CIPR State of the Profession 2022
The report’s subtitle ‘a growing industry standing still’ sums up many of the findings of this year’s CIPR report. In most instances, there are no surprises contained in the report for those working within the profession. Black Vanilla’s Director Nichole Culverwell comments on some of the findings and observes how our agency benchmarks against the wider industry.
Industry growth being hindered by recruitment challenges is frustrating and mirrors other sectors as the world of work has shifted its axis in recent years. Of course, we want to go after growth, but in my opinion not at the expense of quality of service. We cannot afford to compromise our professionalism or our ethics. Like 73% of agencies in the survey, Black Vanilla’s activity is growing, meaning we are trying to recruit at the same time. We agree with the survey that there is a low number of applicants with the required skills. We have always used trusted specialist freelancers to fill that gap and we now happily have a roster of top professionals available.
We are not surprised to see the highest percentage of people changing jobs in the last six months are at Account Manager level. Account Managers are the glue that holds agencies together. They are always in high demand, with plenty of opportunities to move on and move up. At Black Vanilla we are growing our own talent, having recently promoted Krista Osborne to Account Manager level. We are focused on developing the team’s skills and experience.
We’d certainly agree with the 72% who say good team relationships and teamwork are things they like about their current role. We work hard and rely a great deal on each other; our team spirit is strong and is a real strength of the agency. We trust each other and try to keep our approach as non-hierarchical as possible.
That ethos is mirrored in our recruitment process, where Senior Account Executives and above are involved in interviewing candidates. That doesn’t seem to be reflected in the wider industry, but it’s an approach that works for us and perhaps is a contributory factor in building and maintaining strong teams.
Other findings that stand out include:
- Meaningful work is just as important as adequate pay; that means we need to believe in the clients we work for and believe our work has impact. It’s a joy to get positive client feedback and we know that a collaborative approach gets the best results. We aim to have relational, rather than transactional, approach with our clients.
- According to the survey, only 17% of agency staff are mainly working in the office. This is quite different to Black Vanilla, but we understand we are in a minority in Guernsey due to lifestyle factors such as a shorter commute for example. However, we have agile working options available to members of the team and spending time in the office has meant we have maintained a strong team spirit, close working relationships and good knowledge and skills transference within the team. That is balanced by having the trust and the technology for the team to work where they want.
- 35% of agency professionals say the reputation of PR has increased somewhat and 40% say it’s stayed the same. We’d agree this is positive for the profession and something to build on. It reflects on an increased understanding of how fragile reputations are, and the importance of intangible assets to corporate value.
It’s no surprise to see copywriting and media relations in the top five activities occupying our time. One observation also seen is the lack of strategy focus at more junior levels. How are we supposed to become a more strategic profession if we don’t expose younger team members to that kind of work? At Black Vanilla, we talk strategy across the team and everyone is involved during the discovery and development stages of campaign development and planning. I hope by doing so we are strengthening our strategic capabilities as an agency.
The top challenges facing our profession include concerns over mental health, fake news and longer hours – all red flags that we need to be aware of. These affect our wellbeing and our love of our profession. To thrive we need to be able to talk about stresses, change old-school attitudes and be open to new ways of working.
Perhaps understandably, under-representation of PR at board level has slipped down the list of challenges compared to the pre-pandemic years. Right now, it feels like we are fighting fires, like many other sectors, and we need to rebalance the way we work before we can address some of the longer-term challenges.
To me, our profession is stronger than ever. I am confident we will ride the wave of challenges and continue to strengthen the reputation of public relations, and l look forward to seeing what the next 12 months will bring.