Public relations is a work in progress – CIPR State of the Profession 2016 report

The CIPR State of the Profession 2016 report makes for mixed reading. It’s a profession that is very much a work in progress.

The annual report tells the story of a well paid profession that is working closer than ever with other disciplines.

The profession has finally moved beyond media relations as its dominant activity.

But the State of the Profession survey is also the story of a profession which doesn’t value technical skills, and in which a wide gender discrepancy is the norm.

“The public relations industry faces a challenge with skills progression,” said Rob Brown President, CIPR and Managing Partner, Rule 5.

“It’s clear that around middle management we expect people to stop being tactical content creators and demonstrate leadership, interpersonal and strategic management capabilities as well as the hard business skills of pitching, project management and financial planning.”

The report is based on interviews with more than 1,500 practitioners across the UK. You can download the 45-page report from the CIPR website.

Here are eight findings that should act as a wakeup call for any practitioner concerned with their own professional development.

#1 Convergence with other disciplines

76% of all respondents said compared to two years ago, they now work more closely with dedicated social and digital media teams, as well as the marketing, advertising and sales departments. This is an increase of 3% on #StateOfPR 2015 and is clearly led by the cross-management of digital and social media.

#2 Content creation overtakes media relations

Content creation is the most common way practitioners spend their time at work, as identified by 81% of all respondents.

Media relations (72%) is the second most common demand on their time and it is still the practice area that commands the majority of their budgets.

#3 Soft skills rated over technical

The strongest skills all respondents believe they possess are soft skills – the top three being traditional forms of written communication (35%), interpersonal skills (31%) and attention to detail (27%).

However, content curation, which ranks as the joint fourth common public relations operational task, is only believed to be the strongest skill of 3% of respondents.

#4 Moving from management to leadership

Weighing practitioners’ confidence in skills against the demands of employers and recruiters indicates soft skills are the most comfortable for all public relations professionals.

Yet, the ability to strategically lead and manage the hard side of business development and financial planning are key areas of development across the board.

#5 Well paid, rising salaries

Data relating to pay combines figures for all of those working in-house, in consultancy and as independent practitioners. This records an average annual earnings figure of £48,196 for 2016, up from last year’s figure of £45,633.

#6 London and in-house pay best

The average annual earning figure for public relations professionals is £48,196. In line with previous years, analysis reveals that London based professionals earn on average 31% more (£13,616) than those based in the rest of the UK.

Those working in-house in the private sector command the highest average salary of all employees at £51,075, whilst public sector commands the lowest (£39,966).

#7 Rise of of non-traditional routes of entry

Non-graduate professionals earn on average 24% more (£12,348) than a graduate.

Whilst it is the case that graduates dominate the working population (only 15% of respondents were non-graduates), non-graduate respondents are relatively balanced by seniority and by organisation type.

#8 Sexist and we know it

The State of the Profession survey continues to evidence a large gender pay gap in public relations – recording an average disparity of £15,040 between male and female earnings.

This apparent 19% year-on-year increase on 2015’s figure is primarily due to the inclusion of independent practitioners in the overall results. An employee-only figure however shows a gap of £11,698, a 7% year-on-year decrease.

Thanks for stopping by. If you enjoyed this blog post you may like to receive future posts as they are published, via email. Please sign-up here.

Stephen Waddington

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


  1. Great summary as ever – thanks. The findings are both reassuring (personally) but also worrying that gaps between ‘need’ and ‘have’ appear to be growing and if we PR people don’t fill them ourselves (through recognition and then self development) then others from different areas of the marketing mix will get in ahead of us.

  2. This is interesting data, but as an agency owner I would like to also see some measure of average budget or retainer, in order to benchmark some of these demographic, salary and activity numbers against what the clients pay for – and therefore what an agency can afford.

    We all agree on the fact that PR continually evolves, and the disruption to the media landscape by Google and FB is forcing us to accelerate this change. But in order to change the value of the services we provide, as an industry we also need to shift the value dynamic between the agency and the client. With previous CIPR research showing that the majority of agencies see retainers stagnating or declining, it would be nice to have at least some data on which to start this negotiation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *