PR industry should promote its value

PR is undervalued and underpaid, despite achieving two consecutive years of growth -- 4% in 2008 and 3% in 2009.

PR is undervalued and underpaid, despite achieving two consecutive years of growth -- 4% in 2008 and 3% in 2009.

Veronis Suhler Stevenson forecasts that spending on PR in America will hit $4.4 billion by 2014. It sounds extremely rosy, until you learn that even with declining ad spending in the US, advertising spend is expected to be $210.5 billion in 2010 after two years of declines, according to SNL Kagan.

Although the recession is said to have increased corporate demand for PR, 64% of PR firms reported revenues slid in 2009 while merely 23% saw revenues increase, according to a survey released by StevensGouldPincus.

PR seems to get the short end of the stick. Advertising budgets include figures in the millions of dollars. Any PR firm in the US would chase a $500,000 RFP like there was no tomorrow, and in the advertising world it's a drop in the bucket.

Because the industry is relatively immature, it is not given enough financial stake or deserved emphasis. Too many companies fail to see the true value of PR, and that is to their detriment.

The management function of PR involves major planning, execution, and evaluation with measurable tools for its impact. Its influence can determine a brand's future.

Nevertheless when I recently sat with a CMO of a Fortune 1000 brand (not a client – our kids are in school together), he ranted and raved about how great his in-house PR team is. After noting the team's ability to manage crisis, handle social media, secure media, and to provide strategy, he laughed about the team's salary levels. Laughed, and said they save him legal fees and accounting fees daily which are dozens of times more.

All of us in the PR industry need to continue to do our best to stress value, and get paid well for the value we provide. To quote one of my favorite clients who also works in the service industry: “Don't be someone who knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing.”

Ronn Torossian is president and CEO of 5WPR.

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