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  • PR is getting more complex as companies and public figures seek help navigating social issues.
  • The industry is also booming as PR firms seize opportunities in areas like financial communications and data.
  • Insider is tracking the big trends in the industry, from hiring to growth areas to M&A.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The public relations industry is going through big changes as PR firms scramble to invest in data and measurement and meet demand of corporations facing increasing public scrutiny.

Agencies also see opportunity in areas like advertising, digital, and ecommerce. They’re taking advantage of booming areas like financial communications and diversity, equity, and inclusion, creating lucrative if high-pressure jobs.

Insider has been tracking these trends at some of the biggest PR firms, including Edelman, Weber Shandwick, and Sard Verbinnen. Here’s a roundup of our coverage on everything from hot practice areas, how to get hired, and industry pay. 

Hiring, pay trends

The PR industry employed around 270,000 people in the US as of 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It employs people who work in-house at brands as well as agencies of all sizes.

A lucrative but less understood niche is strategic communications, which involves crisis, litigation, financial, and other high-stakes PR and comprises firms like Finsbury, Kekst CNC, and Gladstone Place Partners.

PR firms have cut hundreds of jobs in the downturn, but the field remains high-paying and competitive, with growing opportunities in pharma, tech, and healthcare communications.

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The industry is attracting investment

Private equity firms that used to view public relations agencies and software companies as a volatile industry have recently been pouring money into them, drawn to their recurring revenues, diversified businesses, and cash flow.

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Crisis and internal communications work is growing

Growth has returned for PR firms coming out of the downturn and as CEOs seek help with crisis situations and communicating to the public and their employees.

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PR firms are expanding to advertising and consulting

PR firms are increasingly competing with advertising, consulting companies, and even law firms as the lines between these industries blur.

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Tech is changing PR

Public relations pros are facing increased pressure to prove the value of their services. That’s fueled a $4.5 billion communications software industry that helps PR firms do things like monitor news coverage and social media, provide accurate measurements, and identify influencers and journalists.

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