Birthdays provide us with an opportunity to reminisce. But they’re also a time to look forward and plan for greater things. And what better time to do so than a 50th birthday? Back in 1969, 12 men in suits sat together around a boardroom table to develop a plan. Their plan was to launch something called the PRCA.
Almost all the agency brands represented at that table no longer exist, and many of those men are, sadly, no longer with us. But the germ of an idea – to provide a voice for our industry – remains strong to this day.
We’ve come a long way since then. After being founded on 5 November 1969, as a membership body for PR consultancies, we set out an outline of what good behaviour looks like in PR. That Code of Conduct exists to this day, albeit with many timely edits.
We began accepting in-house members in 2009, and in 2011 we broadened our remit to include individuals. Over the past half-century, we have helped to launch PR associations all around the world, and operate our own offices in Singapore and Dubai. We also manage ICCO, the umbrella body for 41 PR associations.
And now? Well I’m proud to say that after an unparalleled year of growth in 2018 – including the APPC merger, and the launch of PRCA Southeast Asia – we now represent well over 30,000 practitioners, making the PRCA the world’s largest PR professional body.
But the PR and communications industry has come a long way too. It is now a thriving, multimillion-pound industry that just keeps growing.
Last year’s PR and Communications Census, launched in conjunction with PRWeek, revealed the industry is worth £13.8bn, and it has 86,000 practitioners, having grown by seven per cent in one year alone.
So we’ll never rest on our laurels in developing new services that are relevant and truly useful to an industry that is always reinventing itself.
This is the year that we will challenge the industry to do even better – to grow, to strive for broader skills, to diversify, and to challenge clients to think even further about what PR can achieve.
For any truly international industry, I believe it is imperative that its representative body must be just as international in its outlook.
That is why we run ICCO; and that is why we continue to grow in territories around the world where we can make a contribution toward raising standards and challenging practitioners to be ethical and professional. There will be more news on our international outlook this year.
The PR and communications industry has changed fundamentally since those men sat around that boardroom table with an idea, but our mission remains the same.
And as an industry that has huge opportunities, we face the future with pride and optimism, and look forward to 50 more years of the same.
Francis Ingham is PRCA director-general and ICCO executive director