“Rapidly Evolving” – World PR Report: Analysis North America

Analysis by Heather Kernahan, President, Hotwire North America for the ICCO World PR Report

Rapidly evolving are two words that can be used to describe the state of the PR industry in North America in 2017. This is because we are operating in a very different world to even twelve-months ago. Political change, investor activism, societal attitudes and the wider economy are all combining to shape the way corporations approach public relations.

It’s no coincidence therefore that the industry seems in good health, with 62% of North American respondents to the 2017 ICCO World PR Report feeling optimistic about their growth prospects. However, it’s not just growth that indicates a robust market environment. The sentiment around the importance of public relations has strengthened against a backdrop of increased complexity for companies, government and non-profits and a move away from traditional advertising.

This is due in no small way to the rise of fake news, amateur reporting and speed of the news cycle. Knowing when to communicate, sign a petition, align with other industry leaders, and when to communicate about topics such as diversity issues and government policy have become business critical decisions. Consequently, more and more CEOs and CMOs are turning to PR firms for advice. The ICCO World Report highlights this with a majority of respondents agreeing that CEOs in North America are taking corporate reputation seriously.

With all these factors threatening corporate reputations, the need for sector specialist advice will grow through 2017. The rise of micro influencers means that companies must understand their audiences more than ever before if they want to find success. These influencers move markets, shape reputations and ultimately affect revenue and they may be hard to find unless you’re deep into the industry conversation.

However, the evolution extends beyond the provision of corporate reputation services. Today, the industry is going through a much needed rebrand as firms drop the term PR in favour of communications, integrated communications or brand. With questions being asked about the veracity of online advertising and the ongoing debate around programmatic campaigns, the door has opened for agencies to provide a wider range of services.

All of this combined means that the coming twelve months will see the pace of evolution accelerate across the North American PR industry. We expect to see a rise in the quality of creativity from across the sector; an increase in investment in non-traditional PR areas such as insights and analytics; and a continued shift to integrated communications services. Clients will have greater choice but will face a largely homogenous agency landscape. To take full advantage of the growth and to realize the optimism showed in the ICCO World Report, we all must look carefully at our business models and be unafraid to reimagine what the PR playbook should look like.

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