Rise in public relations and decline in journalism jobs is story of media change
The decline in journalists and rapid rise in public relations professionals in the UK is a great headline but it isn't a threat to democracy.
Journalists frequently report shifts in employment between journalism and public relations as a power struggle between organisations and the media.
It's no such thing.
Changing business models
The closing gap between the number of journalists and public relations practitioners employed in the UK reflects the fragmentation of media that has taken place over the last decade or so.
The assertion as we approach parity between the numbers of people employed in each discipline is that public relations practitioners will somehow overwhelm and outmanoeuvre journalists.
David Benigson, CEO, media intelligence firm Signal writing in PRWeek said that a reduced number of journalists meant there were fewer media opportunities for public relations practitioners to pitch.
It’s an argument that fails to recognise how public relations practice is evolving from media to influencers, and then to branded media and communities.
New opportunities and jobs are being created with each shift.
The simple fact is media organisations employing journalists are a lot leaner than they used to be before the internet.
The internet broke the shackles of deadline, page count and schedule. It has made the cost of the distribution of content zero and provided search and social mechanisms to aid discovery.
Media 64,000. Public relations 55,000
The 2015 half-yearly UK Labour Force survey reported 64,000 people describing themselves as journalists or editors, down from a peak of 70,000 in 2013.
The survey reported 55,000 people working in public relations, up from 37,000 in 2013.
The data collected by the Office for National Statistics is based on a sample of 100,000 individuals.
Census data published by the PRCA has consistently reported employment in public relations around the 60,000 mark.
This isn't a threat to democracy or public scrutiny.
We’re all journalists now
Anybody equipped with an internet connection can call out an organisation and provide a contrary filter to corporate content. It’s known by many as citizen journalism.
Critical voices can be found on every social network.
The public relations business is shifting from the business of media relations to helping organisations engage with publics in a two-way dialogue.
That conversation is seldom easy. You can see the evidence for yourself day in and day out on corporate web sites, blogs and social networks such Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
It is forcing organisations to be more transparent that ever before.
The public relations business for its part is under scrutiny like never before, called out by the self-same critical publics.
This is a story of changing business models fuelled by the web. It's strengthening the democratic process, not weakening it.