The future of PR New skills

If you’re studying PR, or you’re working in the industry, the recent study from USC Annenberg should be by your bedside. The report covers the disruption of the PR industry, what’s changing, what talent is needed in the new model of PR, and where the industry is headed. Here’s the Cliff Notes version:

PR Agency Forecast

Most PR agency executives feel positive about the future – they predict a substantial growth in the agency business over the next five years. ($14 billion to $19 billion) This means they’ll be hiring – the headcount at PR agencies is expected to increase by 26%.

The Challenge

The growth will come from new deliverables. They’ll be expected to deliver more: more strategy, more content, more channels, more creativity and more measurement. And there’s concern about the industry’s ability to attract the right talent, adapt to new technologies and increase the level of investment required to capitalize on these growth opportunities.

Both agency and corporate executives agree that this is the greatest challenge preventing them from achieving their future goals.

PR study talent

Corporate-side PR

Here the picture is not quite as rosy. Corporate PR budgets grew only 2.6% last year and they don’t expect that to change over the next five years. The forecast for headcount increase is just 11%.

What’s Driving the Growth?

Both agency and client-side PR pros point to

  • Content creation (81%)
  • Social Media (75%)
  • Brand Reputation (60%)
  • Media Relations (55%)

“Overall, we are sensing a continued optimism about the direction the industry is headed, which is good news for people entering the field,” said Fred Cook, Director of the USC Center for Public Relations. “If content creation is the engine for growth, the industry will need to invest in people who can develop world-class creative.”

New Skills for PR

The traditional skills are still in demand – writing, communication and strategy. But the new skills are creeping up the list. Analytics is now at 62% and SEO at 41%. You can expect to see these percentages rise as the new skills drive growth opportunities. PR executives ranked improved measurement and evaluation third on a list of 18 potential growth drivers.


For PR practitioners and students: There will be more PR jobs available, but you won’t be in the running unless you learn the new skills needed: content strategy and creation (and that includes visual content) and measurement. Start adding these new skills to your resume.

For agencies and clients: Look outside your usual pool of recruits. Find talented freelancers who already have these skills, so you can get a jump start on the growth deliverables right now.

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