Earlier this month it was reported that the Public Relations Industry is growing at a steady 10 per cent a year and is valued at around £13 billion. While the recent PRCA Consensus 2016 report flagged continuing issues within the industry including salaries, gender and diversity, the overall direction of the industry is certainly healthy.

This growth, of course, has had a direct correlation to increased allocation of PR in brands overall marketing spend, and it is no secret that the profession is enjoying increased attention in the C-Suite.

Although the industry has always seemed to grapple with the same issues; discussions around the future of print, the difficulty of measurement, the perception of PRs, a discipline vacuum, a lack of diversity, a lack of top talent, (the list can go on) these issues actually belie a range of opportunities that have manifested itself to put PR on an increasingly equal footing in creative campaigns.

All elements of the marketing mix are endeavouring to communicate to the consumer by building brand awareness and ultimately driving sales. However, what differs about PR is that it uniquely benefits from a two-way dialogue with consumers. This was certainly not always the case. The industry’s perception will always try to shake off the shackles of its old fashioned image of press releases, media relations and crisis communications, which traditional marketers will always argue never really had any impact anyway.

However, the coming of digital age was the catalyst for PR to truly establish itself as a force in the marketing mix, communicating with a truly captive audience to deliver a meaningful two-way dialogue; and this has continued to evolve. PR has not only been quick to adapt to new technologies, (perhaps more so than other marketing disciplines) but crucially this two way dialogue, opened up by the digital age, benefited PR more than any other medium. You could say we were lucky.

The multi-channel environment consumers’ face has never been so vast, and this has also stood to benefit PR. Why? With TV, print, radio, digital; online, web, mobile and social came TV, radio, print ads, online display ads, video ads, search ads, web ads, google ads, banner ads, PPC ads, In Game ads, YouTube Ads, Adword Ads, Instagram Ads, Gmail Ads, Twitter ads, Pinterest Ads, programmatic ads, non-programmatic ads. (phew!). The list goes on. Indeed, digital ad spend is set to surpass TV for the first time next year; a trend set in motion over 10 years ago. Yet, this is positive for the PR profession for a few reasons.

Firstly, marketing spend has broadened considerably across the media platforms. With an increased focus on digital, the opportunities for PR have widened considerably, piggy backing on these platforms which offer the two-way dialogue that consumers are now looking for is our territory.

Secondly, it can be argued that the sheer amount of advertising across digital channels has desensitised consumers. Consumers and in particular millennials don’t want to be talked at. They want to have a conversation and experiences with brands. They want more control. From online, to social, to the new breed of tech which is being explored such as mixed and virtual reality, PR uniquely strands to benefit from these (often very personal) and two-way experiences.

We are some way off until PR agencies assume a lead agency role with clients and paradoxically, one of the biggest problems to PR agencies is that creative and advertising agencies are now expanding their earned offerings, taking away business from traditional PR firms.

If we are to look at the issue holistically however, what is refreshing about this ‘new order’ is that PR is now considered universally, as an important add on, not just an afterthought.

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