PR industry sees growth decrease for the first time since 2013

by | Dec 15, 2020 | Public Relations

Not surprisingly, after seven straight years of PR industry growth, the COVID-19 virus has been a game changer. To get a current reading on the industry, PR M&A advisory firm Gould+Partners performed a spot survey with 52 firms responding. The firm tracked 2019 actual net revenues (fees+ mark-ups) against 2020 projected, and discovered the net decrease was 6.0 percent, which was actually less of an average decrease than expected.

Despite the current setback, the outlook for the future is much more optimistic: The firm also tracked 2020 projected to 2021 projected, which netted an astounding 5.6 percent positive growth, indicative of the confidence PR firm C-suite executives have in the industry. It will bring growth back to where we were at the end of 2019.

“My big takeaway—it could have been worse,” said managing partner Rick Gould. “A 6 percent decline in a pandemic year is so much better than projected in the Spring. Some firms lost 25-50 percent of their book of business.”

PR industry sees growth decrease for the first time since 2013

The highest growth spurt was in 2013, at 9.8 percent, then six years annual year over year growth between 4.8 percent and 7.8 percent.
The firm tracked the Size categories use for all Benchmarking surveys:

  • Up to $3 Million
  • > $3 Million- $10 Million
  • > $10 Million – $25 Million
  • > $25 Million

PR industry sees growth decrease for the first time since 2013

They also tracked their regular ten regions.

“We are ending up with a year that, by normal standards, was a year of substantial industry decline,” Gould adds. “I believe most firms have adjusted to the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aggressive new business efforts, PPP funding that enabled retention of key account staff, and the optimistic mindset of PR firm owners slowed the much larger expected decline. I am confident, based on our survey, that in 2021 we will see the PR industry bounce back to the pre-pandemic level of growth.”

PR industry sees growth decrease for the first time since 2013

Other interesting stats from the survey:

  • 56 percent of the 52 firms (29) showed a decrease in net revenues for 2020.
  • 21 percent of the 52 firms (11) showed flat/zero growth in 2020.
  • 23 percent of the 52 firms (12) had growth in 2020.
  • 73 percent of the 52 firms (38) are expecting growth in 2021 as a result of aggressively building and pursuing their current optimistic pipeline.
  • The over $25 Mill firms are projecting a net decrease of (2.1 percent) in 2021 net revenues versus 2019.
  • D.C. and Canada regions were the most optimistic, the only regions projecting average growth in 2020 and 2021.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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