PR by the Numbers

Industry Size and Growth

  • According to private-equity firm Veronhis Suhler Stevenson:
    • Spending on traditional and digital (word-of-mouth marketing) public relations services in the U.S. totaled $5.7 billion in 2010, a 12.8-percent year-over-year increase.
    • Spending on traditional public relations services grew by 4.9 percent from 2005-10, to $3.7 billion.
    • Annual U.S. spending on combined public relations and word of mouth marketing services will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 14 percent between 2010 and 2015, to $10.96 billion.
      • Annual spending on traditional public relations services will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 8 percent, to $5.4 billion.
      • Annual spending on word of mouth marketing services will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 22.3 percent, to $5.6 billion (up from $2 billion in 2010).
    • Related: According to The Holmes Report 2011 Global Rankings, the global public relations industry grew by slightly more than 8 percent in 2010, ending the year with fee income of at least $8.8 billion and employing about 60,000 people.
    • Edelman had the highest revenue for public relations agencies in 2010, with $531.5 million in income, according to The Holmes Report.
    • The average annual public relations budget in a publicly-owned company is $9.9 million.
    • The average annual public relations budget for a government agency is $16.4 million.
  • Spending on word-of-mouth marketing services, which is often managed by public relations, grew by more than 10 percent in 2009 and is fueling much of the industry’s growth.
  • According to the 2011 PRWeek/PRCA Industry Census, the U.K. public relations industry contributes £7.5 billion to the economy and employs 61,000 professionals.
  • Despite current economic uncertainties, a recent survey by mergers-and-acquisitions firm Stevens Gould Pincus reveals that U.S. public relations firms are optimistic for 2010.
    • 64 percent expect increased revenues, while only 14 percent expect the slump to continue.
    • 14 percent say client budgets haven’t been affected and are holding steady.
  • According to the University of Southern California Strategic Public Relations Center’s Generally Accepted Practices (GAP) study:
    • In 2009, 20.9 percent of GAP VI respondents experienced budget increases, 36.6 percent saw little or no change, and 42.5 percent saw decreases.
    • When averaging all the responses, organizations reduced their 2009 budgets by a fairly moderate 5.3 percent.
    • The average change among corporate respondents was a 4.68 percent reduction.
    • In 2010, 28.8 percent expected budget increases over 2009, 49.7 percent expected no change, and 21.5 percent expected budget decreases.
    • When averaging all the responses, organizations expect to increase their budgets by just 1.56 percent.
    • Corporate respondents expect an increase of 1.94 percent.
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 7,000 public relations firms in the United States. The public relations community is even larger when considering the public relations function within America’s corporations, government bodies, health care institutions, military branches, professional services firms, associations, nonprofit organizations, and other public and private entities.
  • In 2008, there were 64,000 individuals employed as public relations managers (up from 63,000 in 2007) and 135,000 employed as public relations specialists (up from 132,000 in 2007).

Agency Growth

  • According to the 2011 year-end survey of members conducted by the Council of Public Relations Firms, 70 percent of participating firms reported increased revenues in 2011 over the previous year, with nearly 50 percent reporting double-digit growth.
    • The Council projects 10 percent year-over-year industry growth.
    • Over one-third (35.5%) of firms anticipated higher budgets in 2012, up from only 21.8 percent in the Council Q3 2011 member survey, suggesting a recent uptick in client spending.
    • Hiring across PR firms is on the rise. The Council reports that more than 60 percent of participating firms reported increased headcounts at the end of 2011 as compared to 2010 totals.
      • Nine out of 10 firms anticipate increased hiring in 2012, with the most sought-after talent at the account executive to account supervisor levels.
      • One-third of all firms planned to increase the ranks of non-traditional hires coming from outside public relations.
    • Industry growth is expected across a diverse set of sectors:
      • Two-thirds of Council members expect growth in social media.
      • One-third anticipate growth in business-to-business, corporate communications and issues/reputation management.
  • According to the 2011 International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) World Consultancy Report:
    • Public relations agencies reported double-digit revenue growth in 2010.
      • U.S. consultancies posted an average 11-percent increase in overall fee revenue.
      • U.K. consultancies saw a 13-percent increase.
    • The top-five challenges for public relations consultancies are: staffing; client budgets; profitability; pricing; and competition.
  • According to mergers-and-acquisitions firm Stevens Gould Pincus, as reported by The Holmes Report:
    • The average monthly agency fee in 2010 was $8,385, down from $9,808 in 2009.
      • Firms with revenues between $10 million and $25 million averaged fees of $12,222; firms with revenues more than $25 million averaged fees of $12,811.
    • Revenue per professional staff was $205,941 in 2010, up from $197,714 in 2009.
    • After sinking to a four-year low in 2009, profitability among U.S. public relations agencies rose to 15.6 percent of revenues in 2010 — the same profit margins the industry enjoyed in 2008.
    • Firms in excess of $10 million revenues averaged more than $230,000.
    • Agency staff turnover for the year averaged 22.9 percent, slightly under the previous year.
  • According to the 2011 year-end survey of members conducted by the Council of Public Relations Firms, 70 percent of participating firms reported increased revenues in 2011 over the previous year, with nearly 50 percent reporting double-digit growth.
    • The Council projects 10 percent year-over-year industry growth.
    • Over one-third (35.5%) of firms anticipated higher budgets in 2012, up from only 21.8 percent in the Council Q3 2011 member survey, suggesting a recent uptick in client spending.
    • Hiring across PR firms is on the rise. The Council reports that more than 60 percent of participating firms reported increased headcounts at the end of 2011 as compared to 2010 totals.
      • Nine out of 10 firms anticipate increased hiring in 2012, with the most sought-after talent at the account executive to account supervisor levels.
      • One-third of all firms planned to increase the ranks of non-traditional hires coming from outside public relations.
    • Industry growth is expected across a diverse set of sectors:
      • Two-thirds of Council members expect growth in social media.
      • One-third anticipate growth in business-to-business, corporate communications and issues/reputation management.
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
    • To attract and maintain clients, public relations agencies are diversifying their services, offering advertising as well as public relations, sales, marketing and interactive media services.

Digital and Social Media

  • According to a survey by mergers-and-acquisitions firm Stevens Gould Pincus, the use of social media for public relations and public affairs purposes jumped 15 percent from 2009 to 2010.
    • That same survey found that among 58 public relations agency owners, principals and CEOs polled, 30 percent of communications professionals work at firms devoted to social media rather than traditionalmedia.
  • The most used platform among public relations professionals and agencies is Facebook (31 percent), followed by Twitter (29 percent) and LinkedIn (18 percent).
  • According to the ICCO, demand for digital services rose internationally in 2010. As a percentage of overall fee income for public relations consultancies, these services remained relatively small (ranging from 5 to 20 percent) but show an increase over 2009.
  • In 2011, 76 percent of communicators in the United States and Canada used Twitter, nearly double the percentage from 2009, according to the Social Media Reality Check, a study by CNW and Leger Marketing.

Sector-Spending Trends

  • According to the ICCO, digital, reputation management and crisis communications will have the most growth overall in 2011.
    • In 2010, consumer marketing communications accounted for one-third of public relations consultancy revenues in the U.K. and was a significant growth factor for the U.S.
    • Healthcare, corporate and crisis communications were the other main sources of revenue in the U.S. and U.K.
    • The same four service areas drove growth throughout Europe, aided by work in public affairs and media relations.
    • The energy sector represents an important source of growth for public relations consultancies in 17 surveyed countries, and health care in 11.
    • The financial industry is listed as a growing source of business in nine countries (including the U.S. and U.K.), though Italy, Portugal and Turkey view this as one of the industries with the worst prospects for the year.
    • All countries surveyed in the World Report expect conditions to be as good or better in 2011 than in 2010.

Perceptions and Goals

  • According to the University of Southern California Strategic Public Relations Center’s Generally Accepted Practices (GAP) study:
    • “Public relations spending is being fueled by companies seeking to improve their corporate image and harness new technologies to reach target audiences.”
    • “Public relations professionals would prefer they be associated with managing the company's reputation.”
    • “Professionals also believe that the best way to convince management to view public relations as a management function is to show a potential or actual impact on business goals and the delivery of strategic messages throughout their activities.”
  • According to a recent PRNews / BurrellesLuce survey, public relations professionals feel that top management view public relations as a way to get the company's name in the media.
  • According to PRSA:
    • Public relations is more than managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics. It is a communications discipline that engages and informs key audiences, builds important relationships and brings vital information back into an organization for analysis and action. It has real, measurable impact on the achievement of strategic organizational goals.
    • Public relations and publicity are not synonymous; publicity is a small subset and specialized discipline within public relations, often practiced by dedicated firms who may or may not possess broader strategic communications capabilities.
    • Public relations professionals have a special obligation to practice their craft ethically, with the highest standards of truth, accuracy, fairness and responsibility to the public. The PRSA Code of Ethics provides a practical set of standards to follow in this regard.

Expanding Influence

  • According to Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive officer of WPP, as reported in PRWeek, editorial publicity has “resumed its rightful place as one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, marketing medium today.”
  • According to Alan VanderMolen, vice chairman of the Edelman Holding Company, as reported in PRNewser, "PR has moved to the center of marketing services."
  • According to the University of Southern California Strategic Public Relations Center’s Generally Accepted Practices (GAP) study, communications is playing a larger role within corporations, attaining Board-level attention.
    • “The results reflect a consistently healthy degree of management support for public relations that can be leveraged to expand budgets and staff. The authors believe that the status of public relations practitioners in their organizations as serious contributors and counselors to senior management is stable and strong. This and other key indicators of professional good health (i.e., budget and staff growth) suggest to us that the public relations industry is better positioned to weather an economic downturn than it has been in the past.”
    • “Even among smaller organizations, public relations practitioners are more and more involved in the important strategy meetings at which the key decisions and direction of their organizations are planned and analyzed.”
    • “The conviction of respondents that CEOs value the contributions of public relations is now undeniable and signifies a much improved self-image and degree of confidence within the profession over previous surveys.”
    • “Companies, government, institutions and nonprofits dedicate substantial portions of budgets to public relations activities, either directly or indirectly, even though public relations often does not show up as a “line item” in budgets.”
  • A survey of chief marketing officers at major national and global advertisers conducted by the Association of National Advertisers found that the value public relations delivers as part of the overall marketing mix is increasing.
    • Public relations is closer to the perspectives, objectives and concerns of corporate CEOs than any other communication or marketing discipline.
    • Public relations also sees “the whole corporate picture,” as it relates to issues that CEOs worry about.
    • In addition, public relations is a key driver of business outcomes critical to organizational success, including crisis mitigation, reputation and brand building, consumer engagement, sales generation, wealth creation, issues management and beneficial shifts in constituent attitudes and behaviors.

Public Relations on Campus

Public Relations in Society

  • The University of Southern California Strategic Public Relations Center’s Generally Accepted Practices (GAP) study found that, with the advent of new media, millions are de facto involved in public relations activity on a daily basis, whether they call it “public relations” or not.
    • “Even if we focused only on ‘media relations,’ the evolution of the media we are seeing today ensures a greater influence — and even greater responsibilities — for the public relations professional and has expanded the scope of the public relations function.”The rules of engagement are changing and consumers are relying more on the opinions of “people like themselves” rather than the more traditional and hierarchical sources of information and authority (such as media, government, corporation and industry experts). We live in a world where technology and other social forces have empowered the consumer to act as citizen marketer, activist and self-publishing journalist.
    • Public relations has served immeasurable public good. It has changed attitudes and behaviors toward some of the world’s most pressing social issues, from breast cancer awareness to drinking and driving to smoking and obesity. The public relations industry also has prevented consumer injury and illness, raised awareness of products that have improved our quality of life, advanced worthwhile causes and provided pro-bono services for institutions that needed public relations assistance but could not afford it.
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