Whether it is communications marketing, earned influence, integrated marketing, the engagement discipline, integrated comms, or brand marketing — or all of the above — the number of acronyms for PR mushrooms month on month. But what the biggest and most in-depth analysis of the agencies, trends, and data fueling our industry — PRWeek’s Global Agency Business Report — tells us is that there has never been more demand for the practice formerly known as PR.
It was a $10.2 billion global industry in 2015, up 5% on 2014 (based on submissions to PRWeek’s ranking tables; the rest is finger-in-the-air stuff), employing 66,500 people, up 9% on the year prior.
While growth may have stalled slightly, the need to employ more staff hasn’t, so average revenue per global staffer is down 4%, from $160,000 to $154,000, a sign PR agencies have to run further for each billable dollar. It is also a reflection that firms have to retool with people who have very different skills not previously associated with PR — it’s much more expensive to employ a senior broadcaster or data analyst than more AAEs, for example.
And, while work with the marketing department is a Holy Grail for most PR firms nowadays, the margins on such work are notoriously tighter than corporate reputation, M&A, IR, or crisis work. Richard Edelman notes that you have to invest ahead of the curve and hire creative and other new talent to affect change — and that the
pace of innovation is unrelenting and unparalleled.
That’s the environment within which PR firms now operate and there’s no room for the faint-hearted, whatever label you decide to bestow on the noble profession.