Who do you think you are? Respond to the PR Census 2013

PRCensusScoping the PR industry is an unreliable business – but the PR Census (undertaken by PR Week and PRCA) is a valiant attempt to provide some useful numbers and insight into who we are and what we do. That’s why I support the call to complete the census form: https://survey.yougov.com/vdfp0RlDDBKrdk.

The greater the number of UK practitioners who take a few minutes to participate, the more reliable the data and analysis that is produced will be.

Reviewing the findings from the 2011 PR Census, I summed up public relations as:

dominated by the young and female. In terms of age, only 20% of PR practitioners are older than 45, despite the fact that 28% of the general working population is over 50. Women account for almost two-thirds of the PR industry (64%) compared to 46% for the overall workforce.

It is doubtful that two years on, the PR industry is demographically greatly different – but we will have an opportunity to look at some trends and dig deep into the data to discover if some of the previous findings still hold true:

  • PR practitioners are not a greatly diverse bunch in demographic terms
  • On average, the female respondents had less experience than their male counterparts
  • There seemed to be a black hole of women leaving PR mid-career (and not returning after maternity leave)
  • Regardless of age or experience, there continues to be a noticeable gender salary discrepancy in men’s favour
  • With a relatively long hours culture reported by respondents, starting salaries in PR aren’t overly generous – which is even more important than two years’ ago given increasing costs of undergraduate degrees

If these aspects remain pretty consistent, it suggests little has been achieved since the last PR Census to address issues that should be of concern to employers, professional bodies, educators and practitioners themselves. Rather than simply focusing on where the results from the 2013 PR Census offer an opportunity for the industry to pat itself on the back, more needs to be done to future-proof rewarding careers in the field as the norm (regardless of gender, age, race, class, education, experience, entry point, etc).

Anyone looking to recruit PR talent continues to lament the shortage of really high calibre candidates. There has never been a better opportunity for public relations to secure its ground as a credible, valued professional discipline both as an in-house function and a bought in expert service. This is great news – but we won’t realise the potential, and attract or retain the brightest and best, if we simply use this important research to create infographics and generate publicity for PR.

Is public relations out of touch?

backsoonLast December, Judy Gombita wrote about the pressures on PR practitioners and social businesses to remain in touch throughout the traditional Western holiday season – or at least to provide information on their availability.

One year on, and it seems most PR people are out of touch at this time of year. Their email bounce backs indicate in some cases, they are away from the office for up to three weeks. Indeed, the holiday period seems to stretch from Friday 14 December to Monday 14 January.

Of course, email is only one element of PR communications and many people work in teams, so share cover. But there’s a distinct impression that even with the advent of social media, public relations is largely out of touch.

The latest news on PR Week is around one week old now. The most recent posts at PR Moment are even older. Does this indicate an acceptance that there’s no point in talking with PR practitioners once the party season kicks in?

When I began working in PR around 20 years ago, I viewed the period between Christmas and New Year as a key time for reaching people. Back then, it meant preparing ideas in advance which the media could fit into their schedules. When I worked for a vehicle breakdown company, we issued fun seasonal stories, various weather related driving facts and advice, or reviews and forecasts, for example.

When mobile phones became more common, it was possible to have out of office contact (before then, it was usual for home numbers to be included in releases or provided to key media). Email made it possible to issue stories even when away from the desk (rather than relying on unpredictable Christmas post). Laptops and ftp enabled uploading of topical stories onto the internet.

Today we have the immediacy of social media – always on, demanding hyper connectivity from PR practitioners, or so we are led to believe. Perhaps this time of year provides a valuable silence, which I wrote about at PR Conversations in September. We all need to relax, get away from the everyday pressures and allow for calm reflection. Silent night – or a month maybe – without the cacophony of PR communications?

However, Twitter (or Instagram) shots of ‘celebs’ in their Christmas jumpers, onesies or swimwear on Caribbean getaways, shows this shade of PR has not taken a break.

Our marketing colleagues have also tapped into the shopping season. There was a seamless shift from advertising (offline and online) Christmas gifts, to last-minute vouchers, to Christmas day online shopping opportunities to full blown Sales. Promotional PR ran alongside this linear process.

Undoubtedly – or hopefully, crisis plans are in place should PR be called upon to handle some unforeseen issue over this period. The crush of meetings before the wind-down actioned planning and budgeting for 2013. Some PR people will be in the office catching up or looking ahead, making good use of this quiet period.

Others will be working in countries where the year end/start is business as usual. This is increasingly important in a 24:7 interconnected world. We need to be aware of the holiday periods in different parts of the planet. Many of these now extend into holiday weekends, providing opportunities for engagement rather than simply staying out of touch.

There are arguments both for and against a rest over the festive season – although it seems a contradictory modern phenomenon to go slow for up to a month when globalisation, multi-cultural communities and social media challenge us to be ever available.

I’ve always felt that PR blurs practitioners’ personal and professional lives, but I’m not clear whether I am out of touch given the tendency for many to be literally out of touch over the holidays.

PR is about action not procrastination

PR time – balancing urgency and importance (after Stephen Covey)

One of those silly PR surveys yesterday made me think – it was about procrastination and the time we waste in putting things off. I am very familiar with the idea with students – and PR practitioners – who are deadline-oriented creatures and expert also at displacement behaviour where you focus on other tasks rather than knuckling down to the priority at hand.

I also advocate Stephen Covey‘s notion of ‘first things first’ and include an adaptation of his urgent-important matrix in the forthcoming Public Relations Strategic Toolkit.

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Feminization of public relations

I’ve produced this infographic as part of my presentation at next week’s International History of Public Relations Conference. My paper aims to foreground the career experiences of women working in public relations in Britain during the 1970s and 1980s. As well as reviewing the existing historical literature (where the presence of women is largely missing) and conducting qualitative interviews, I wanted to put the story into some statistical context.

Although the veracity of any data is impossible to verify, it does provide heuristic knowledge of the increased feminization of the field of public relations over the past four decades. During the 1970s and 1980s, the data indicates the percentage of women in PR in the UK increased from around 10% to 40% – from one to four in every ten practitioners. This has risen further in the last twenty years to almost seven in ten practitioners. Continue reading

Talking about my generation – PR and pretty young things

image According to the UK PR Week-PRCA 2011 PR Census, public relations is dominated by the young and female.  In terms of age, only 20% of PR practitioners are older than 45, despite the fact that 28% of the general working population is over 50.  Women account for almost two-thirds of the PR industry (64%) compared to 46% for the overall workforce.

The Visions of Britain 2020 study looking at “Working Women” (published today) highlights concerns over childcare issues, claiming:

women in their 30s and 40s are having the children that they put off when they were younger as they climbed through the education system and onto the career and property ladders.

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