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

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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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A few thoughts on the state of the PR sector from the PRCA’s 2016 PR Census.

Last night was the lauIMG_20160610_094935 - Copynch party for the PRCA’s 2016 PR Census. The first from the PRCA since 2013, and what I think remains the best ‘state of the industry’ survey out there. Gathering data from nearly 2000 PR practitioners from across the UK, it shows some positive news about PR, as well as identifying (some of the same) issues that we’re facing.

Here are my thoughts on a couple of key points that I picked out:

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Firstly, the PR sector is in great shape. It is estimated to be worth £12.9bn, a 34% increase
since 2013. It’s also seen an impressive increase of 21,000 more employees working in PR since 2013, now we’re up to 83,000 – which might help to explain the less good news of an £8.5k drop in average salaries.

Some of the more obvious results were that this is still a young person’s game, with the average age of 28, and 64% being women. No real surprises there. But seeing an average 10k pay gap between women and men, in an industry that is dominated by women is pretty outrageous. While this is sort of explained by the increase in men in senior positions (and thus being paid more) what are we doing about the mass exodus of women in senior positions? Could it be that the sector is not flexible and supportive enough to women who choose to start a family?

IMG_20160610_095031Another big concern for me is still around diversity. When I first entered the PR industry 13 years ago, we were worried about diversity and talking about how to tackle it. So I really despair that the sector is still 91% white, with little to no change since 2013. The industry is still also 91% degree educated, again, little change from 2013. So we’re still talking about the issue with diversity without doing anything about it.

Some positive news is that the younger generations of PR practitioners are both more diverse and more likely to be working in the industry without a degree, it still remains a massive issue that we supposed to be communicating and influencing millions of different people while being the majority middle class and white.

The PRCA does some great work with their school outreach team, encouraging more young people to enter the PR industry, but we also need the employers to stop having a degree as a prerequisite for getting a job – nearly every job description I see asks for degree education.

Back in 2013 I helped to develop and launch the Higher Apprenticeship in PR. Its purpose was to open up the industry to young people from different backgrounds who didn’t want to go to university. We brought in some fantastically talented, enthusiastic young people, the big employers were on board, but once the Government funding for PR, marketing and other support dried up, so did the industry enthusiasm. One of the first 10 to start the scheme, was recently in the PRWeek 30 under 30, and is only 22! While it’s still running, the number of new apprentices now is nowhere near the 120 a year target that was first set.

Low and unpaid internships are still too prevalent in the industry. And all they do is exasperate the current problem as only white middle class families can afford to pay for a young person to live and work in London (or any major city) without any income. We keep talking about the problem with diversity while continuing to do exactly the same things that cause the problem.

Some of the conversations around this last night were around rebranding “graduate schemes” to intern schemes, so to encourage non-graduates to apply, which is fine. As long as the intern schemes pay at least a London Living Wage, and aren’t just drawing in the same people who can afford to take them.

There was also some frustrating results in evaluation, with 16% of practitioners still claiming to use AVE – I’m hoping that all this means is that AVE is just one part of evaluation, and not the main source. Even then it is still worrying that so many people use such a useless and antiquated evaluation method. That said, considering 30% don’t use any evaluation at all, it remains an area of concern.

Blog post: A self-inflicted PR Crisis for David Cameron

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David Cameron, having better weeks…

I thought David Cameron used to work in PR?? I have to wonder how effective he was as he has handled this week’s crisis like an amateur.

This week it has been all about the Panama papers, and revelations about his late father’s tax affairs.

As with so many badly handled PR crisis, this one is about what wasn’t said, not what actually happened. Four days, five statements from the Prime Minister and his office, and all left more questions unanswered and the issue not dealt with.

The key to handling a crisis is to get as much appropriate information out as quickly as possible. Withholding information, trying to hide it or, even worse, lying is never a wise course of action. The truth will come out, and that becomes the story.

For Cameron, on Monday when it all kicked off, he should have come out and fully disclosed his involvement in his father’s scheme. If he had openly disclosed that he had cashed in shares, benefiting from a reduced tax burden, back in 2010, it is more than likely that the story would have moved on by now. He would have received some criticism for benefiting, but it would have been a six-year-old story, which would have quickly run out of column inches.

But instead, he tried to avoid his involvement, and released a series of statements that deliberately tried to hide it. Each one was written to try and close the issue, stop the questions, but once journalists sense blood, they are going to keep digging until they get to the truth.

So now Cameron has to face not only benefiting from off shore tax havens, and also questions about trying to hide it. And more often than not, it is the trying to hide that causes the reputational damage, and that is certainly the case here.

I don’t know if this will finish off the Prime Minister, but it will probably hasten his exit.

And this one is entirely self-inflicted.

I’m following this story from a short city break in New York, so will write a more detailed response to this crisis in a few days.

Ollie

The dangers of a tweet and the wrong type of sun

Southeastern Trains had a bit of an issue with Twitter today and with the wrong kind of sun causing delays.

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jan/12/wrong-kind-of-sunlight-delays-southeastern-trains-london?CMP=fb_gu

The actual issue causing the delays is a legitimate one – the glare from the low and bright winter sun was preventing the train drivers from seeing key safety monitors, meaning they had to get out and check the train manually. Obviously this was the right thing to do from a safety perspective, but the way they reported this on Twitter wasn’t quite so clever.

We had severe congestion through Lewisham due to dispatching issues as a result of strong sunlight.

Unsurprisingly, Twitter reacted to ‘strong sunlight’ with the sort of mirth you will only get from Twitter. Southeastern soon clarified what they meant by ‘strong sunlight’ but then it was too late.

It just highlights the danger of social media and Twitter – you only have 140 characters so can’t always give all the details but have to be so careful with what is Tweeted. Clearly ‘strong sunlight’ wasn’t the finest idea of the day.

It also highlights the issue of who do you have running your Twitter account? If it is an account that is used to talk directly to customers (such as Southeastern and other rail companies) then it needs constant attention. The trend is for the more inexperienced team members to run the accounts, but that is where the danger lies.

Of course, if Twitter bring in the 10,000 character limit more can be explained within a single tweet and perhaps some of the fun will come out of Twitter…

Blog post – a few things I learnt in 2015

Here we are in 2016, and further progress into the second decade of my PR career. Every year, just after the festive break I start to look forward to the new challenges, I’m always struck by how I really have no idea how the year is going to pan out. It’s one of the things I continue to love about Public Relations – every day, and most definitely every year, is very very different. It’s a bit of a cliché, but I don’t think there is an industry out there with the variety we have, and especially one that has been through quite as much as change in the recent years! as we have (and still is).

That said, before I start to look forward and think about how I hope 2016 is going to shape up, I thought I should take a quick (if a bit late…) look back at 2015, and what I learnt during a busy and exciting year.

  • Don’t run two events on the same day – it’s stressful

I did it. It was hard. Event Management isn’t really my area of expertise, but a client requested it: A conference for 200 in the morning, and staff update event in the afternoon for 800.

I’ve previously blogged about the need to say no to clients, so next time it gets suggested I’m going to suggest a different course of action and spare myself a few sleepless nights!

  • We still have a problem with terrible practice

Back in 2014 I had a bit of a rant about some of the practices still within our industry. I despaired at how journalists are still complaining about getting spammed by PR people, particular junior PR pros calling up a few minutes after sending a press release to check if it has been received, without any research or understanding about relevance to that journalist or publication (I don’t blame the juniors for this, I blame those instructing and teaching them).

And now in 2015, we have the story that a campaign by a PR agency used a ‘real life’ case study who was less ‘real life’ and more ‘a member of the PR agency running the campaign’. As I cover in the post, we’ve all called in favours with friends and families to add credibility to a story, and I don’t doubt that this case study was a user of the product, but she was a member of agency running the campaign. She was, in all intents and purposes, an employee of the firm, and you wouldn’t use an employee of an organisation as a real life case study without disclosing it, so why use the agency staff??

It’s just another example of a practice that taints the whole industry and why we get confused with the dark arts and shadowy figures.

We will not be taken seriously as an industry unless we stamp this sort of thing out and show that we are a professional and trusted profession.

  • Blackberry is going nowhere (I hope)

I’ve covered my love of all things Blackberry in previous posts, and 2015 is the year of the turnaround I hope!

As a quick recap, I remain one of the few Blackberry fans that I actually know in person. And for good reason. Give me a physical keyboard and battery that lasts longer than a few hours any day of the week. And this year has seen two new BB’s hit the market – The Passport, my phone of choice and slightly odd looking, but has completely replaced my IPad, and I now do most of my work on it. It is brilliant. Before you ask, I had a year with an IPhone 4s (when that was the newest IPhone), and while the apps and games are great, it is no comparison in terms of productivity and getting work done than my (then) G10 and hugely inferior to my Passport.

More recently we had the Blackberry Priv launched, better spec than the IPhone 6, a slide out physical keyboard, plus it runs the Android OS, so no need to side load all those apps (one of the criticism of BB10 was the lack of apps, expect you could actually run most Android Apps on it as long as you knew what you were doing)

3rd Quarter growth results are promising, so I’m hoping for more from my little friend and – fingers crossed – a Passport 2 in 2016!!

  • We are still needed…

Our industry continues to change at pace but the skills and experiences we bring to the table is as vital as ever. Especially if you send a text to a journalist calling her a ‘mad witch’

Anyway, PRWeek did a good review of 2015’s six big corporate crisis’ here:

What is of particular interest is how some of them (Thomas Cook and Talk Talk for instance) took a hit for how they responded to crisis as much as the actual crisis – showing once again the importance of being prepared for a crisis and responding quickly and honestly. Although Ashleigh Madison was screwed either way.

  • I was right about paywalls!

I’m a still bit disappointed that I wasn’t blogging back in 2013 when I predicted that The Sun’s paywall wouldn’t last. November saw The Sun bring its paywall down and I wasn’t surprised, why would readers pay for The Sun’s celebrity gossip (a key draw) when it can get it for free from sites such as the Daily Mail?

The Times (News UK’s other paywall) remains behind a wall and News UK claim they have no plans to drop it, but I wonder how long it will last. Will enough readers keep paying for the Times content to keep it viable? Maybe, but could 2016 see the paywall experiment come to its natural conclusion?? (I promise no ‘I told you so…’ posts…)

  • Vinyl does sound better

Not really a PR realisation, but this year my parents sold the family home in Wiltshire and retired to Cornwall. While sorting through 30 years of junk in the loft I came across their old vinyl record collection. Originally I had planned to bring it back to London to flog to some hipsters, but once I was home I thought I would listen to a few, and maybe copy to digital (there were a couple of classics).

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However, once a reasonably priced record player was purchased, a realised that vinyl does actually sound better. I know I now sound like a hipster, but there is a richer, more real sound, than you get on CD or digital. So I’m sold, and have even been known to poke my nose into a few charity shops to see what I can pick up on the cheap…

 

 

Blog post: The ethics of ‘real life’ case studies…

We’ve all done it (haven’t we?!), called in a favour with a friend or another PR type to be a client’s ‘real life’ case study. I know I have – including being asked by a comrade to appear in a chlamydia awareness article for Cosmo.

This week Fuel PR has been getting criticism for putting forward one of their own employees for a client’s case study (here). Duly picked up by PA and subsequently picked up by the Daily Mail and the Mirror to name just two. Two publications (as well as PA) who were not best pleased when they found out the real-life case study Esme de Silva was in fact a Senior Account Executive at Fuel PR (but published under a different name) – the Agency appointed last year to work for Odaban (the subject of the story).

As I said, we’ve all called in favours and I would imagine that a lot of real life case-studies are probably PR people by trade, and that doesn’t mean they aren’t real life people and customers of our client’s products.

(It’s also a tad ironic when you think about the amount of bias and misleading content coming from our dailies – see previous blog posts on this… )

That said, does this not go a bit too far. Yes, she may well be a customer of the client, but using one of your own employees is a bit too close to home for me. Especially as it was not disclosed and the name had been changed – suggesting that the Agency also wasn’t too of the ethics either. They’ve claimed that the name change was to protect privacy, and that is understandable as this is a potentially embarrassing health problem, except there was no issue with her photo being plastered across all the coverage.
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Not disclosing that Esme de Silva’s name was changed just suggests that Fuel were trying to hide something (and I guess there were). As ever with PR it comes down to being open and honest, and the perception here is that they are hiding that this person is (essentially) an employee of the brand they are promoting.

Would it have been so hard to find an actual ‘real life’ case study for this?

Here’s the story in PRWEEK: http://www.prweek.com/article/1360288/press-association-advises-newspapers-remove-real-life-story-victim-revealed-employee-pr-firm-fuel

Blog Post: Why are there still bad CVs out there?

I can’t believe that I am writing this post. I cannot believe that I have to write this post, but my experience over the last week has made me feel it is needed.

There are hundreds, thousands even, of blog posts and webpages dedicated to writing a good CV. They are everywhere and most have pretty similar advice. So why, in 2015, and in particular in the PR/ Communications industry am I still getting inundated with truly terrible CVs??

I received one this week that was five pages long. Five pages! For a Communications position. It also had a sentence that was 32 words long. This from a Comms professional, in an age of 140 characters!

Another CV had two spelling mistakes in the personal profile. The job spec asked for good writing ability and an eye for detail – I stopped reading after the Personal Statement. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I have made errors during my career. I’m pretty sure that if you go through my blog posts you will find some, but this is a CV. For a comms position. And these mistakes were in the first sentence.

I also had a CV that looked like the candidate had spent five minutes on it. No personal statement, no key skills or achievements, just a series of bullet points outlining her responsibilities. While I appreciate that not every recruiter likes a personal statement, a lot do.

I just fail to understand how anyone – particularly in PR – does not appreciate the need for a high quality, error free, concise CV. More to the point, how do they not KNOW this? The CVs under scrutiny were for a position in a very high profile organisation, with a very competitive salary. What is the point of sending your CV in if you are not going to take any care and attention over it?

I was also a bit galled that their recruitment consultants hadn’t gone back to the candidate and coached them a bit. A quality consultant would also not be sending below par CVs! (My experience wasn’t helped by a recruiter arguing with me about why I shouldn’t reject their candidate, buy heyho…)

A CV is not a difficult document to get right. It does not take hours upon hours to pull together, and there are not any ‘trade secrets’ on how to make a CV stand out.

The internet is already filled with good, easy to follow advice. So – to all PR people – please read it, take it in and follow it…