Public relations is an industry coming of age but with issues to address

The State of the Profession Survey tells the story of a maturing industry that is striving to professionalise and beginning to be taken increasingly seriously by the C-Suite.

This year’s CIPR State of the Profession Survey makes for heartening reading in some areas, and depressing in others.

Year-on-year rises in the number of board level professionals signpost a welcome trend. However whether practitioners have the appropriate skills to act at the highest level when respondents cite written communication as one of their strongest competencies is a critical question.

Whether the 32% drop in budgets and fees experienced by in house professionals could have been staved off by the delivery of strategic rather than tactical activity is an area worthy of further research.

Public relations is a management discipline and must move away from its role as a delivery function in order to capitalise on the opportunities currently afforded by Brexit and the US election if the industry is to grow and thrive.


An opportunity there for the taking

Regardless, the State of the Profession report makes for optimistic reading for those committed to continuous professional development (CPD).

Respondents said that when recruiting for senior communications roles, their organisations looked for skills in leadership and strategic management, knowledge of current affairs and interpersonal skills.

Clear opportunities are opening up for anyone who can demonstrate adherence to initiatives such as the Global Alliance’s Global Capabilities Framework as a career path to strengthen their skills.

Aligning training and qualifications to demand for these will be a critical area of focus for the CIPR in the 12 to 24 months ahead.


The time for action is now

In less positive news, the State of the Profession survey reports that the pay gap persists, with a £5,784 salary discrepancy in favour of men that cannot be attributed to any the factors other than gender.

Gender remains the third largest influence of pay behind seniority and years in public relations.

I wrote these ten steps for achieving parity in pay in public relations back in 2015.

We’re woefully behind achieving real change. I’d urge you to take a look and implement as many as you can.

Equally, the jump in the number of respondents stating that diverse teams produce more effective campaigns has still to seep through to the Human Resources and Recruitment function.

We might be talking a good game but 91% of the industry are white, and 89% British.  

You can find some excellent advice on creating a diverse workforce here thanks to Sarah Stimson from the Taylor Bennett Foundation.

Read it and decide how you can help ensure your organisation and the industry remains open to aspiring practitioners from black and ethnic minorities and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Public relations has a duty to properly represent the publics we’re here to serve.