The CIPR recently published its annual State of the Profession report in partnership with our friends at Chalkstream, shedding light on the world of PR in 2018, from skills to salaries, to gender and diversity issues. Incorporating industry data from the Office of National Statistics, this year’s survey is the most comprehensive and authoritative to date, and it certainly threw up a number of insights that got us talking in the office (not least about the average wage for an intern!) *.

Given the breadth of data provided by the survey, which you can read in full here, we thought it was worth plucking out a couple of interesting talking points.

 

The rise of PR

The number of people working in PR has increased by almost a quarter over the past four years, and the demand for a bigger workforce implies that there is greater recognition of the importance of strategic PR.

To consider what might have driven this increased recognition, we only have to look back over the past year to see that ‘reputation’ was not noteworthy just because it’s the name of Taylor Swift’s latest album (which incidentally has been blacklisted from the office playlist) but also because it has been a huge issue dominating the news agenda.

Scandals have rocked all sectors – politics, sport, charity, construction – and it appears that almost no industry has escaped from recent times with its reputation wholly intact.

It has become more apparent how difficult it is to rebuild trust, and how easy it is for a reputation that has been built up over a number of years to unravel: all it takes is the rash actions (e.g. United Airlines) or oversight (e.g. Adidas) of one person. In the case of Adidas and its insensitive blunder about the Boston Marathon, we saw how something as simple as an email subject line could have disastrous consequences.

Perhaps it has dawned on organisations that they need to do more to actively protect and enhance their reputation, and have a considered communication strategy in place. More specifically, the capability to manage crisis communications is becoming increasingly important – something that requires skill and expertise from people who do it day in, day out. Over half of respondents in the CIPR survey said that they now frequently undertake crisis management as part of their job.

 

Challenges

The changing social and digital landscape was ranked second in the list of challenges currently faced by PR practitioners, which may come as a surprise to those who think it is now just an accepted and integrated part of the job.

Fake news also made the list – something that has occurred throughout history but has only just been coined as a 21st century buzzword. While fake news has the potential to be incredibly damaging (particularly if it concerns a client), it can also drive people to more trusted and reputable sources for information. Its ability to bolster established media outlets demonstrates why traditional journalism continues to be invaluable, and by extension, why the solid relationships PR pros build up with such journalists are equally invaluable.

 

Gender

There are still more women in PR than men (approximately 63%), but this gap is gradually decreasing. The report highlighted a number of statistics that could shed light on why this might be the case. While there are more females in PR Manager and Head of Communications positions, this trend is reversed at director/partner level, with more males making it to the very top positions.

The gender pay gap is also a huge problem. In 2018, the average gender pay gap in PR is just over £11,000, showing that unfortunately, the state of the PR industry reflects the national picture – with 78% of large firms paying men more, as revealed last week.

This is something that the PR industry as a whole needs to rectify. Maybe we should start by borrowing examples of best practice from other sectors striving to address gender imbalances. We recently attended a Women in FinTech event, hosted by our partner FinTech North, which championed the Women in Finance Charter, initiated by the Government and delivered in partnership with Virgin Money.

The Charter aims to address gender imbalance and create equal opportunities for women in the financial services sector. If an industry that undoubtedly suffers the most from old boys’ club connotations can do this, there is no reason why PR cannot follow suit.

Here’s hoping next year’s survey delivers a more positive outlook for women.

 

*£21,667 for those wondering. We fully endorse interns being paid a fair wage, but more than the average graduate starting salary raised an eyebrow!