The public relations industry continues to experience rapid growth as it spreads across different fields, once considered separate from PR. However, in 2015, the growth of the whole industry slowed to just 5 percent, which means PR may soon enter a decline. This, despite the fact that PR firms generate up to 50 times the conversion rate of its colleagues in marketing and advertising.
Some experts believe the issue might come from PR’s venture into other fields, like marketing and human resources. This creates some confusion about what public relations is and why a company even needs this role filled since PR firms no longer provide the same services.
While many believe the industry could benefit from better definition, it’s become difficult to draw the lines for public relations, as integrated PR takes firm root in the field. Also, as PR firms look to capture more work from clients by branching into different areas of business, big PR firms get into marketing work like TV ads, or HR work, like training executives.
Would the industry really benefit from detaching itself from these fields? This becomes even more unlikely as traditional forms of PR are almost obsolete. The new digital age requires digital PR, encroaching on other disciplines’ to survive.
Even so, PR needs to tighten up what it offers to clients. While it certainly uses tools from multiple disciplines, the purpose never changed. Public relation boosts visibility, does brand maintenance work, and also fosters relationships with the public and customers. By focusing on marketing these goals to clients, the tools to attain them become less important.
The Threat of DIY PR
One of the main problems with modern-day public relations, however, is that the new methods make it almost accessible to anyone. Why bother to hire a PR firm for thousands of dollars when you can hire a teen social media expert with 100,000 followers to manage your page?
In addition to this, almost anyone can create a blog now and grow an impressive readership based on pure talent and a little know-how. So why hire a PR firm to reach an audience when companies can reach out to them directly in hopes of connecting with their customers?
This requires no big connections to Hollywood or big media publishers, as it once did. Bloggers and YouTubers are usually only too happy to work with brands – even when the only perks are free merchandise.
The preference for DIY PR, as opposed to hiring firms, is also affected by corporate financial decisions. Though companies are recovering from the recession, many still hesitate to increase budgets for public relations and marketing.
Companies focus on things more directly affecting their bottom-line, like expanding into international locations, or growing plant size for manufacturing.
With these changes taking place in the global marketplace, PR continues to adapt to stay relevant. However, the more changes the discipline makes to meet client needs, the more structure and definition the field loses.
Whether this will cost PR continued growth remains to be proven, but experts continue to brace for a not-so-distant decline.