Public relations booming with areas of work in progress, CIPR report

Public relations booming with areas of work in progress, CIPR report

The CIPR has published its annual State of the Profession survey. It’s a call to action to everyone working in the profession.

I’ve chewed through the State of the Profession data on this blog each year for the past five years. Here’s what you need to know for 2018.

Jobs and salaries are on the rise but the gender pay gap and diversity continue to be significant issues.

We strive for management recognition but practitioners of all levels are primarily engaged in tactical activities.

Practitioners don't view technology as a threat to their jobs. This is an issue that I'll return to in future posts.

Finally mentally health continues to rise as an issue for practitioners as we increasingly work in an always on culture.

#1 Growth and salaries on the up

There are 71,000 public relations practitioners in the UK. The workforce has grown by 22% from 58,000, over the past four years. The vast majority of agencies, consultancies and departments are growing or maintaining their size in the next 12 months.
Professionals working outside the UK as well as those in London, the South East and the Channel Islands have the highest average annual income; those in Northern Ireland and East Midlands have the lowest.

Overall, average salaries for full-time workers grew by £1,123 from £50,447 in 2017 to £51,570 in 2018, but the results showed significant variations according to gender, age and location.

#2 Doers seeking management recognition

Senior representation for the public relations function matters to practitioners; respondents consider that under-representation of public relations practitioners at board level is the biggest challenge facing the industry.

Practitioners need to break away from tactical communications and assert wider influence over the organisation they work in if public relations is to thrive as a strategic management discipline. This is the rallying cry of the current CIPR President Sarah Hall.

“This year’s State of the Profession survey underlines the challenges for the public relations industry,” said Hall.
“There are two outcomes to achieve here. By focusing on financial, business management and consultancy competencies we can command the respect of management teams by speaking their language and by demonstrating the true value of public relations, increase investment in it,” she added.

#3 Technology isn’t viewed as a threat

Public relations faces a longer term challenge to establish new sources of value to counter the risks posed by new technology. At all levels, practitioners are overwhelmingly engaged in tactical delivery.

The most commonly undertaken activity in public relations is copywriting and editing – the third most common is media relations.

Elements of each of these activities are all under threat from tech and yet automation is not seen as a challenge to the public relations practitioners. Our business needs to take a cold shower and wake up to automation and artificial intelligence.

#4 Diversity: failing to represent the publics we serve

Public relations has a diversity gap. The CIPR research suggests that in 2017, 96% of the population of public relations was ethnically white, up from 90% in 2013.

The CIPR cautions against placing too much emphasis on diversity data for a single year and suggests that the average over recent years (93% white ethnicity) is probably more robust.

Thus, even on a generous interpretation of the data, the diversity gap exists between the public relations population and the wider UK population, which is generally identified as 87% white.

#5 Gender pay gap increases

The gap between the female and male salaries in PR has fallen slightly, to an average of £11,156 in 2018. However, this masks the annual cost of being a woman working in public relations.

According to the regression analysis, which strips out other factors that influence earnings such as seniority, prevalence of part-time work or years in practice, this has risen from £5,784 to £6,725.

It is also more difficult for women to reach the most senior, better paid roles in public relations. The average gap between male and female earnings rises to more than £18,000 for practitioners who have worked in public relations for between 17 and 21 years.

#6 Mental health issues on the rise

Around one in six (16%) of PR practitioners stated that they have a mental health condition. This figure has more than doubled in the last year – only 6% of professionals reported mental health conditions in 2016/17.

This rapid increase could be attributed in part to greater awareness of mental health in society, but also points to a challenge for employers in the sector.


The CIPR State of the Profession survey is based on responses from more than 1,700 responses.

This year the CIPR has worked with market research firm Chalkstream to cross reference data with the ONS’ Annual Population Survey (APS).

“For the first time we have used occupational data from the ONS to help develop our understanding of the population of PR practitioners across the UK,” said Chalkstream’s Ben Verinder.
“When we compare this data set against the outcome of State of the Profession survey we can see how the survey results are representative of the broader public relations,” he added.

Sarah Hall is my partner.

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