The annual survey of the industry also found a sharp decline in the use of AVEs and an alarming proportion of staff who have had mental health issues.
A gender pay gap of 13.6 per cent is still higher than the national average of 8.6 per cent, but a significant improvement on recent years. The gender pay disparity also decreased from £11,364 to £6,412, the survey found.
Among the larger PR consultancies, Golin leads the way when it comes to a gender pay gap that more accurately reflects the gender make up of their agency. At Golin, women are paid an average of 12.8 per cent more than men, due to a higher proportion of women (68 per cent) in the top pay quartile.
This reflects the demographics of the PR industry, which is 67 per cent women – up 1 percentage point on 2018.
The study found the industry remains young, with the most common age range being 25-34, and the median age of 33.
The ethnic make-up of is overwhelmingly white, making up 89 per cent of practitioners.
Promisingly, a larger proportion of young professionals appear to come from more ethnically diverse backgrounds.
In terms of education, 80 per cent of the industry is educated to an undergraduate level, and 71 per cent attended a state-run or funded school, which is a two percentage point increase since 2018.
Social mobility statistics have very slightly improved this year, with 13 per cent of respondents reporting that their household received income support (a one percentage point increase this year) and 11 per cent reporting that they received free school meals (a one percentage point increase this year).
The use of Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) almost halved to seven per cent, down from 12 per cent in 2018.
The most popular evaluation metric or process amongst PR professionals is impressions, chosen by 16 per cent of respondents.
Nine per cent of respondents cite the Barcelona Principles 2.0, and nine per cent cite the Integrated Evaluation Framework.
Last year, Barcelona Principles 2.0 were the most common method of evaluation, cited by 24 per cent of professionals.
For the first time, this year’s census asked employees about their mental wellbeing, with 32 per cent of respondents indicating they had suffered or been diagnosed with mental ill health. This is well below the 60 per cent that a PRWeek study had found earlier this year.
Average salaries across the PR industry have plummeted by 7 per cent, depite the value of the sector increasing (see chart below).
This reflects an industry that is heavily overworked, with 50 per cent of professionals working 45 hours a week – 10 hours more than their contracted 35 hours. Only 21 per cent of professionals do not work beyond their contracted 35 hours.
The work-life balance is better for in-house teams, but senior employees are more likely to work overtime, some putting in more than 60 hours a week.
The industry is improving working conditions with 69 per cent of PR professionals taking advantage of some kind of flexible working arrangement. The most popular is flexitime, which increased in take up by eight percentage points to 41 per cent of professionals. Other popular flexible working arrangements are working from home one day a week and shorter working days.
What PR pros do
The main duties carried out by respondents are communications strategy development, general media relations, corporate public relations and media relations strategy planning.
Media relations is one of the most cited tasks to decrease in importance, alongside sales promotion and writing articles/newsletters.
The tasks that have increased in importance over the last year are digital, online communication and SEO. More than half of the industry (52 per cent) believe ‘digital’ has increased in importance.
The dominant sectors for agencies and freelancers are technology and consumer services. The technology sector continues to grow at a good pace, growing from 29 per cent to 35 per cent in a year.
The PR and Communications Census polled 1,236 respondents who work in communications, PR or corporate relations. The study was carried out between 7 January and 20 March 2019 and comprised of PRCA members and other practitioners.