The State of (Solo) PR

top 5 PR consultancy sectorsThe Chartered Institute of Public Relations published its annual State of the Profession report this week, and, ahead of tomorrow’s CIPR tweetchat for independent practitioners, I have been reading the report and the detailed data tables to try and get a sense of the “State of the solo PR” sector.

The report includes some observations on the background and views of independent practitioners (Note: I spotted some statistical anomalies and these are currently being fixed by Survation and the CIPR policy and comms team). For now, these are the nuggets I picked out from the data tables:

  • Of the 2,028 people who responded to the CIPR survey, 250 (13%) were independent practitioners
  • This group tended to be older (70% were over 45, compared to 34% the total sample), which also may explain some differences in educational background (higher grammar and independent school attendance but lower university attendance)
  • Independent practitioners were slightly more likely to be CIPR members (82% were, against 74% of the total)
  • Around four out of ten IPs were based in London and the south-east
  • IPs were also more likely to be part-time: 35% of IPs were part-time (and comprised around 43% of all part-time active PR practitioners in the survey). Otherwise, 10% of all respondents worked part-time.
  • IPs tend to be more experienced. Two-thirds had 16 or more years PR experience (less than a third of the total sample could say the same)
  • The happiest PRIPs generally seem to feel less stressed and to enjoy their jobs more than their employed colleagues
  • Presumably because of the higher than average level of part-time work, average income for IPs was lower; the survey gives a figure of c. £36k. (Table 38 makes interesting reading – though this and related tables 39 and 40 should be read with caution due to the low sample sizes involved – but it seems CIPR member IPs earn more than non-member IPs!)
  • IPs tend to be slightly stronger believers in the importance of CPD (continuous professional development) and industry training and qualifications (70% rated CPD 4 or 5, compared to 62% doing the same in the general sample; 52% rated training 4 or 5 against 38% of the whole sample)
  • Again, perhaps reflecting the experience levels and specialisms of many IPs, they placed more emphasis on strategic management abilities, knowledge of current affairs and industry trends, and on traditional written communications (while not downplaying the importance of digital/social).

Tomorrow’s CIPR Tweetchat will be between 12 noon and 1pm GMT using the hashtag #CIPRchat.

Incidentally, my fellow independent practitioner and CIPR Council member Lindsey Collumbell has done a great job at explaining the differences between PR freelancers, interims and independent consultants, and will be joining tomorrow’s tweetchat – she’s @LindsCollumbell on Twitter.

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Paul Wilkinson is the founder of Limited, a specialist PR and technology consultancy. He is an independent practitioner, a Fellow of the CIPR, and chairs the Construction and Property group (CAPSIG) and is the past chair of the CIPR Policy and Campaigns Committee.

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