The good, the bad and the challenges 45 years on

This month, it will be 45 years since a dozen men (yes, all men, including a Russian prince) gathered in Mayfair and founded the PRCA. It seems like an ­appropriate moment to reflect on what's changed and what the challenges are for the ­future of the industry.

So. The good news. Well, it’s a far bigger industry than it was. Our latest PRCA/PRWeek Census revealed that 62,000 people work in PR – and our quarterly barometers show that employers predict continued growth going forwards. It’s a well-paid industry – ­average salaries are £54,000. It’s a growing industry – between 2011 and 2013 it grew from £7.5bn to £9.6bn.

And it’s a world leader – running ICCO, the international body for PR practitioners around the world, I’m regularly struck by just how far ahead of the game the UK is. PR is a UK success story.

Our research on the value of corporate reputation shows ­comms advisers are increasingly taking their rightful place advising ­organisations not just on how to manage their decisions, but on what those decisions should be in the first place.

Now for the bad. As an industry, we still lack the self-­confidence to bill an appropriate amount. We still undervalue what we do – our benchmarking data shows the hourly rates charged by ­consultancies have not kept pace with inflation.

In real terms, we charge significantly less than we used to. One of those founders was the grandfather of Richard Houghton, my first chairman when I took the PRCA role. ­Richard used to talk about consultancies giving Friday away for free – that’s sadly still the case.

And the challenges? Well there’s plenty of work still to be done on proving value. That’s why we devote so much time and effort to our work with AMEC, to put evaluation at the heart of the industry’s future. If we can’t prove the value our industry delivers, then we’ll never gain the professional respect we deserve.

Our industry has to try harder to reach out to the brightest talent, regardless of background. Our PR apprenticeship programme is a start, as is our campaign with PRWeek to end unpaid internships. But there’s more to do. We need the self-belief not to fret about other disciplines ‘stealing our lunch’. We should start stealing theirs. Because if the future is driven by digital; by content; and by reputation, then I know to whom it belongs: PR.

Francis Ingham is PRCA director-general; ICCO executive director

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