CIPR State of the Profession: media, market and professional change

The public relations industry is on the march. The CIPR State of the Profession survey published today tells the story of an industry that is facing up to huge changes and needs to do more to improve its own standing as a profession.

The report spotlights media relations in decline and practitioners embracing new forms of media, recognising the opportunity that this presents for them to help organisations participate in a two-way conversation with their audiences.

But despite continuing economic uncertainty the report is optimistic for anyone that is adapting and innovating.

Shifting from press relations to public relations
The public relations industry is in transition from press or media relations as a proxy for creating “mutual understanding between people and organisations.” 52 per cent of budgets are spent on media relations. It is heartening to learn that less than a third of respondents ranked journalists as their most influential contacts.

This is the story of the fragmentation of media from earned to owned and social.

Job fears and opportunities
Public sector practitioners fear redundancy as communication functions evolve or are cut, yet private sector counterparts report a seemingly huge 14 per cent year-on-year salary rise. We should take comfort from the news that a third of respondents reported that their organisations are recruiting.

The chasm between the sexes
Women are more likely to hold mid-level or managerial position. However men are almost twice as likely as women to be directors, partners or managing directors. It’s an issue that is reflected in salaries. Half of men in the public relations industry earn more than £50,000, compared to a quarter of women and men’s mean salary is £15,520 higher than the mean salary for women.

The battle for a place in the boardroom
Practitioners are struggling to be heard in the boardroom. While more than 75 per cent of respondents claim to contribute to public relations or communications strategy, fewer than half say that their influence extends to broader business strategy.

Three-in-five respondents say that they directly brief board members or senior staff and a third of communication directors sit on the board. Here representation is equal between the sexes.

We’re on a journey to improving the reputation of the industry and becoming a profession, as measured by other industries, so that we can demand a place at the boardroom table.

Professional development: could do better
There is strong support for a code of conduct from 82 per cent of respondents, and a majority also agree that practitioners need to hold accredited professional qualifications.

However when you learn that only half are engaged in a professional development scheme, you realise the industry has some way to go before it can truly call itself a profession.

Social media and the two-way street
The biggest challenge facing the industry, according to the report, is social media. Practitioners recognise the opportunity that this presents for them to help organisations participate in a two-way conversation with their audiences or publics.

The opportunity presented by converging areas of practice such as search marketing, web design and development, and customer service marketing (CRM) are also identified as a priority for practitioners.

The CIPR State of the Profession report is an important piece of work in the narrative of industry change. It’s a rallying cry for practitioners to reskill and embrace the professional rigor other professions.

ComRes conducted the State of the Profession 2013 survey on behalf of the CIPR. It surveyed 1,273 CIPR members online between November and January.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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