Last year, two-thirds of PR agencies around the world faced delayed or cancelled contracts and almost half of them lost revenue, yet they are optimistic about the future growth of the public relations market in the coming years. This is one of conclusions of the international analysis World PR Report 2020/2021. In terms of growing sectors, IT and technology, healthcare, and financial services will lead the way. The most sought-after services will include providing strategic consulting, corporate communication, and work with the online community. The biggest investments will be made in social media and community management. The creation of multimedia content, influencer marketing and the area of research or planning will play a crucial role as well.
The global Covid-19 pandemic hit the PR area hard. Its impact on the industry is summarized in figures in the World PR Report 2020/2021, published by the International Communications Consultancy Organization (ICCO). In addition to data for last year, it also shows trends that can be expected in the coming years. It is based on information provided by 268 PR professionals from around the world. Newton Media presented the detailed results of the report at a webinar held on January 28. One of the presenters was Rob Morbin, Deputy CEO of ICCO. Data and the perspective from the Czech Republic was added by Patrik Schober, Chairman of the Executive Board of Czech Association of Public Relations (APRA).
According to the report, two thirds of agencies (62%) faced delayed or cancelled contracts and almost half (46%) lost revenue last year. “As expected, the most affected sectors were hospitality and tourism, the entertainment industry and the sale of luxury goods,” says Magdalena Horánska of Newton Media and adds: “In contrary, the segments that have grown the most under the influence of Covid-19 are IT and technology, healthcare and financial services. It is in these sectors that PR agencies expect the greatest growth in the next 5 years.” The pandemic also significantly increased the demand for crisis communication and work with the online community, i.e. communication with customers (not only) in social media environments. Overall, however, the greatest interest last year was in corporate reputation and strategic consulting. Due to social media, the public had an overview of how the company behaved. While some companies have embarked on a path of optimization and cost-saving measures, others have opted for empathy and social responsibility sufficiently presented in the online space.
Investing in multimedia, influencers, and data analysts
Similar trends can be predicted in the next five years when a high increase in orders is expected in the provision of strategic consulting, corporate communication, and in the field of work with the online community. “The creation of multimedia content, influencer, and the area of research or planning will also play a crucial role. All these trends were evident before the pandemic, but now this development accelerated. PR professionals will have to prove their value to clients in a meaningful and credible way to defend their budget,” adds Horánska. The ICCO study showed that clients most often consider the number of media clippings (29%) to be the relevant output metric, followed by connecting communication activity to business results (20%) and engagement metrics (17%). Respondents, therefore, included measurement and analytics, research, insight, and planning among the services of PR agencies that will be most affected by the development of technology.
Talent and challenges
According to the report, recruitment remains a huge challenge. Agency directors predict that most recruits will be sought among rival agencies (60%), journalists (45%), and within graduate programs (45%). Particularly acute challenge is recruiting people with skills in data, measurements, and analytics. If 2020 was a year of survival and change, then 2021 is a year of unparalleled growth. “Despite the difficult times, The World PR Report also brings good news. Most directors of PR agencies are optimistic about the future and expect the PR market to grow again in the coming years. This sector is one of the clear exceptions, which is currently looking positive in the coming months,” concludes Horánska.