Public Relations

Public Relations

Industry Outlook

In 2018, there were more than 270,000 public relations specialists and 81,200 public relations managers employed in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Employment of public relations managers and specialists is expected to grow about as fast as or faster than the average for all other industries in the coming years—by 6 to 8 percent through 2028—with about 24,000 more PR management and specialist jobs being added to the industry by then. The DOL predicts the job growth will be due to the growing number of organizations that are placing more importance on community outreach and consumer relations as a way to enhance and maintain their reputation and visibility.

The coronavirus pandemic affected the public relations industry in 2020. Many public relations firms transitioned to remote work due to the business lockdowns and social distancing requirements to prevent the spread of the virus. A projected 12.3 percent decline in revenue for U.S. public relations firms in 2020 was predicted by research group IBISWorld. As of early 2021, the vaccine for the virus rolled out, but many firms are still working remotely or have instituted a hybrid schedule that has a mix of on-site and remote work. They have also adopted technology to hold meetings, pitches, and other activities online. According to the Institute for Public Relations, priorities for public relations firms have changed during the pandemic, some focusing more on internal engagement, others reassessing the "makeup of the workplace as well as recruitment and retention practices," with attention paid to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Wider distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine throughout 2021 will lead to an improved economy and increased corporate profit, which will enable public relations and marketing efforts to pick up again. In late 2020, the U.S. public relations firms industry was valued at $14 billion, with 46,592 businesses employing 89,613 people. Steady growth is anticipated through 2025.

Anything can happen at any given moment to change the public’s opinion about an organization, its products and services, and its people. Additionally, the Internet and social media have helped speed the spread of both good and bad news, thus companies are now in even greater need of public relations managers and specialists to respond to new developments and keep the organization’s reputation intact. Industry experts also predict job growth to stem from the increased use of social media by clients as well as in the practice of public relations. More clients will need counsel and training in how to use social media most effectively for their businesses. Also, organizations will need more public relations professionals (such as community managers and bloggers) to help create, moderate, and manage the communication between organizations and the public.

Competition for public relations jobs will continue to be fierce. The DOL predicts it will be especially competitive for entry-level spots. PR professionals who are social media savvy, have strong knowledge of media in general and excellent communication skills overall will have an edge over the competition. Accreditation, continuing education courses in particular areas of PR, and/or a graduate degree can also help job candidates stand out from the pack.

The median annual wage of public relations specialists was $60,000 in May 2018; the lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $33,690, and the top paid 10 percent earned more than $112,310. Public relations and fundraising managers earned higher annual wages. They averaged $114,800 per year, as of May 2018; the lowest paid 10 percent earned a median annual salary of $64,250 per year, and the highest paid 10 percent earned approximately $208,000 annually. In 2019, Salary.com reported that the median expected salary for a public relations specialist with less than two years of experience was $53,449, and the typical range for salaries is between $48,282 and $63,257, depending upon education, certifications, and skill level. Naturally, salaries for public relations practitioners vary depending on the level of work experience, the type of agency, and the size of the agency’s budget. It’s difficult to predict what the salaries for public relations practitioners will be in the future, but it would be fair to say that they will be adjusted based on the demand for public relations services and the cost of living at that time.

The interest in measuring the impact of public relations efforts is growing and is expected to continue growing in the near future. As a result, there is a predicted increase in the use of public relations tools. According to a MarketWatch report, the global PR Tools Market is projected to reach nearly $13 billion by 2024. As described in the report, “The public relations tools industry is subject to witness a substantial growth due to the growing demand for effective management of the digital, online and offline print media, creating thorough reports and deriving necessary information.” Companies will continue to pay attention to developing solid relationships with the public through strategic marketing campaigns, and they will need PR tools to accurately measure these campaigns to improve their return on investment. The North American public relations tools industry has shown strong growth in recent years due to an increase in research and development and an established IT structure. The banking, finance and insurance sectors of the PR tools market has had especially fast growth recently and is expected to continue growing the next few years. The report sums up the reasons for the significance of PR tools: “The growing implementation of PR tools to reach out to customers helps organizations to track and control diverse customer relationship platforms on a single pane. Moreover, the rise of social networking sites and the rapid growth of social media is expected to generate high-end demand for media tracking solutions to optimize the media spending of organizations.”

The Institute for Public Relations (IPR) foresees the regulation of big data continuing to affect the public relations industry. Public relations practitioners rely on research to conduct their work, and big data has become a powerful resource in the field. As IPR described it, big data is the "research practice that uses large amounts of information, such as communication or purchase histories, to gain insight into human behavior and beliefs. Big data is unique in that the aggregate amount of data is so large that organizations need special analytics to store and analyze the data." The benefits of big data are that the PR industry can gain insights into behavior patterns and use these insights to increase profits for businesses. PR practitioners must continue to pay attention, however, to the laws regarding their research practice, in terms of how they gather and use big data. The Federal Trade Commission has regulatory limits on big data, through acts such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act, and equal opportunity laws, among others.

Overall, the outlook for the public relations industry worldwide is positive. Growth is expected to continue as companies will increase financial investment in maintaining and improving their corporate reputations. As one industry expert stated in a report on the global PR market, "All around the world, PR is growing in size and in influence. Our time in the sun is now—and in the years to come." Many PR professionals who responded to a survey for the global PR market report predict that growth in the public relations industry will stem from corporate reputation. About 44 percent state that digital communications will trigger much of the growth and almost 40 percent believe social responsibility will add to growth in the PR field. Another area that is projected to increase the need for PR professionals is employee communications. The sectors for public relations services that are expected to have the most growth are technology, healthcare, and consumer products. The top areas in which companies will be investing more money and resources to in the coming years are social media community management, content creation, digital build and production, measurement and analytics, and creativity.