Is social media pushing up PR headcounts?

April 21, 2011
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Check out these figures and see if you agree with Bruce Hetrick, a long-time local public relations pro, that they shed another angle on the social media phenomena.

The federal government shows the number of people in the Indianapolis area pigeon-holing themselves in a category called “public relations managers” shot up just as the recession was building—coincidentally the same period when social media exploded.

In 2007, prior to the onset of the recession, 490 people in the Indianapolis area called themselves public relations managers. In 2008, when the recession was well underway, the figure shot to 600. A year later, probably because of recession-related layoffs, there were 550.

It’s a broad classification. It includes workers ranging from corporate inhouse communications experts to one-person shops. Many are in small businesses.

Hetrick thinks lots more people have gotten involved in social media for their work, thus self-identify with public relations. More will enter the field as the economy continues its improvement, he predicts.

When Hetrick speaks to communication majors at state universities, few aspire to work for news organizations. The days of wanting to the Woodward and Bernstein are long gone. Now, public relations student groups have dozens of members.

Demand will continue rising for people who can create communications and get the messages out through traditional means as well as social media, Hetrick says.

Incidentally, the recession didn’t dent the wages of those who survived the recession. The average was $73,130 in 2007 and built to $75,940 in 2008. By 2009 it had climbed to $76,770.


  • Social Media or Decline in Advertising
    I tend to think a rise in PR people may be due less to social media and more to the demise of traditional media and thus paid advertising. I work in social media myself and as much as I wish to see more companies hiring staff to manage social media, that is not really the case. It's still the same PR person they hired to do PR who gets thrown social media most of the time. No new jobs are created. Instead I think it may be that there is a greater need for PR folks because companies are drastically cutting their advertising budgets. So roles may be switching from advertising managers to PR practitioners. I think companies still see the value in "earned" media which is more credible than "paid" media.
  • Decrease in reporters?
    As current president of the Public Relations Society of America's Hoosier Chapter, I'm pleased to see the increase in local public relations practitioners. However, my fear is that it is less a result of a boom in social media and more due to laid-off reporters who have turned to PR as their next career move. Whatever the cause, public relations is needed in any organization, large or small. Fair warning, though: Public Relations Executive was just named the second most stressful job in America!
  • The "Evolving" Door
    While there's no doubt that there has been a shift from what we knew as "traditional PR," I believe there has been an equal shift in the expectations of our clients. The difficult economy forced businesses to look long and hard at the dollars they were spending on public relations and ultimately place a greater emphasis on achieving results. The days of fat retainers from super-sized agencies are gone forever. However, I believe the increase in numbers we are seeing is directly related to the number of practitioners who were downsized and then launched their own small/boutique firms where overhead is minimal and mutually beneficial and respectful client relationships drive the business.
    A former reporter downsized from an agency who launched her own firm :)

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