CIPR State of Profession Report 2017 – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.


I finally got around to looking at the CIPR’s State of Profession 2017 report that they published a few weeks ago. Below are my thoughts on the findings.

The Good

  • Strategic planning is up 10% (69% vs 59% in 2016):

So this is an encouraging piece of news and suggests that strategy is becoming more prevalent within the industry. As some who is obsessed with strategy (some say in an unhealthy way) and the importance of doing things as part of a strategic objective, and not just for the sake of doing something, this is music to my ears. Invariably, PR teams are small, there is only so much we can do and achieve, so hopefully this direction of travel will continue and we will see more work being done for ‘strategic’ reasons.

  • Diversity – fewer asking for a Degree:

While there is still bad news (see below) around diversity, there is a little a bit of good news, in that the number of recruiters demanding undergraduate degrees from junior candidates fell by four points. While it’s still at 52%, I’m pleased to see it moving in the right direction. I have written before about this but this obsession with a University Degree still confuses me. My experience from launching the PR Apprenticeship taught me that there is so much energy and talent and enthusiasm and quality out there from those who didn’t want to go to university, who didn’t fancy it, despite having the grades and knowledge, so why not tap into that!?! We really do need to be a bit more clever sometimes.

  • Increasing salaries:

Also good to see an increase in salaries from 2016 numbers – suggests the industry is still in a good shape and still growing. Words I like to hear during uncertain times.

  • The importance of diversity in campaigns.

Another encouraging result from the survey was the increase in practitioners who agreed that campaigns were more effective with diverse teams. This is up to 59% from 51%. I have to wonder why 39% would disagree with this? As an industry that is 90% white, 86% University educated, how we are supposed to run campaigns that target minorities or want to reach across the country? That intelligence, that insight, is vital. It needs to be harnessed as much as. Different people react differently to different messages and different media. A diverse team can create better campaigns that are more likely to cross these boundaries and ultimately be more successful and prove a higher return on the investment of our clients.


The Bad

  • Only 4% fear ‘automation’

This is a concern. I believe that a lot of our work is going to disappear over the next 10-15 years – like a lot of industries. We are already seeing an impact in areas like media monitoring – when I started out it was us that had to scour the papers and trade publications for our client’s mentions (and woe behold when anything was missed), now it’s all automated. I also remember spending nearly a whole day sending fax invites to 650 MPs to invite them to an event – speed dialling and mail/email merge wasn’t a thing back then. Proofreading/editing has been ‘supported’ by the computer for 20 years (and thankfully it has been, my spelling is still dodgy, and without spellchecker, I would not be as successful as I have been). But how long until content creation is automated. Computers can already write copy from scratch, maybe not as well as the well trained and emotional input of the human being, but how long until they can write crisp, quality copy in half the time of us?? Translation, social media, research, are all going the way of the computer.

Obviously, there is still strategy and the emotional understanding of the human and human interaction that I wonder if a computer will ever truly understand, but that won’t need as many practitioners as it needs now.

I expect there will be a lot less work for us all over the next 10-15 years, and hardly anyone in the industry seems to be worried about this.

  • Tightening budgets and the impact of Brexit

Unsurprisingly budgets are being tightened. We are in uncertain times, and no-one really knows the impact that Brexit is going to have, so we have to keep doing more for less, and actually I always like to see us challenged on offering value for money and do we need to spend as much as we do. 57% think that Brexit will have a negative impact, and there was 8% who thought it would be positive! But I am putting that 8% to the Comms team in Conservative Central Office and the handful in UKIP who have to keep up the pretence that Brexit is a good idea.

  • Internal comms importance reducing

Also worrying was the drop in the importance to internal communications – down by 3%. This may be statistically insignificant and just down to different recipients, but internal comms is so important I worry when it drops even a little bit. I have blogged about its importance before, and I still feel the same. There really is little point in spending £££ on a great PR campaign, to convince your publics that you are something, when the employees, the people who live and breathe the organisation, who engage with said publics every day are not on board or not happy or don’t feel engaged. They should be your first priority, not an afterthought, and the fact that they have dropped in importance, suggests that my message has not got through. I must do better!

  • Mental health low

A little red flag to me was that 90% of responders said they didn’t have any mental health issues. Considering PR is one of the most stressful jobs about, is there really so few of us with mental health issues, or is it so stigmatised, such a thing that is not conducive to successful career in PR that we don’t talk about. Or are we not educating our teams on mental health, and how important it is. Are people leaving the industry due to mental health issues as we’re not offering the support they deserve?

I don’t know the answer to a lot of these, but I think we should try to find out.


The Ugly

  • 90% white, 86% University educated

90% white. 86% university educated. Let’s just look at those stats for a moment. As an industry, we have been talking about the lack of diversity for decades. And yet, we are still making little to no progress. While it was encouraging to see earlier that diversity is seen as more important in campaign planning, all the meetings, working groups, forums etc. have still not had an impact. The PR Apprenticeship was meant to help with this, and it is a bit of a tragedy that the sector isn’t embracing it with the same vigour as when it was first launched. Especially when you consider the impact, and how well some of these young people are now getting on in the industry.

It appears we remain to be a lot of talk and hot air, and not a lot of action when it comes to diversity – and it’s not the first time that is something we have been accused of.

  • Gender pay gap

The PR industry is 61% female (although other recent surveys have put that figure higher), and yet we have a gender pay gap of more than 5k. On top of that, more men are earning the top/100k figures than women – 11% to 5%. How are we not still ashamed of ourselves for this. How are we not doing everything in our power to overcome this? We are not an Old Boys Club. Women make up a majority of our industry. The CIPR Women in PR Group is making great strides, but until all of us, every single one of us is just plain embarrassed by the fact that we are paying men more than women, then we’re not going deal with this. We are a majority female industry. And that is great. But why aren’t we leading the way on this!?!


On another note, I came across a few interesting facts while reading through as well….

The Interesting

  • 60% with more than 11 years’ experience

Now, this surprised me. I’ve always thought that this was a young person’s game. And that it’s the SAE/AMs that are the most prevalent. That people soon get worn down and broken by the industry and soon move on to more family friendly, less stressful, less all action careers… (at least that was my experience from my peer group). But this report showed that 60% have more than 11 years’ experience, which suggests my theory was a load of cobblers…

  • In-house public sector largest area

Another surprise. Of all the different sectors, the largest was ‘In House, public sector’. It goes against all we’ve been told about the savage cuts in the public sector. But more likely is that the importance of communications, and of quality, measurable PR is seen as more important than ever in the public sector. So it’s a credit to our public sector comrades that industry is in such good shape in that sector. Long may it continue.


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