What Does the Future Hold for PR and Communications?

April 25, Fred Cook

As USC's 2017 Global Communications Report confirms, finding and retaining talent remains the the number one challenge facing the PR industry. Maybe because less than one-third of PR executives believe the industry is doing a good job of positioning itself as an aspirational career choice. Or maybe because hard-to-find strategic thinking is prized as the most important skill a PR person needs. Outranking writing for the first time in our study! The good news is help is on the way.

This year, we surveyed PR and communications students to find out what they think about the industry they're about to join. Their answers were encouraging. First of all, of the 687 who responded, 82% were female, who are equally interested in agency and in-house positions, which will help satisfy their respective five-year staff growth rates of 20% and 9%. Second, students are interested in the same trends that senior executives predict will have the greatest impact on the future — digital storytelling, influencer marketing and social purpose. And they report their universities have prepared them reasonably well to tackle them, but they're going to need more training and experience.

Although 58% of the students believe the PR industry is doing a good job of positioning itself as an aspirational career, there are some big gaps in how a career in PR compares to their ideal career. The most obvious is compensation, followed by the reputation of the industry, diversity in the work place and having a positive impact on society. Eighty-one percent of this younger audience wants to work in a profession that has a well defined social purpose, but only 61% believe that is true of PR.

Even though 87% of senior PR professionals believe the term public relations won't describe the work they will be doing in five years, 85% of students feel confident explaining PR and 68% are proud to say they work in the field. Even though our profession is in state of change, one thing seems certain. There's a diverse group of talented young professionals who are excited about the future and will bring a sense of purpose to our industry. They would just like a little more money!

1 Comment

As with all else, I guess it depends on current and relevant context. I'm an adjunct professor teaching (but just as well learning from) graduate students at George university for a decade now. In that context, I'm seeing successive classes rising restlessness. The focus of real world engagement appears shifting toward positions, roles of purpose, less enterprise ladder climbing, than linking with purposeful peers. The evidence of empathetic, purpose-directed leadership seems to be the door more likely to be knocked on by today's enterprise aspirants, and they seem to me at least to be honest and open, ready to strengthen enterprise return on investments.