Global PR industry ‘roaring back’ – ICCO World PR Report 2021


Global agency heads are overwhelmingly optimistic about profitability, according to figures revealed in today’s International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) World PR Report.

The report – published in partnership with Opinium – delivers a compelling snapshot of the global PR landscape, revealing the issues, trends, and opportunities for agencies across seven worldwide regions.

The research uncovers a global industry confident in its recovery, with expectations for a more profitable year rising by almost fifty percent compared to last year’s report. This buoyancy is further evidenced by an astonishing 95% of respondents expecting an increase in client income. Expectations for profitability are especially high in North America, Asia-Pacific and the United Kingdom.

When asked to express their levels of agreement with the statement ‘I am optimistic about the growth of the public relations market’ on a 10-point scale, PR leaders revealed a global average of 7.3 out of 10, with levels of optimism particularly strong in the Asia Pacific (7.8).

The report – which also features the Provoke Media Agency Rankings – drills down into the areas of practice triggering market growth. The leading growth sectors remain the same as last year with IT and technology, healthcare, and financial and professional services rounding out the top three.
Addressing the digital needs of clients is more important than ever, as three of the top four areas PR firms plan to invest in are digital (social media management, multimedia content creation and influencer communications).

Download Report here.

Other key findings include:

– 79% cited the pandemic as having an impact on their agency’s client fee income in the past 12 months
– Agency heads site corporate reputation, purpose and CSR, and strategic consulting as areas of highest growth expected over the next five years
– Strategic Consulting will be the most important skills set for PR professionals in the future
– Just 48% of global PR firms offer formal mental health and wellbeing support to staff
– Minimal progress made in the PR workforce reflecting the society that it operates in, especially in North America and Latin America.
– Global AVE usage continues to decline as demand and adoption for meaningful and valid metrics increases
– Artificial Intelligence is deemed the most important technology for PR businesses in the future
– 52% of respondents believe retaining top talent remains the biggest industry challenge
– When asked to express levels of agreement with the statement “it is becoming difficult to differentiate between accurate information and fake news”, PR leaders in North America (7.3), Eastern Europe (6.9) and Africa (6.8) recorded the highest levels of agreement.  

ICCO Chief Executive Francis Ingham said:

“The numbers within this year’s ICCO World PR Report are reason for celebration. They show a resurgent industry, growing again, and having proved that its fundamentals were absolutely sound. They also show an industry that continues to have the best of both worlds -old school skills are still heavily in demand, but insight, corporate reputation management, and strategic counsel continue to power ahead.

“Against the backdrop of such positive news, it is of course important to be realistic. Challenges of ethics, fake news, talent, mental health, and diversity remain.

“And sadly, while our industry is recruiting again at scale, there will be practitioners reading this report who lost their job and who are yet to find a new one; agency owners and managers whose agencies didn’t make it; people who have been scared mentally by this period. But to them, I would say that I hope the picture painted here provides grounds for optimism about the future.”

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