The public relations industry is going through big changes — here's the latest on pay, hiring, and hot growth areas
- The public relations business is going through big changes as firms invest in data and analytics to prove the value of their services while expanding into hot areas like creative, digital, and ecommerce services.
- They're also taking advantage of booming areas like financial communications and diversity, equity, and inclusion, creating lucrative opportunities for job-seekers.
- Business Insider interviewed experts and compiled this guide about how the field is changing for people looking to grow their existing PR business or break into it.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The public relations industry is going through big changes as PR firms invest more in data and analytics to prove the value of their services to clients and fend off competition.
They're also expanding into hot new areas like creative, digital, and ecommerce services.
Some have begun rehiring and restoring pay cuts after making cutbacks in the pandemic and taking advantage of booming areas like financial communications and diversity, equity, and inclusion, creating lucrative if high-pressure jobs.
Business Insider has been tracking all these trends at some of the largest PR firms including Edelman, Weber Shandwick, and Sard Verbinnen, and rounded up our coverage, including the hot practice areas that are boosting firms' revenue, how to get hired, and compensation.
Below are resources to guide people looking to learn about the industry, grow their existing PR businesses, or break into the field.
Hiring, pay trends
The PR industry employed around 270,000 people in the US as of 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It employs people who work in-house at brands as well as agencies of all sizes.
PR firms have cut hundreds of jobs in the downturn, but the field remains high-paying and intensely competitive. Recruiters still see growing opportunities in pharma, tech, healthcare communications.
PR salaries can vary widely. A VP at privately-held consulting and PR firm Teneo can earn $205,000, while the same role at Publicis' MSL brings in a base salary of $165,000.
Read more: PR industry salaries revealed: How much top firms like Teneo, BCW, and FTI pay employees, from consultants to managing directors
How to get a job at PR giant Edelman and what to expect if you land an interview, according to the company's recruiters
Meet 12 top public relations recruiters to know right now
What it takes to get high-paying jobs at strategic consulting firms like Finsbury and Kekst CNC, from handling tricky questions to nailing writing tests
Some areas are thriving in the downturn
While the industry took a hit in the downturn, CEOs of some of the biggest firms like Edelman, BCW, and FleishmanHillard see their businesses benefitting as new pitches pick up and companies seek help with crisis situations and communicating to the public and their workforces about office reopening and diversity and inclusion issues.
PR itself has come under scrutiny along with other industries for falling short when it comes to diversity and inclusion, leading some to pledge to hire more people of color, among other steps.
Read more: A PR trade group representing firms including Weber Shandwick and FleishmanHillard is embroiled in disagreements over whether firms should have to reveal how diverse their workforce is and pledge to hiring people of color
The world's two largest PR firms, Edelman and Weber Shandwick, pledged to hire more people of color in senior positions
The Black Lives Matter movement has been an unavoidable subject for the C-suite — and PR giants are reaping the benefits
Internal communications business is booming for PR firms like Edelman, Prosek, and Kekst CNC as CEOs scramble to reassure remote workforces and plan for a return to the office
Insiders at Omnicom agency GMMB say the workplace is rife with 'systemic' racism, where people of color are tokenized and treated like 'the help'
Firms are gearing up to take share from other industries
Some firms are also gearing up to take market share from advertising and management consulting companies, arguing that they can help clients deal with crises and promote brands while people may not be receptive to traditional advertising.
Among the most aggressive in this area is Edelman, which has built a 600-person staff of creatives including adland vets like Leo Burnett's Judy John and McCann's Lee Maicon to expand into advertising services.
Read more: Public relations heavyweight Edelman has quietly built a 600-person creative team and says it's becoming a 'serious alternative' to ad agencies, winning clients like Ikea and Tazo
CEOs of PR firms like Edelman and BCW reveal why they're focused on winning business from advertising and consulting companies coming out of the pandemic.
Strategic communications is a growth area
A lucrative but less understood niche is strategic communications, which involves crisis, litigation, financial, and other high-stakes public relations. It comprises firms like Finsbury, Kekst CNC, and Gladstone Place Partners, which have worked on crises like WeWork's and blockbuster mergers like Disney-Fox.
These firms seek people who thrive under pressure and use the interview process to test job candidates' intellectual curiosity, commitment to their job, and if they're good culture fits.
Read more: Meet PR exec Jennifer Prosek, who built a $60 million business spinning for clients like Goldman Sachs and The Carlyle Group, and now faces her biggest challenge yet
These are the top 15 financial public relations pros CEOs call when their companies are on fire
PR firms like Joele Frank and Sard Verbinnen are seeing a windfall from bankruptcy cases but some risk being sued by former clients — here's how agencies can protect themselves
PR giants like Edelman and Sard Verbinnen are seeing a surge in demand as companies seek to minimize damage from the coronavirus pandemic
How technology is changing PR
Public relations pros are facing increased pressure to prove the value of their services to clients.
These pressures have given rise to a $4.5 billion communications software industry that helps PR pros do things like monitor news coverage and social media, provide accurate measurements, and identify influencers and journalists.
Some PR firms like Edelman and MSL have responded by developing their own tools to monitor news and track the impact of PR for clients like Procter & Gamble and Cadillac.
Read more: The top 27 software companies serving the public relations industry
PR agencies are beefing up their data services to keep consulting firms like Deloitte and Accenture from eating their lunch
PR giant MSL breaks down how it's using tech tools to prove its work drives results for clients like P&G and Cadillac
Cision and Meltwater, the two largest PR software companies, are planning a merger, and the DoJ has explored whether it would hurt competition
A year after PR giant Edelman struck a 'first of its kind' partnership with Cision, the deal is no longer exclusive
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