Everything to know about the public relations industry, from pay and hiring to growth areas

By Business Insider

The public relations industry is going through big changes as PR firms scramble to invest in data and analytics and fend off competition and as corporate America faces increasing public scrutiny.

Firms are also seeing opportunity in areas like advertising, digital, and ecommerce. They're taking advantage of booming areas like financial communications and diversity, equity, and inclusion, creating lucrative if high-pressure jobs.

Insider has been tracking these trends at some of the largest PR firms including Edelman, Weber Shandwick, and Sard Verbinnen, and rounded up our coverage on everything from hot practice areas, how to get hired, and pay. 

Below are resources to guide people looking to learn about the industry, grow their existing PR businesses, or break into the field.

Hiring, pay trends

The PR industry employed around 270,000 people in the US as of 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It employs people who work in-house at brands as well as agencies of all sizes.

PR firms have cut hundreds of jobs in the downturn, but the field remains high-paying and competitive, with growing opportunities in pharma, tech, and healthcare communications.

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The industry is attracting new investment

Private equity firms used to view public relations agencies and software companies as a volatile industry, but now they're pouring money into the PR industry, drawn to its high recurring revenues, diversified businesses, and cash flow.

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Some areas of PR have thrived in the downturn

CEOs of some of the biggest firms like Edelman, BCW, and FleishmanHillard have seen growth as new pitches pick up and companies seek help with crisis situations and communicating to the public and employees about office reopening and diversity and inclusion issues.

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Firms see opportunity in advertising and consulting

A lucrative but less understood niche is strategic communications, which involves crisis, litigation, financial, and other high-stakes public relations and comprises firms like Finsbury, Kekst CNC, and Gladstone Place Partners.

PR firms are increasingly finding themselves in competition with advertising, consulting companies, and even law firms as the lines between these industries blur.

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How technology is changing PR

Public relations pros are facing increased pressure to prove the value of their services, giving rise to a $4.5 billion communications software industry that helps PR firms do things like monitor news coverage and social media, provide accurate measurements, and identify influencers and journalists.

Firms like Edelman and MSL have developed their own tools to monitor news and track the impact of PR for clients.

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