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Sunday, 7 August 2011

PR Contributes £7.5bn to the UK Economy: PR Census

The PR Census 2011 is the first industry-wide census. The project is a partnership between the PR industry trade publication, PRWeek and the Public Relations Consultancies Association (PRCA) which has traditionally represented the larger agencies, although that remit is changing.

Martin Bradley, senior research executive at the independent market research company involved, Harris Interactive, put the figure in perspective: the gambling industry contributes £6bn to the economy.

I don't know about you, but my mother always taught me not to compare myself with the worst. She encouraged me to benchmark myself against the best. From that perspective, it seems to be a bit of a PR own goal to align ourselves with gambling. Especially coming at a time when we have made good strides to increase professionalism through the relatively recent chartered status of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

The Census reports that the £7.5bn figure for PR was achieved by the 61,600 individuals in PR – compared to 100,000+ people in gambling.

Is it just me, or is that comparison somewhat odious? You hardly need a strategic bent to deal with issues that can make or break a company's reputation if you work in the gambling industry - unless you are in the PR director or the CEO's chair. Re-stocking the fruit machines, while not without risks and responsibilities, is really not a comparable career choice to PR.

We all know that getting media coverage can be a bit of a punt on any specific day. The editor's job is to select the best stories available by his deadline, so much it depends on the other stories that break by that point and no-one can predict that with total certainty. But the odds are evened out by PR professionalism and that would include (but is not limited to):
  1. good media contacts and knowing the angles to pitch to their interests
  2. the ability to come at the story from different angles (we have a jealously guarded PHPPR check-list of 20+ different ways to promote a story) to give us more shots at success
  3. playing a longer numbers game with several quality releases, so the eggs are not in one basket
We also guarantee a minimum of 40 pieces of online coverage that significantly impact on the client's position on Google search results.

Despite the unpredictable nature of individual PR efforts the industry has a good record of achieving results. And I'm still not comfortable with the comparison of professional PR performance with the gambling industry - an industry that would detract from a Corporate Social Responsibility position. I would have counselled against it if I'd been involved. In fact, I'm quite shocked that this was sanctioned.

Is that an over-reaction?

If you are a PR professional, what do you think?

If you're not in the industry, does the comparison with gambling alter your perception of PR? Or does it not matter?

The PR Census involved an online survey, which generated more than 1,300 responses, and desk research using Government, ONS, PRWeek and PRCA data."

PR blog posted by Penny Haywood Calder at PHPR Ltd, Edinburgh, UK. URL: TV Channel on YouTube: Ltd on LinkedInFollow PennyHaywood on Twitter
posted by Penny Haywood Calder at


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