The C-Suite Is Seeking Public Relations Counsel: PRCAI Report

There is good news for the Public Relations (PR) industry in India with the C-suite increasingly recognizing PR as a driving function, rather than just an enabler and CEOs themselves involved in briefing their PR teams. No wonder, PR firms achieved 13% growth in FY23 accounting for 15.4% market of the Asia Pacific region, with mid-sized players clocking a 19.5% growth rate – the highest among all segments, according to a report on the PR industry, commissioned by the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI). The report, titled SPRINT, presents an optimistic outlook for the PR industry and showcases how it continues to scale, innovate and make a positive impact on businesses and stakeholders alike, despite some challenges. 

Despite the 13% growth in 2022, India’s PR market is just 1% of the global industry figure, which is abysmally low. It is high time that PR firms in India examine the challenges mentioned in the report, grasp the opportunities and develop effective problem-solving models to increase the industry’s share worldwide. 

Media relations losing revenue share but remains significant 

The report lists several key trends and opportunities that will help communicators, PR professionals, and other stakeholders to keep abreast of industry trends and key developments. One significant trend in the Indian PR consultancy industry is the decline in media relations revenue share, potentially resulting in a gain of only 48% in the next three years.   

It is anticipated that a higher proportion of PR budgets will be allocated to regional media spending in the next three years. This indicates that the growth in India is being driven by cities outside the major metropolitan areas, which is why, PR firms need to tailor more localized content strategies.

It is no surprise that the report identifies Digital and public affairs as the growth areas for PR firms with 60% of clients having outsourced digital and social media briefs to PR Consultancies, while 50% of clients hired a PR firm for Content Management, emphasising the importance of writing skills. There is also a big uptake in services like crisis handling, public affairs/advocacy, and internal communication, in line with global trends during the pandemic Covid-19 era.

The primary sectors driving growth for the PR industry are IT and startups, fuelled by the big start-up and unicorn wave in India. The other facet that is changing the scope of PR is the ever-expanding role of technology, as PR firms adopt AI and big data to leverage these new-age technologies to devise PR strategies for their clients. 

Talent is a challenge

Retaining talent, especially at the entry and mid-level is a major challenge faced by agency leaders either because of job hopping or a mismatch with salary expectations. Furthermore,  adequate writing skills are seen as a big challenge for emerging and mid-level professionals who lack sector-specialized agencies/specialists for new roles like public policy and ESG. All this makes the available pool of talent inadequate for current needs and PR agencies are seen struggling with high rates of attrition. According to the report the average attrition rate in the industry is a whopping 20%—way higher than the global standards. 

What is thus needed is a continuous investment in people, training PR professionals in writing and upskilling in new areas like ESG, digital and public policy. This means that firms will have to spend more on talent development. The report finds that only a meagre 1.5% of revenues of PR firms is going towards the learning and development of their employees.

The report concludes by highlighting the role of organizations such as the PRCAI to drive standardisation and raise industry standards, boost best practices, and integrate the various players in the PR ecosystem to work together to drive respect for the profession and help it grow further in India.