ICCO World Report on PR in 2020

15 May 2020, Robert Sadowski

The International Consultative Organisation for Migration The Communications Committee (ICCO) is a global and clear voice in public relations and the communications industry. The ICCO Report The World of PR is the latest analysis of the state of the PR industry in 2020. Based on the responses of 3,000 agency heads operating in 41 ICCO associations, this report contains not only global but also regional data. It provides agency leaders with the insight they need to run their business and their associations with a view to the services they should provide for their clients.

What do we learn from the Report? 

The results showed that the percentage share of heads of agencies expecting 2020 to be more profitable than 2019 is exactly the same as reported in the previous survey for 2019 with respect to 2018. And as last year, this optimism is true in every region of the world. True coherence! Secondly, every region expects the market to grow, with North America at the top of the list of optimism. But let’s bear in mind that the data was collected before the coronavirus pandemic broke out. The situation has changed a lot. 

Several clear trends can be seen. 

CEOs continue to invest in their corporate reputation, given that their most valuable resource is their reputation. This applies to every region of the world. Marketing expenses are still shifting towards the PR industry and moving away from others. Agencies offer services that have traditionally been the domain of other departments. The PR industry meets the digital needs of its clients with high qualifications of its employees and appropriate results.

The results of the Report provide great confidence in the future of the PR industry. Long-term factors are at stake, which are in favour of PR. And that doesn’t change. Therefore, there is every likelihood that optimism and growth, which were the characteristics of previous years, will be the characteristics of many years in the future. 

The recent changes are noteworthy. There has been progress towards strategic advice. Each year the PR industry definitely plays an increasingly important role.

The two most important areas of growth are strategic consulting and company reputation. 

The second striking development is the increase in target. In every region of the world – the most visible in the UK and North America – the focus on corporate goals has increased. The concept of a value-based goal is very important for the whole industry. 

What are the challenges?

The search for talent remains the number one challenge. Although all but one of the world’s regions say there are plenty of talent resources, it’s just that the industry doesn’t attract them and doesn’t last long enough. There is a talent problem at every level of the industry and in every region of the world. And in two regions – North America and the UK – this is exacerbated by a lack of reflection of consumer, customer and public demographic data. The reason why the best candidates are not recruited and retained is completely simple – they are offered for low rates. And the industry does not pay enough because it charges customers too little. This is based on a consistent lack of proper measurement of the effects of PR work. Failure to do so therefore lies in the adequate charging of the results to be delivered.

Is that the end of AVE? This year’s numbers are a milestone. For the first time, most of the respondents claim not to use AVE. There has been a decline in the use of AVE in the industry in all but one region. The use of this indicator is rapidly coming to an end in North America and Great Britain. 75% of respondents using AVE explain that this is done at the request of their customers. And this is a consistent picture for every region. Worldwide, only 13% of agencies using AVE do so because it is the preferred evaluation method. So the agencies provide data that they know is irrelevant. 

 Another disturbing discovery worth highlighting is the fake news. Most of the bosses of the agency agree that it is difficult to distinguish between real messages and false ones. This is worrying for an industry that has such symbiotic relations with the media.

The respondents were also asked if they think the industry is acting ethically. The answers were surprisingly consistent and very positive. They confirm the belief that this is an extremely ethical and professional industry. One that takes action when something goes wrong. There are certainly many more challenges for the industry. But more than challenges are opportunities.

             ICCO Report World PR 2020 – Public relations results

PR  today and in the future 

Perceived growth and opportunities of the industry:

  • Optimism about the development of the PR market (70%) 
  • CEOs take the reputation of the company seriously (70%) 
  • Companies pay more attention to the corporate goal (69%)
  • The industry acts ethically (68%) 
  • Expected increase in the profitability of agencies this year (67%)
  • Marketers spend more than other communication professionals (67%) 
  • Difficulties in distinguishing false messages (61%) 
  • Clients use PR to provide customized services (60%)
  • Agencies effectively meet their clients’ digital needs (60%) 
  • The industry adapts at a pace appropriate to new technologies (60%)
  • There is a large supply of talent (57%) 
  • The industry is doing well in attracting talent from outside PR (51%) 

Expected investment areas for 2020: 

  • Measurement and Analytics (37%)
  • Influencer marketing (36%) – 
  • Content creation for various media (34%) – 
  • Research and planning (31%) – 
  • Social media management (28%) –
  • Creativity (27%) 
  • Digital compilation and production (25%) 
  • Experienced advisors (20%) 
  • Marketing and business development (16%)
  • Professional development (12%) 

Expected growth sectors for the next five years: 

  • IT & Technology (60%) 
  • Healthcare (40%) 
  • Financial services (38%) 
  • Consumer products (32%) 
  • Industrial production (22%) 
  • Food and drinks (21%)

Acquisition of staff for the PR industry Key skills for the next decade:

  • Research and planning (44%) 
  • Data measurement and analysis (42%)
  • Creativity (37%) 
  • Advice in crisis situations (28%) 
  • Content creation for various media (22%) 
  • Media relations (19%) 
  • Social media management (17%) 
  • Marketing and business development (16%)
  • Digital compilation and production (15%)
  • Target and CSR (15%) 
  • Influencer marketing (14%) 
  • Marketing automation & CRM (9%)

Barriers to attracting talent from outside the industry:

  •  Too high financial expectations (52%) 
  • Lack of interest from potential candidates (36%)
  •  Lack of skills that can be transferred to the PR industry (35%) 
  • Difficulties in finding good quality recruitment consultants (30%)
  •  Reluctance to change jobs in the PR industry (30%)
  •  Need for investment in retraining (26%) 

PR industry technology Reasons for using AVE: 

  • Clients expect it (75%) 
  • Senior client management expects it (18%) 
  • This is our preferred evaluation method (13%) 
  • Senior agency management expects it (2%)

Technology with the greatest impact on PR – future forecasts:

  • Data measurement and analysis (63%) 
  • Research and planning (51%)
  • Marketing automation & CRM (33%)
  •  Content creation for various media (30%) 
  • Social media management (26%)
  • Digital compilation and production (25%) 
  • Influencer marketing (22%)
  • Media relations (12%) 
  • Creativity (11%) 

The most important technologies for PR – future forecasts:

  • AI (artificial intelligence) (48%) 
  • Data processing (46%)
  • SEO (42%)
  • Internet of things (22%) 
  • Process automation (21%) 
  • Network security (21%) 
  • Chatbots (19%) 
  • Blockchain (15%)

The needs of PR agency clients -> The most important goals for PR agency clients’ public relations: 

  • Company reputation (41%) 
  • Marketing and product sales (35%) 
  • Problems and crisis management (8%)

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