Public relations in the United States – statistics & facts
Public relations (PR) refers to strategically trying to mediate the communication between an organization or individual and the general public. The global PR market was sized at over 100 billion U.S. dollars in 2022, a value expected to grow by one-third within five years. Meanwhile, the industry's high-profile companies experienced double-digit growth in the United States. The combined fee income of the leading U.S.-based PR agencies reached 11.4 billion dollars in 2022 – a figure accounting only for American establishments that made it to the world's top 250 PR firms that year. Key cities such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, harbor some of the most sought-after agencies on the planet. Like their peers in many other sectors, these companies also benefit from increasingly including software in their routines. In 2022, the U.S. concentrated more than one-quarter of the global PR tools segment revenue, confirming this market's eagerness to refine processes and boost results.
The U.S. top PR players
Another way to illustrate the relevance of the U.S. in the industry is by checking the world's five leading holdings and networks by PR operations revenue in 2022. Four of them are based in the U.S. and their combined annual results surpassed five billion dollars. Similarly, seven of the global top 10 – and all top five – PR agencies by fee income that year had their headquarters somewhere between the Mid-Atlantic and California. The largest of them outside the U.S., Tokyo-based independent network Vector, had revenues accounting for less than half of the world's number one: Edelman. The company ended 2022 with seven decades of existence and a record-high fee income of over one billion dollars. Compared to 2012, the result grew by more than 60 percent. Weber Shandwick and BCW (both with headquarters in New York City) rounded the global top three with estimated fee incomes of 920 million and 840 million dollars, respectively.
Lobbying, big pharma, and big tech
Lobbying is among the main activities within the U.S. PR sector. In half a decade, between 2017 and 2022, lobbying spending in the U.S. skyrocketed by over 20 percent, surpassing four billion dollars in the latter year. The growth reflects the increasing costs of influencing politicians to change legislation for the benefit of interest groups. In 2022, the pharmaceutical and health products segment alone spent more than 370 million dollars in that practice, making it the U.S. leading lobbying industry. The amount exceeded the expenditures of sectors like oil and gas, insurance, and commercial banks combined. Yet the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which advocates for the real estate market, ranked first among the U.S. top lobbying spenders that year. Facebook and Amazon also made it to the top 10, suggesting that tech giants, too, need more than algorithms to shape public discourse.
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J. G. Navarro
Research expert covering advertising and marketing with a focus on South America