“Organisations are recognising the impact and the need to have that reputational, strategic view at a higher level than they ever did before.”
Hayley James, in-house public sector assistant director
The rocket in reputation and reach experienced across the public relations profession during the pandemic is set to stay according to practitioners surveyed in a new report from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).
With nearly 1,400 responses, the #PRinAPandemic report authoritatively details the uneven impact of COVID-19 on the public relations profession experienced by those across organisation types, levels of seniority, ages, and roles. It finds an industry performing strongly and with increased influence, but at the cost of a dramatic increase in working hours and wide concerns regarding the mental health of practitioners, now identified as the biggest challenge facing the profession.
Those working in-house in the public sector were the only ones to see their teams grow during the pandemic, but growth is predicted across all organisation types over the next 12 months, particularly within consultancies and agencies. Nearly three-in-five practitioners in a client-facing role expect their client base to grow.
Key findings from the report include:
Those working in the public sector experienced the most dramatic changes in demand, working hours, and wellbeing. With many publicly funded organisations unable to access the furlough scheme, fewer than one in five public sector practitioners were furloughed compared to other organisation types who each furloughed over half of all their public relations workforce.
Practitioners are five times more likely to say that their mental health has deteriorated over the past 12 months than improved.
Female practitioners are more likely than males to have seen their working hours increase during the pandemic.
Male practitioners are twice as likely as females to have seen a decline in PR income over the past year.
More practitioners in junior roles predict their working hours are set to increase compared to those at any other level of seniority.
Nearly half of independent practitioners saw their income fall, more than any other group of practitioners.
This research provides a wealth of data and through it, tells us the many stories and experiences of the last few months. If there is a common theme it is the feeling of optimism and stature amongst practitioners, perhaps not something many would have predicted earlier in the pandemic. That is entirely down to your hard work in the most challenging circumstances and has earned us that influence.
A bright future does not mean we ignore the trauma of our past and success can be celebrated only if we recognise the hardships many of our colleagues faced. I’m delighted to see predictions of teams and client bases growing and hope efforts to improve business performance are matched with efforts to improve the experience of working in public relations.
We’re starting from a great position of being able to build on our achievements rather than having to build back up from the bottom. Let us take this opportunity to improve and grow with purpose, success, and compassion.
CIPR President, Mandy Pearse Chart PR, FCIPR