The PR Graveyard

Thursday, 14 July 2011, 22:12 | Category : General
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The PR Week Census was published today and a summary of the report (full price £150) will be in this week’s PR Week. Some interesting highlights:

  • 61,000 people are working in the UK PR industry, which includes agencies, in-house and freelance workers
  • The ratio between females / males is 64% vs. 36% – but this balance swings dramatically at the senior end of the career spectrum, with more males occupying roles at board level
  • We are still not a very diverse sector – an incredible 92% of people working in the industry are white…
  • The industry is worth £7.5bn to the UK economy (which the report compares oddly to the gambling sector, which apparently contributes £6bn while employing far more people)
  • The average PR professional is paid £48,247 (across agency and in-house; does not factor in freelance consultants’ earnings)

The survey is based on 1,300 responses, which as any PR person knows is a robust sample, but not sure how representative it can be of the entire industry, with its 61,000 workers. It would be great to know how the polling company (Harris) calculated the number of people working freelance, and also how many freelance workers contributed to the census, as this is often a forgotten group in terms of the PR “workforce”. Also, I’m interested in the definition of PR, and whether the survey sample also includes people working in broader communications, given the move away from pure PR we are seeing this year.

To pick up on one point which is disappointing but not surprising – the report highlights the huge discrepancy between the fact that there are many more women than men working in the industry overall, yet far more men (no numbers given) occupying the most senior positions.

Having worked in the industry for 14 years, both agency-side, freelance and as a business owner, I’m sure this isn’t because we are innately sexist as an industry. Rather, I believe it’s because no-one has yet found a way to allow talented women to continue working their way up the ladder once they’ve had children. The nature of client service combined with the “always on” attitude prevalent in most companies or comms departments makes it very difficult for women to work part time. Even women who choose to return full time usually have a level of childcare responsibility which means they cannot realistically devote the same hours or attention as before – or as their male counterparts are most likely able to do. This is nobody’s fault – it’s called biology (I have often also heard this situation described as the “PR graveyard”).

I’ve lost count of the number of brilliant women I’ve met since setting up The PR Network who were very sad to have to resign their jobs. Usually, these have worked agency-side, often at board level, and have left after their second child made the logistics of juggling work and home untenable. I’m very happy to have these great people in our network, but I question the business sense of losing people embedded in a culture because they can’t give the same number of hours as before. Take them off an account, remove an area of responsibility, or let them work as a team with another working mum – but why lose them altogether when they have so much to offer?

I look forward to reading more highlights in this week’s edition of PR Week. I wonder if much will have changed by the time the next Census is produced?


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