Gorkana Group

PR Census reveals a confident industry but don’t ignore the threats


Yesterday afternoon, the 2011 PR Census was launched by the PRCA and PR Week in association with the Gorkana Group.

The research conducted by Harris Interactive who conducted an online survey which generated more than 1300 responses. This data was then triangulated with data that PR Week holds such as the PR Week Top 150 PR Conusltancies report and PRCA held data including their benchmarking report.

The result has made for some interesting reading which was unveiled to the industry at Delfina in London.  The data presented was largely very positive and reveals an industry that has coped well with the recession and is looking to the future,  confident of its potential.


Highlights of the PR Census 2011 included:

  • The UK PR industry employs 61,600 people, an increase of about 13,000 since 2005.
  • There is a ratio of approximately 2:1 in favour of in-house staff to PR agency employees. There are between three and six thousand PR freelancers in the UK.
  • The industry turns over an estimated £7.5 billion, estimated to be £1 billion more than in 2005.
  • This makes the PR industry bigger than the UK Gambling Industry which is estimated to turnover £6 billion
  • Unsurprisingly the industry is dominated by women who make up 64% of employees although this dominance falls away the more senior and the longer term served.
  • The average salary is £48,247, with account executives being paid on average £21,549 and the average communications director earning £83,191.
  • 56% of the industry have received a payrise in the last year
  • Demands on PR executives time has never been greater with the average employee in the industry now undertaking 13 different functions as part of their job.
  • Online communications (including online media and social media) was cited as the biggest change for 93% of the respondents over the last two years and is expected to continue to be the biggest area to increase in importance over the next two years as well.

Overall the industry is in buoyant mood, with confidence surrounding increasing revenues, budgets and staff numbers. The full report is available for purchase on PR Week.

I was privileged to be invited to speak at the launch event.  Not surprisingly I focused in on Metrica’s main area of expertise – PR measurement and media evaluation, but I also touched on the rise of online communications arguing that it was both a great opportunity but also a threat if the industry does not cease its opportunity.

After the event, Metrica TV caught up with me where I summarised my key thoughts:

(Can’t see the video? Click here)

If you’d like to know the full content of my presentation then below I have set out my points as spoken, and broken them down into two main themes.  I’d love to know your thoughts on the angles that I have taken and as ever, welcome your comments below.

“I am delighted to be able to say a few words today and am pleased to have had the opportunity to spend some time digesting the full report just this morning.  I’ve been asked to highlight two key themes :

1) The rise of online communications

“This saw the largest increase in importance over the last 2 years – in Harris’ own words “by far the most significant change in the industry”. It is interesting that it is followed closely by reputation management and SEO – both of which are related to the rise of online and social media.

“PR faces significant challenges as it adapts to the new reality of the digitalised online world. It’s good to see that the industry is taking it seriously and looking to move into new areas – helping to drive Search engine placement (and SEO) being one of them.

“Communications and reputation management should be at the heart of what the PR function does. Online and social media should naturally fall under the realm of the PR department. But we face challenges. Other marketing disciplines are losing their hold as their effectiveness wanes and are looking to move into this world too. All marketing channels are challenged by fragmenting audiences across exploding media channels.

“Advertising particularly is struggling. It has to be aggressive as it tries to grab attention on the internet which the consumer doesn’t like.

“Just this week I read that we are 112 times more likely to become a fully qualified naval seal than we are to click on an online banner advert! And 475 times more likely to survive a plane crash than click on that banner advert.

“Advertising is looking to move into our space and own online communications. As an industry we must be able to either offer broader services to our clients or make sure that we are true experts in the communications side of digital to justify using our services.

“I think we can see that this is being taken seriously within the industry which is fantastic news. But we must continue to do so while keeping it real: I was very pleased to see under job titles that some of the more outlandish ones haven’t yet made it mainstream – “Social media Swami”, “Public Happy maker” and “social Media Missionary” being a few of the ones I have recently heard about. Apologies to any missionaries or happy makers who are in the room!

2) Research and Evaluation and media analysis

“It is also fantastic to see that evaluating PR is being taken so seriously. We live in the age of accountability after all. For too long PRs have often paid lip service to the planning research and evaluation cycle.

“Looking through the findings we see that :

  • 77% of the industry is doing PR programme planning
  • 74% is engaged in reputation management
  • and approximately 60% are doing both research and evaluation and media analysis.

“And the industry largely agrees that these things are becoming more important still. However, it’s concerning to me to see that only about a third of the industry believe that there are effective tools in place to measure the return on investment delivered by PR.

“I worry that this may be caused as a result of the proliferation of content ‘dumbing down’ the way that it is measured. The massive amounts of content and the real time nature of social media has given rise to different software monitoring platforms which by their nature measure what is easy to get hold of rather than what matters.

“This is particularly frustrating after the progress made with last year’s AMEC Barcelona principles when the industry appeared to be turning its back on spurious metrics.

“As the media world around us changes, we must remember that some things remain the same.

“Proper evaluation of work can not be done by magic bullets. Instead we need to plan to reach our audiences with relevant content, set objectives that matter and measure appropriately.

“As an industry we must do this in the more competitive environment in which we find ourselves. If we fail to then it is at our own peril.”


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Written by Richard Bagnall

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Gorkana Group

Gorkana Group offers PR analysis & evaluation across traditional & social media.

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