The CIPR State of the Profession 2015 report tells the story of a profession that pays lip service to qualifications and professionalism; is stressed and unhappy; is woefully unprepared for social and digital; and is backward in addressing diversity and gender pay.
The report is based on interviews with more than 2,000 practitioners across the UK. It’s a damning read for the public relations profession with very little to celebrate.
Here are ten findings from the report that should act as a wakeup call for any practitioner wanting to avoid becoming irrelevant.
Half of respondents (52%) don’t hold a professional qualification. Just a third (33%) of associate directors or head of communications hold a CIPR, PRCA, CIM or other relevant industry body qualification, compared with 40% of all managers and 42% of non-managers.
People at the top of their career are least likely to hold a professional qualification in public relations (21%).
#2 Crude definitions of professionalism
Being considered a professional is important to 96% of respondents. Yet more than half of all respondents reported that they believe ‘satisfying clients and/or employers’ (55%) is the clearest demonstration of professionalism in public relations. Worse still, enrolment in continuing professional development (CPD) was only believed to be the best demonstration of professionalism by 5% of all respondents.
#3 Work/life imbalance
According to the report, 40% of PR professionals experience a high level of workplace stress. What’s more, 6% of all respondents claim they are “extremely stressed”, with 34% giving a stress rating equating to “very stressed”. Only 19% indicated a lower level of workplace stress.
#4 Job dissatisfaction
Not everyone is happy in their current role – 27% of respondents are undecided on their level of job satisfaction and 10% actively dislike their job.
#5 Media relations is our mainstay
The majority of respondents (76%) indicated that they still spend some or most of their time working on media relations.
#6 Lack of digital and social skills
Digital skills proved to be the weakest competencies for survey respondents. Most respondents (79%) said HTML and coding were among their greatest weaknesses, with 84% of all in-house private sector employees falling within this demographic.
Confidence in social and digital media correlated negatively with the number of years spent in the industry: 26% of practitioners still in the first five years of their PR career indicated that social and digital media management was amongst their strongest competencies.
Only 12% of practitioners with over 21 years of industry experience felt confident in their social and digital media management skills.
#7 £8.5k gender pay gap
A clear pay inequality gap of £8,483 exists in favour of men, and is a figure that cannot be explained by any other factor such as length of service, seniority, parenthood, or a higher prevalence of part-time work amongst women. Findings also reveal the biggest influences on the salaries of all public relations professionals; with gender identified as the third biggest influence on salary, more so than education background, sector of practice, graduate status, and full-time/part-time status.
#8 Lack of diversity
Four per cent of public relations practitioners who were university graduates attended either Cambridge or Oxford University to study an undergraduate or master’s degree. From the graduate respondents, 28% attended a Russell Group university (excluding Cambridge/Oxford University), which is an increase on the national average of 24%.
Black, African, Caribbean and Black British professionals accounted for just 4% of survey respondents – whilst only 2% said they considered themselves to be Asian or Asian British. The overall percentage of practitioners who consider themselves to be from any ethnic minority background was 9% versus an average in England and Wales of 14%.
Public relations professionals who identified as having a disability or a long-term health condition accounted for just 6% of survey respondents. In real terms this equates to 109 respondents. This compares to the national average of 16% of the working population that identify as living with a disability.
#9 Stagnating budgets
Results show signs of stagnation within all in-house public relations budgets, with respondents’ budgets more likely to have stayed the same (37%) or decreased (31%), than increased (21%) – when compared to 12 months ago.
Finally, 78% of in-house respondents said that the social team is working more closely with the public relations function than it did two years ago. According to more than half of respondents, social and marketing (53%) are the only two departments with which the PR function has started to work more closely during this timeframe.
Survation interviewed 2,028 public relations professionals online on behalf of the CIPR between October and December.
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