PRCA Census 2016: How do PR professionals spend their time?

Part five of the PRCA's 2016 Census reveals that digital and social media work has massively increased, while other traditional PR tasks appear to be on the wane.

Digital and social tasks take up an increasing amount of PR time, according to the census
Digital and social tasks take up an increasing amount of PR time, according to the census
The PRCA’s 2016 Census of the PR and comms industry paints, in some cases, a disturbing picture of a sector that, although largely young and vibrant, continues to lack diversity in terms of background and gender.

As for remuneration, average salaries have been slashed across the board for both agency and in-house teams, and cuts to senior pay appear to have been most severe since the last census in 2013.

The survey of 1,874 practitioners, carried out by YouGov, also reveals stark differences in levels of pay, gender balance and average age across the regions of the UK, and asks respondents to predict what will be the most important tasks in their jobs in two years’ time.

Danny Rogers, PRWeek’s editor-in-chief, says: "As someone who has been in and around this industry for two decades – first as a graduate trainee in PR, and later as an industry editor and author – what strikes me about the PR Census is how little the big themes actually change. We are still discussing the future of print, the hot growth of healthcare and tech, the difficulties of measurement and the lack of diversity. But the industry is getting most things right. Because for most of those two decades UK PR spend has been growing rapidly, and continues to do so. Another constant is PR’s adaptability – and this is more critical than ever as technology and media rapidly transform each other."

Francis Ingham, PRCA director-general, tells PRWeek: "Considering the salary figures, there’s a welcome shift from a top-heavy model to one that more appropriately rewards the people who do the most work. I believe this is a result of two things: on the one hand, consolidation of major networked agencies; and, on the other, CEOs and board members having the confidence to set up their own outfits, while taking a sizeable pay cut. The entrepreneurial spirit is back."

Section Five: The way the industry works now

In the final part of our five-part series on the census, PRWeek looks at how PR professionals are mainly spending their time in 2016.

What PRs do with their days has remained largely stable since 2013, with media relations, media strategy planning and social media the top three duties across the industry, at 76 per cent, 75 per cent and 75 per cent respectively.

Agency staff were marginally more likely to carry out media relations work than those working in-house, but they were eight per cent more likely to carry out media strategy planning than their in-house counterparts.

As a whole, the industry is spending five per cent less of its time on online communication than it did in 2013 but digital and social media work has leapt from 60 per cent to 74 per cent across the industry in the same period.

Asked which of their tasks would be most important two years from now, 51 per cent of survey respondents placed digital at the top, followed by nearly 35 per cent who chose online comms, while SEO was chosen by 21 per cent, rounding out the projected top three tasks of the future for PRs.

But while digital work increases, other traditional PR tasks appear to be on the wane. Among agency staff, 25 per cent said sales promotion activities would decrease in importance over the next two years, compared with 20 per cent of in-house staff who said the same. 

Writing tasks are also expected to slump in importance in the next two years, according to 16 per cent of agency and in-house staff.

Jim Hawker, co-founder of digital and social specialist Threepipe, says there are too few people with the right skills to fill the gaps.

He says: "The census shows that it’s time to bring new skills into the industry to take advantage of these opportunities. I have still to meet many PR people who really understand SEO so it will be interesting to see how that progresses. There is also a clear disconnect between what skills are needed and what skills are valued by more senior people – writing skills are heavily sought after in an increasingly visual world, which shows that many leaders are out of touch."

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