Thursday, November 04, 2010

Why is the UK PR industry only achieving a tenth of its potential?

In the next two weeks the CIPR will elect its next president. Will the next one be able to look over the horizon or will the leadership in the PR industry continue to muddle along missing every opportunity on the way?

Poor leadership, lack of good research and timid practitioners have, and continue to, miss the big industry opportunities and, worse, re-enforce practices that may have a very limited future.

PR has to find some way out of its obsession with media relations. It is a reasonable question to ask if the PR industry is too big for the size of traditional media available. 

In the meantime, the industry turns its back on the really big opportunities.

In 1995, in response to a request to look 20 years ahead I spoke to the CIPR annual conference about the significance of the internet and suggested that the newly emerging World Wide Web offered a new and profitable communication opportunity for PR practice.

Today, the internet industry is worth £100 billion. If it were an industry in its own right, the internet would be nearly as big as the financial services sector, which accounted for 9% of GDP in 2009.

In 1999, I wrote Online Public Relations (first edition) saying that gaming as a form of communication was an important communications channel.  The economic contribution of the UK games sector is significant: in 2008, global revenues generated by UK video games were worth £2.03 billion, and contributed £1 billion to GDP.5 It is worth bearing in mind the economic contribution of the sector as an employer: the industry directly employed 10,000 people (and a further 18,000 indirectly) in 2008

In 2000, the joint CIPR/PRCA internet Commission made it clear that interactive online communication was a big opportunity for the PR industry. Ten years on, the tiny tip of revenue earnings from social media activity, advertising, was worth £2bn in the first half of 2010.

In 2006, I was blogging furiously about the content opportunities offered by mobiles.  This year the new communications platform, tablet and slate technologies, will achieve 20 million units sold while there were 346 million mobiles sold in the third quarter of 2010. These platforms are content hungry with associated App and content industries worth many millions.

There are many more examples of the PR industry failing to grasp the opportunities.

Perhaps the missed opportunity is a fraction of the above but at least half was within our grasp when the notion was first mooted. That is £52 billion and today the PR industry is, perhaps a tenth of that size and with the decline in print media, its threatened.

Why is the PR industry so reluctant to look ahead and learn enough to be part of these phenomenal opportunities for relationship building, content creation and take the centre ground?

Could it be that it is not able to bring together practitioner, consultant, futurologist and skill sets?
These are opportunities, not for the geeks and tech heads.  They touch on practices in politics, corporate affairs, internal communication and in every sector of enterprise.

It is about time that all the institutions including the CIPR, PRCA and the academics decided on a strategy that would inform the industry as to how it can and should thrive and grow over the next ten years.

This is all about money, big money and an industry at least ten times bigger than today.