PR should be big in the US. Aside from the obvious fact of the largest economy in the world with more than 300 million consumers and 28 million businesses, as well as one of the largest and most news-hungry media industries in the world, there is the added advantage that a free press is enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Indeed, the US is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of PR.
In recent years crises of corporate reputation have further added to the industry’s importance. “The ongoing issue of diminished public respect for and trust in government and business has had an effect,” says Rosanna Fiske, chair and ceo of the Public Relations Society of America. “Ever since the BP oil spill last year, and all the crises in the financial sector, companies have been highly sensitive to how they appear in the public’s mind.”
So, it should come as little surprise that, while the economy as a whole has taken a battering in the past three years, the PR industry continues to grow. The US economy shrank by around 4% in 2008 and by nearly 1% in 2009, then grew by around 3% in 2010, before slipping back in the first half of 2011 to minimal growth. Yet, Kathy Cripps, President at the Council of US PR Firms estimates that the US PR industry grew by between 7 and 10% in 2010.
Fiske adds that it looks positive for 2011 too. “We are not seeing as strong a dip in US spending on PR services as the global advertising industry is experiencing at the moment,” she reports. “As of early this year, the US PR industry was still projected to grow around 5-6%, to around US$5 billion annually. This is on track with the recent estimate by Veronis Suhler Stevenson that PR expenditures in the US will hit US$8 billion by 2013.”
Despite this, Mike Sprouse, Chief Marketing Officer at Epic Media Group & Epic Marketplace believes that PR continues to struggle for budget share. “PR still faces challenges in securing greater chunks of marketing budgets,” he says. “It has improved, largely because of online and social media which is more quantifiable, but there is still a way for the industry to go.”