To best serve our clients in the architecture and engineering fields, we keep on top of the evolving state of the PR industry. The 2016 Global Communications Report, a comprehensive survey of senior public relations executives by the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations, predicts the worldwide PR agency business will grow from its current estimated size of $14 billion to $19.3 billion over the next five years. To accommodate this growth, agency leaders anticipate their headcount will increase over the same period by about 26%.
Industry leaders, both in agencies and in-house, believe future growth will be driven by content creation and social media, as well as more traditional activities such as brand reputation, followed by measurement and evaluation. Earned media still ranks relatively high for both corporate and agency leaders. Paid media ranked last of 18 possible growth drivers.
“Overall, we are sensing a continued optimism about the direction the industry is headed, which is good news for people entering the field,” said Fred Cook, Director of the USC Center for Public Relations. “But questions remain about the industry’s ability to attract the right talent, adapt to new technologies, and increase the level of investment required to capitalize on these opportunities.”
Both agency and corporate executives strongly agree that the ability to attract and retain the right talent is their greatest challenge, and the majority of both groups believe the PR industry is not good at sourcing talent from outside its ranks, citing salary levels as the major obstacle.
Traditional expertise still tops the list of skills communications departments and PR firms view as key to success over the next five years. Written communications is the skill ranked most important by client and agency respondents. When asked what personal traits they felt were critical for the future, industry leaders ranked traditional values of teamwork and hard work near the top—but they also believe their teams are already strong in these areas. They say more horsepower is needed in curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking.
When asked about diversity, only 45% of agency heads and 44% of corporate executives believe their ranks are as diverse as their clients’ customers or stakeholders. Both groups cite lack of access to diverse talent at senior and entry levels as the primary challenge.
“It’s clear that finding the right talent is by far the most critical factor in the PR industry’s future growth,” said Cook. “The more complicated question is what skills should this talent possess. Industry leaders still value traditional communications skills but are searching for more strategy, creativity and diversity.”
In a follow-up post, we’ll take a more detailed look at what’s in store for public relations pros.