An online survey of about 1,400 PR industry professionals has found that 40 per cent believe the pandemic has had a positive impact on the industry. This is despite more than half of juniors claiming their mental health has deteriorated.
The research, commissioned by the CIPR, was conducted between March and April 2021. It analysed the responses of PR professionals across a range of age groups, seniority levels and organisation types.
Four in 10 respondents believe the impact of the pandemic has been positive, with 85 per cent saying it led to an increased value and reputation of the industry.
In addition, 40 per cent of industry professionals believe their reputation among clients has increased ‘somewhat’, while 16 per cent believe it has increased ‘significantly’.
More than half (59 per cent) believe their client base will grow in the next 12 months.
This is despite a similar proportion (55 per cent) of respondents admitting that their client base had changed over the previous 12 months. The report suggests this was in line with an increased demand for digital support and an increase in flexible or remote working.
However, in comparison to these figures, 29 per cent believe that the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on the industry as a whole – with a further 20 per cent stating that they thought it had a mixed impact.
Respondents said the biggest challenge the industry faces in the next 12 months is mental health problems among practitioners, followed closely by recession and job losses.
In particular, the results show that female PR professionals and those working in-house in the public sector were more likely to have experienced an increase in working hours, with women being more likely than men to admit their mental health had deteriorated.
Over half of those in junior roles – including interns, trainees, and assistants – reported their mental health as having deteriorated in the past year, and were the most likely to expect their working hours to increase.
Practitioners were five times more likely to say that their mental health has deteriorated over the past 12 months than improved, with those in senior roles being the only demographic to say their mental health has remained the same or improved.
Reflecting on the past year, Pippa Treavett, account director at Orchid, said: “For so many people and individuals it’s been devastating. It’s forced the industry to have to shine and clients have had significant changes.
“For the practitioners, we have had to draw on our PR skills and make businesses communicate in a way that we have never had to before.
“It’s been good for the industry to innovate and, for us as an agency, we’re so used to working so closely together and being creative working together – we’ve been able to do that and develop quality work for our clients.
“It has forced us to be even more creative and to build relationships in different ways.”
CIPR president Mandy Pearse added: “A bright future does not mean we ignore the trauma of our past and success can be celebrated only if we recognise the hardships many of our colleagues faced.
“I’m delighted to see predictions of teams and client bases growing and hope efforts to improve business performance are matched with efforts to improve the experience of working in public relations.”
The CIPR commissioned Chalkstream, a specialist research agency led by a Chartered PR practitioner, to deliver the report.