GUIDE TO CAREERS IN PUBLIC RELATIONS: Introduction - A thriving sector. PR is booming, yet it is still a small industry employing just 30,000 people. This means that entry-level jobs can be tricky to find, so why has it become such a popular option?

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.


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

business performance.'

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.'

Kevin Murray,

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.

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