BakerBaird leads national PR research

BakerBaird has led national research into the public relations profession which demands action to diversify its workforce.

The public relations industry employs nearly 100,000 people adding £16.7bn to the UK economy, but the research found it is facing a skills and recruitment shortage at the same time as being seen as out of reach by many potential recruits or simply not understood as a career by others.

The research found there is a shortfall of around 13,500 people from wider socio-economic groups (over 10% of the entire workforce) in the profession. It  calls on PR companies to be more diverse in their recruitment, go into schools to target creative young people, take on more apprentices and offer more opportunities to people from diverse or disadvantaged backgounds.

The report, sponsored by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and authored with Sheffield Hallam University has been backed by the UK2070 Commission’s Lord Kerslake who laid the foundation for ‘levelling up’ Britain.

Lord Kerslake, who chaired the UK2070 Commission, a ground-breaking study into the UK’s regional inequalities which anticipated the levelling-up agenda, said: “Regional  inequalities are one of the greatest hurdles to opportunity, productivity and progress in our country. I hope this research sparks a debate about how the industry can do more to give people and places across the country opportunities in PR and communications and ensure the richness of UK voices are properly heard.”

Stuart Baird a director of BakerBaird Communications, who co-authored the report, said: “Ours is an industry which communicates on behalf of clients to people from all backgrounds and all places. The most effective way to do that is to ensure that those backgrounds and places have a voice in the industry’s workforce, and that means bringing in policies and practices that enable greater access to the profession from a wider range of people.”

Nottingham’s Natalie Gasson-McKinley MBE, of the Federation of Small Business said: “Public relations is one of many professions that has a skills shortage. Yet this research suggests that a more diverse approach to the background of candidates may hold the key to both solving that shortage and ensuring that the messages the industry gives out more accurately reflect all of the perspectives in the world around it.”

Elizabeth Bridgen, Principal Lecturer in Public Relations at Sheffield Hallam University, added: “Our research showed that over half of public relations students have parents who didn’t go to university and while these students are aiming high they may find that they still face barriers due to their social class or accent.

“Practitioners who recruit and promote need to understand and be aware of potential bias in the recruitment process and draw from the widest pool of applicants if the business of public relations is going to thrive.”

FINAL CIPR_Research_Fund levellingup PR