PRCA PULSE By Francis Ingham, Director General of the PRCA, and Chief Executive of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO)

The PRCA strapline is the power of communication. And we’ve seen that power more than ever during this period of pain, stress, transformation, and now strong recovery. Whether that’s communication between individuals; or businesses and their customers; or between public bodies and the populations they serve.

Organisations have seen their reputations enormously enhanced or severely diminished by how they’ve communicated. And we’ve seen the truth of something we’ve asserted for years -that an organisation’s most valuable asset is its reputation.

Last year’s ICCO World Report made for sombre reading. Profitability was down in six out of eight world regions; income was down; headcount was down. But despite those findings, agency heads around the world predicted that 2021 would be a year of renewed growth. And they were right.

We can see from trading statements, and I can see from the conversations I have on a daily basis with agency and in-house leaders, that the industry is resurgent. Is profitable. Is hiring again. Why is that?

I would say that it’s because this awful crisis has accelerated the trends we have been reporting for close to a decade now:

  • CEOs investing more in corporate reputation
  • The rise of digital
  • PR firms diversifying into broader marketing offerings
  • A spending shift from advertising towards PR

Each of those trends is in our favour and futureproofs our industry’s prospects.

Now of course our industry faces challenges:

  • The frustratingly stubborn gender pay gap;
  • Recruiting and -critically- retaining a diverse workforce;
  • Investing properly in measurement and evaluation;
  • Addressing the issues of mental health, made so much more acute by Covid.

But I believe that the past year has made our industry more determined than ever to overcome these challenges, and we at the PRCA and ICCO certainly intend to do so, working with Carma, AMEC, Global Women in PR, and others too.

This period has also made our industry more global in outlook than ever before. Ironically, as we’ve been unable to travel to be with one another, I think we’ve felt closer to one another as we’ve all wrestled with the same challenges -first of survival, then of fundamental change, and now of recovery.

And that leads me to my final observation.

This shocking period has brought out the best in our industry. Industry leaders who’ve shared freely with their rivals. Employers who’ve put staff welfare at the heart of what they do. People at every level of every organisation who’ve been determined to do whatever it took to get through these months. A truly global PR community that’s survived the harshest of challenges, and is now powering ahead once again.