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The state of PR: adapting to the post-pandemic world

Communications Strategy
by Dan Gallienne
Published on

You’ve heard of ‘The Great Resignation’, but have you heard of ‘The Great Movement’? Unless you’ve read the CIPR’s State of the Profession survey results you probably haven’t, but the concept illustrates where the communications sector may have had a different 12 months to many other industries. 

Every year PR practitioners from around the country answer the survey to provide the insights to shed light on our industry over the past 12 months, and recruitment figures prominently this year. 

The results are always interesting from an agency perspective as we can assess whether the challenges we’re facing and the opportunities we’re seizing are similar to those of our peers around the UK. 

This year the headline data from the report suggests mixed fortunes for agencies; across the board agencies are growing (73% of agency respondents said they were seeking to employ new people), but similarly universal is the challenge to recruit to service this increased demand. 

At Orchard we’ve had our own challenges in this area, and through working in a wide range of sectors we know this problem isn’t exclusive to PR and comms. But we have added a brilliant new team member this year in Kita Smith, and there’s more news to come soon. 

What’s the key to successful recruiting? In my experience, patience. We have often held out for the right person and that’s paid dividends in the long run; our team has a diversity of skills, backgrounds and experiences and often we’re looking for ‘the right fit’ rather than a specific set of attributes. 

Of course the flip side of waiting is that someone else has to do that work; the survey shows that 84% of respondents felt the main impact of vacancies was ‘an increased workload for other staff’. This is where having a positive workplace kicks in; as a strong culture and a good team spirit can see you through troughs and make the peaks even more enjoyable. 

Flexible working 

One of biggest cultural impacts of the last two years has been the necessary rise of home working, and the subsequent development of flexible working policies. According to the survey, ‘flexible hours/working’ is the top reason why employees’ relationships with their employers has improved; clearly the ability to work remotely is a plus for the workforce. 

At Orchard our policy has been honed over the last six months so that it works for the agency and for our team. We now have a hybrid working week – core hours for collaboration combined with time set aside for work from home focus days.  

The ability to offer this is in sharp contrast with our national peers – the survey shows that 63% of respondents work from home for the majority of their week, a hangover of the COVID restrictions, and the slow return to urban centres especially, in the UK. 

The write stuff 

A job in communications can result in some very interesting working days, filled with a variety of tasks. The CIPR tries to reflect this in the survey by asking practitioners about the activities they regularly undertake. 

For the fourth year in a row, the top activity was ‘copywriting and editing’, showing that strong written work is still at the heart of much PR activity. Of course, this will also include copywriting for social media, websites, blogs and more. 

The only change in the top 5 from 2020 to 2021 was ‘crisis, issues management’ dropping out, being replaced by ‘community and stakeholder relations’. This is likely a reflection of being able to move away from the short-term, reactive comms work dictated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and into a more proactive mode. 

It also reveals that community relations are more important than they were pre-pandemic. We have seen, and written about, how the pandemic impacted comms activity: authentic leaders had to move front-and-centre in PR efforts, and an organisation’s standing in its local community acquired increased importance. 

Carrying that forward into 2022 and beyond will ensure that good PR retains its value for any organisation; as we help our clients to establish their identity, share their messaging and build and sustain their reputation. 

Dan Gallienne
Dan Gallienne

Head of Client Services

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