s flexible working hours, vacation policy or the option to work from home.
Finding and retaining top talent remains one of PR’s top challenges.
As the PR industry looks to the future, the focus will inevitably turn to the younger generations. Students are excited about getting into this career, but changes and clarifications can be made to attract even more interest and quality candidates.
Regardless, the future of the PR industry is bright, as scores of students aspire to become PR experts.
That is, if it’s still called “public relations” five years down the line!
Meredith L. Eaton is a Vice President at March Communications, focusing on driving awareness and engagement for technology innovation brands in cloud, telco, security, infrastructure, AI and IoT markets. By aligning her clients’ business objectives with PR initiatives, Meredith has helped companies – from large, public brands to niche startups – execute business-critical, integrated campaigns to capture competitive market share and shift brand perceptions. Follow her on Twitter.
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