Public relations, also known as PR, can be simply understood as the communication process between companies, organizations or individuals and the general public. Market data reveals it is a flourishing industry with great growth projections. Its global revenue in 2016 amounted to 14 billion U.S. dollars and the sector is expected to reach a revenue of more than 19 billion in 2020. In the United States, PR agencies generated a revenue of almost 12 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, reporting steady growth since 2009.
According to an industry ranking, Edelman – a private firm co-headquarted in Chicago and New York City – was the largest PR agency worldwide. In 2016, the company generated nearly 875 million U.S. dollar in fee income, up from 855 million a year earlier. This constitutes an annual growth rate of 2.4 percent. The agency employs nearly six thousand people worldwide. Other key players on the market include Fleishman-Hillard, Ketchum, and Weber Shandwick. Weber Shandwick is fully owned by the Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG), which in 2015 was the agency holding group with highest fee income from PR activities.
U.S. public relations specialists earn, on average, 56.7 thousand U.S. dollars per year .The highest wage in the field belongs to PR specialists in professional, scientific, and technical services, whose earnings reach 59.4 thousand U.S. dollars annually. Survey data shows, however, that recruiting and retaining the right talent is considered one of the main challenges in the PR business. Strategic planning and good written communications are the most valued skills for PR professionals.
Among large companies (500+ employees) in the United States, 46 percent engaged in PR activities; 19 percent hired an external agency to handle them. Among small and medium sized enterprises, 31 percent invested marketing dollars in public relations, and 15 percent stated PR was the marketing tactic they relied on most to grow their business.
Lobbying is considered one of the main activities within the public relations industry. In 2015, U.S. lobby spending amounted to 3.22 billion U.S. dollars, down from 3.55 billion five years previous, when the spending peaked. The sectors with the largest lobby spending are health, finance/insurance/real estate as well as communications and electronics. Mid-2016 there was more than 11 thousand active lobbyists in the United States, earning on average 106.7 thousand U.S. dollars annually.