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February 2, 2011
The Lay of PR's Land
We're not proposing you spend $129 for a 10-page report from First Research, Inc., to gain further insight into this, but an abstract of the firm's report on the U.S. public relations industry is an interesting overview of PR's terrain. Right off, "the U.S. public relations industry includes about 6,500 companies with combined annual revenue of about $9 billion..."

But, as we know, "the industry is fragmented: the top 50 companies account for about 40 percent of industry revenue."

The next statement is rather ambiguous and perhaps is clarified in the full report. But we have our own sense of the matter: "Demand is driven primarily by the health of the U.S. economy and corporate profits. The profitability of individual (PR) companies depends on the value of the creative services delivered and efficient use of personnel..." 

When the economy is weak, that's a time for increased spending on PR, not less. Businesses need to explain their value effectively to cash-strapped customers. In a healthy economy with money to toss around on "frills," there might be more spending on PR, but PR is not a luxury. It generates constant relationships developed from awareness of a company's value for long-term purposes—survival and profitability. The corporate aim should be continually to provide useful, if not essential, products and/or services. 

We don't know from the abstract whether First Research takes the view that good PR is essential or not, but of course it is. The abstract notes that PR firms need to be creative and efficient. But at what point in the business cycle are they most pertinent? That isn't immediately clear. We'd say "throughout."

A business teacher we admire greatly, W. Edwards Deming, spoke of "constancy of purpose." That ought to be PR's mantra. 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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