2016 ABR shows demand for what we call 'PR' has never been greater

Steve Barrett, editorial director of PRWeek Global, writes that there has never been more demand for the profession.

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.

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