- 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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