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Everything to know about the public relations industry, from pay and hiring to growth areas
A man walks near Nasdaq MarketSite in an empty Times Square as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in New York City, U.S., March 29, 2020.Eduardo Munoz/Reuters
The public relations industry is undergoing big changes - here's the latest on salaries, M&A, and growth areas.
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Everything to know about the public relations industry, from pay and hiring to growth areas

The public relations industry is undergoing big changes - here's the latest on salaries, M&A, and growth areas.
  • The PR business has been going through big changes as clients demand more proof of performance.
  • It's also been in demand as CEOs seek help communicating in turbulent times.
  • Here's a primer on the industry for people looking to grow their PR business or break into it.

The public relations industry is going through big changes as PR firms invest in data and analytics to prove the value of their services to clients and fend off competition.

They're also expanding into areas like advertising, digital, and ecommerce services.

Some have begun rehiring and restoring pay cuts after making cutbacks in the pandemic and 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.

Read more: PR industry salaries revealed: How much top firms like Teneo, BCW, and FTI pay employees, from consultants to managing directors
Here's a rundown of new perks and benefits public relations firms are offering, from big bonuses to extra vacation days

How to get a job at PR giant Edelman and what to expect if you land an interview, according to the company's recruiters

Meet 12 top public relations recruiters to know right now

What it takes to get high-paying jobs at strategic consulting firms like Finsbury and Kekst CNC, from handling tricky questions to nailing writing tests

The industry is attracting new investment

Private equity is pouring money into the PR industry, drawn to its high recurring revenues, diversified businesses, and cash flow.

Read more: 8 big investors like Golden Gate Capital and Stagwell Group that are pouring billions into public relations firms

A new Enero exec who's hunting for PR acquisitions revealed what she's looking for as it tries to grab share from holding companies like WPP and Omnicom
9 public relations companies are challenging the status quo and taking on giants like Edelman and BCW

Investment giant Apollo is planning to sell Notified, one of the biggest PR software companies

10 public relations firms that experts say are plum acquisition targets

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.

Read more: PR giants like Edelman and Sard Verbinnen are seeing a surge in demand as companies seek to minimize damage from the coronavirus pandemic
Internal communications business is booming for PR firms like Edelman, Prosek, and Kekst CNC as CEOs scramble to reassure remote workforces and plan for a return to the office

The world's two largest PR firms, Edelman and Weber Shandwick, pledged to hire more people of color in senior positions

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.

Firms are also gearing up to take market share from advertising and management consulting companies, arguing that they can help clients deal with crises and promote brands to people who may not be receptive to traditional ads.

Read more: CEOs of PR firms like Edelman and BCW reveal why they're focused on winning business from advertising and consulting companies coming out of the pandemic.

Porter Novelli's CEO lays out his plan to revive the PR firm after office closures and years of decline

Public relations heavyweight Edelman has quietly built a 600-person creative team and says it's becoming a 'serious alternative' to ad agencies, winning clients like Ikea and Tazo
The 18 power players at PR giant Weber Shandwick who are racing to give Edelman a run for its money

Healthcare marketing giant W2O just snapped up two more companies as it seeks to take on consultancies like Accenture and Cognizant

Meet 18 top PR pros that companies like SoFi and Talkspace are turning to in the SPAC IPO craze

Meet PR exec Jennifer Prosek, who built a $60 million business spinning for clients like Goldman Sachs and The Carlyle Group, and now faces her biggest challenge yet

These are the top 15 financial public relations pros CEOs call when their companies are on fire

How technology is changing PR

Public relations pros are facing increased pressure to prove the value of their services to clients.

These pressures have given rise to a $4.5 billion communications software industry that helps PR pros do things like monitor news coverage and social media, provide accurate measurements, and identify influencers and journalists.

Some PR firms like Edelman and MSL have responded by developing their own tools to monitor news and track the impact of PR for clients like Procter & Gamble and Cadillac.

Read more: The top 27 software companies serving the public relations industry

PR agencies are beefing up their data services to keep consulting firms like Deloitte and Accenture from eating their lunch

PR giant MSL breaks down how it's using tech tools to prove its work drives results for clients like P&G and Cadillac

Companies are under fire for climate change. PR firm APCO Worldwide just partnered with a data startup to help them control the reputation risk.
Public relations giant Edelman is poaching execs from WPP, Google, and others to build a data analytics powerhouse

Omnicom is boosting its data arm with a new tool to convince skeptics that PR can drive business results