PR is booming, of that there is no doubt. The top 150 PR
consultancies had fee income between them of more than pounds 600m,
according to the PRWeek 2001 Top 150 league table.
That figure represents growth of 175 per cent over the pounds 220m
recorded just seven years earlier. If the income of the numerous smaller
consultancies is taken into account, together with the expenditure on
in-house PR departments, it is clear that PR in the UK is an industry
worth well over pounds 1bn.
Membership of the industry's trade association, the Institute of Public
Relations, meanwhile, has doubled over the past decade. Both people and
revenue are flowing the way of PR to an unprecedented extent.
But it is still a comparatively small industry, employing only around
30,000 people, according to data from the Institute of Public Relations,
and demand for entry level jobs far outstrips their supply. Polls among
students consistently put it among the most popular career choices. The
upshot is that it is a difficult career to break into.
Why then, given that PR is not the biggest industry out there, do so
many people want to work in it? For a start, it offers intellectual and
creative challenges and can be great fun. The prospects for its future
growth remain good. And, perhaps most pertinently of all, its influence
in the wider business world continues to grow apace.
In September 2000, PRWeek published the findings of research it had
commissioned among company chief executive officers. This found that 100
per cent of CEOs considered the reputation of their companies to be
either important or very important - with 92 per cent opting for very
Moreover, PR's influence is growing: 64 per cent of CEOs questioned felt
that PR had become more important to their companies over the past five
years, while 67 per cent predicted that PR would become more important
to their companies over the coming five years.
In an age when advertising has become less effective, PR's star is very
much in the ascendant. Those that come into PR in the next few years do
so at a time of unparalleled opportunity.
EXPLODING PR MYTHS
PR is celebrity publicity
'Publicity is not PR. PR helps form dialogues between companies and
their stakeholders be they consumers, regulators, shareholders,
employees or the media. And it lasts a lot longer than ephemeral
publicity. Who remembers Bros or Tiffany now?'
Tom Watson, chairman, Public Relations Consultants Association.
PR people spend all their time organising parties
'There is definitely a big social element to PR, but if that is what
attracts you you'll be disappointed. Skills like being able to think are
far more important. And the social side can be more like a form of
torture than fun. You might not choose your clients as friends, but you
have to entertain them.' Steve Marinker, interactive director,
Countrywide Porter Novelli
PR is just cheap advertising
'That's like saying a Ferrari is a cheap Boeing 747. To use either
discipline alone makes no sense. Ad agencies and PR consultancies are
cousins, whose purpose is to enhance the success of their clients. When
they work hand-in-hand the results can be magic - look at Wonderbra or
Budweiser's Wassup! sensation. Most clients know this and will expect
you, as their PR adviser to know about advertising and direct marketing
But if clients ever tell you they want to use PR as a cheap form of
advertising, I suggest you make your excuses and leave.'
Adrian Wheeler, chief executive, GCI
PR is about getting your client on the front page of The Sun
'That's not a complete myth. If I got my client on the front page of The
Sun and it was a great story, relevant to the client and the target
audience, it would be worth celebrating.
Media relations is one part of the PR mix. But it's often the part that
clients judge a programme's success on. It also provides the chance to
combine creativity with media knowledge to develop a positive PR
strategy which, at its best, can enhance reputations and help improve
Louisa Jenkins, account director, Fleishman-Hillard UK
PR is a subset of marketing
'Customers are critical to companies, but businesses need to build
favourable relationships with all the relevant stakeholder groups.
Public relations is about helping the company to listen to all these
audiences, helping management to respond to what they hear, and
employees to change their behaviours accordingly. Public relations is
about reputation management and is a subset of management in general
rather than marketing.'
group chief executive, Bell Pottinger Communications
Let's do (long) lunch
'If PR is all about long lunches, then why does my keyboard have more
crumbs in it than a toaster?'
Claire Walker, managing director, Firefly Communications.