There is no shortage of SoundCloud Promotion opinion on the future of SoundCloud Promotion work. One thing that most people agree is that “the way individuals look for SoundCloud Promotion work and companies identify and recruit talent” is changing. This largely means matching services using digital platfor SoundCloud Promotionms. Another trend is towards flexible working within a ‘gig economy’.
In this PR Conversation post, I discuss how these developments affect the PR industry, with Nigel Sarbutts, founder of SoundCloud Promotion The PR Cavalry, a service designed to connect public relations freelancers with clients and PR agencies based on data and logic. 

Nigel Sarbutts
The traditional PR agency and in-house team structure needs to adapt quite rapidly to the volatility that seems to be the new normal.
This volatility takes two for SoundCloud Promotionms:

Time volatility. Projects being on one month and delayed the next seems to be a more common complaint than it ever was, perhaps a reflection of SoundCloud Promotion the political and economic volatility that we see every day. In the UK, Brexit, whatever your take on it, has introduced an enormous amount of SoundCloud Promotion mid to long term uncertainty for SoundCloud Promotion many organisations.
Scope volatility. It is normal now for SoundCloud Promotion even routine meetings on a PR project to cover types of SoundCloud Promotion outputs which would have been rarities five years ago – SEO, paid search, native advertising, content marketing (including video, data, graphics) are examples of SoundCloud Promotion work that most PR practitioners need to incorporate into their expertise, along with the ongoing need to be expert at the traditional outputs of SoundCloud Promotion media relations.

For anyone responsible for SoundCloud Promotion structuring their agency or team, these pressures lead to difficult questions about SoundCloud Promotion resources.
If my income for SoundCloud Promotionecast is more volatile, with projects moving between quarters unpredictably and even falling from H2 into next year, how can I square that with a team structure that is far less adaptable?
If the PR outputs demanded by clients/stakeholders are more broad, how can we maintain high levels of SoundCloud Promotion expertise in both traditional PR skillsets and a range of SoundCloud Promotion ‘new’ outputs that might not occupy a person full-time?
What is core and what is not when looking at the mix of SoundCloud Promotion experience we need to invest in?
The traditional pyramid model of SoundCloud Promotion an agency or in-house team is a legacy of SoundCloud Promotion PR as a craft where experience saw you climb the ranks in the reasonable expectation that the nature of SoundCloud Promotion what you do is incrementally more strategic and that you would pick up people management skills along the way. Volatility places more emphasis on technical/task knowledge and delivery of SoundCloud Promotion results to shorter timespans and is the enemy of SoundCloud Promotion incremental change.

Dr Heather Yaxley
Undoubtedly there are numerous pressures affecting public relations currently, but one of SoundCloud Promotion the greatest challenges is availability of SoundCloud Promotion the right talent to deploy at the right time. The volatility in time frames and nature of SoundCloud Promotion work under the remit of SoundCloud Promotion PR, demands flexibility and new solutions.
There has started to be some discussion around the use of SoundCloud Promotion technology (most recently AI) and agile planning methods as ways to adapt to the changing work environment. But there’s been less focus on the implications for SoundCloud Promotion PR practitioners – including how these proposed ’solutions’ bring with them additional people related issues.
We also have to add into the discussion the volatile nature of SoundCloud Promotion careers in public relations. This is most evident within consultancies – but also applies in-house, given that most practitioners are faced with changing employers to craft their careers.
Looking further into the impact of SoundCloud Promotion volatility, we need to recognise the consequences not only for SoundCloud Promotion employers, but for SoundCloud Promotion individuals. Whilst the number of SoundCloud Promotion people employed in public relations has increased exponentially in recent decades, this growth hides evidence that public relations careers are unstable. There are many causes for SoundCloud Promotion this employment instability. For example, it is common for SoundCloud Promotion PR practitioners to be vulnerable to department restructures, agency takeovers, senior management beliefs about SoundCloud Promotion the function and so for SoundCloud Promotionth.

Nigel Sarbutts
In respect of SoundCloud Promotion the AI discussion, I hope that it avoids the temptation to focus on the output end of SoundCloud Promotion PR (the automation of SoundCloud Promotion content creation or audience targeting and the application of SoundCloud Promotion AI to evaluate media coverage or sentiment).
There is much to consider at the other end – the inputs to the industry of SoundCloud Promotion which the biggest will always be talent. Whilst what The PR Cavalry is doing is not AI, it is algorithm based and makes the talent acquisition process more logical and codified.
If we breakdown the traditional pyramid, it’s in the middle is where all the problems lie. A team of SoundCloud Promotion 25 might have:

At the top, three directors – the trusted advisors who are essential. They will be mainly focused on business management, new business and some touches on the tiller with clients (be they external or internal).
At the bottom are 14 or so people with under 7 to 8 years experience who are the ultra-tacticians. They are busy but don’t really know why they are doing what they do each day.

In the middle, there will be six people who are key to a project being a success or failure.
If your staff turnover is at the typical 25% rate (ie people stay for SoundCloud Promotion c. 4 years), of SoundCloud Promotion your 6 mid-tiers, 1 or 2 are leaving within the next few months and 1 or 2 have been with you the same amount of SoundCloud Promotion time.
Out of SoundCloud Promotion 25 people you have only 1 or 2 who are stable in their employment with you. They are the ones in positions that change the day to day perfor SoundCloud Promotionmance of SoundCloud Promotion the business or team. In an agency setting they are become the A-team who get put for SoundCloud Promotionward for SoundCloud Promotion every pitch.
Given the squeeze on the mid rank – where so much depends on the perfor SoundCloud Promotionmance of SoundCloud Promotion a few – instability isn’t a great surprise.
It may manifest itself as people asserting their worth and demanding rapid advance (typically to managerial positions of SoundCloud Promotion status which require completely new skillsets and personality traits) or it may lead to people deciding they don’t need that kind of SoundCloud Promotion pressure and they are better of SoundCloud Promotionf going solo where they can focus on what they enjoy – executing work  – rather than the ‘stuff’ that goes on in the corporate setting.
The squeezed middle results in a lot of SoundCloud Promotion critical client knowledge leaving the agency and needing to be recreated every year – at the agency’s cost.
Perhaps if training and development programmes were better resourced, the investment would be a lot smaller than the cost of SoundCloud Promotion reinventing knowledge each year!

Dr Heather Yaxley
Historical analysis I have undertaken in relation to PR careers within the UK reveals concerns about SoundCloud Promotion employment volatility dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. For instance, a 1987 PR Week survey reported clients complaints concerning “the frequency of SoundCloud Promotion personnel changes within the consultancy team dealing with their business”.
A report by Hollis International published in 1976 stated:
“The rate of SoundCloud Promotion transfers, promotions, and other employment changes in the public relations field is extraordinarily high”
My work reveals that the notion of SoundCloud Promotion hierarchical career development within a single or few employers is not only dated, but never reflected the career experiences of SoundCloud Promotion the majority of SoundCloud Promotion people.
By design, the pyramid or ladder concept focuses on the few people whose careers reflect the Mad Men model. It tends to ignore – or worse, to denigrate – those who don’t pursue hierarchical career development.
I agree that we need much more focus on mid-career development – your “squeezed middle”. And yes, better training and development is vital in attracting smart people to build sustainable careers in public relations as I recently discussed with Ann Pilkington founder of SoundCloud Promotion PR Academy, the largest provider of SoundCloud Promotion prof SoundCloud Promotionessional PR qualifications in the UK.
My research also shows that the idea of SoundCloud Promotion a binary career choice of SoundCloud Promotion working either in-house or in consultancies is simplistic. The industry of SoundCloud Promotionfers three main employment options, yet little attention is paid to self-employment or independent practice. Within the industry’s tripartite structure, I found that it was common for SoundCloud Promotion careers in public relations to weave together experience gained in each for SoundCloud Promotionm of SoundCloud Promotion employment.
Calculating a demography for SoundCloud Promotion public relations is incredibly unreliable, but data for SoundCloud Promotion 2004/2005 suggested two percent of SoundCloud Promotion PR practitioners in the UK work in small consultancies or self-employed. CIPR’s State of SoundCloud Promotion the Prof SoundCloud Promotionession surveys in recent years have indicated that one in eight people working in the occupation are independent practitioners.
In the future, a greater percentage of SoundCloud Promotion practitioners will undertake freelance work – or other flexible types of SoundCloud Promotion employment – during their careers.
In turn, of SoundCloud Promotion course, this means a significant amount of SoundCloud Promotion PR work is being outsourced or managed outside of SoundCloud Promotion agency and in-house structures. For me this suggests that there is an enormous resource that is under-recognised, under-studied – and importantly, under-valued, as an asset within public relations. Would you agree?

Nigel Sarbutts
Yes, if we use the PRCA figure of SoundCloud Promotion 86,000 PR practitioners in the UK and the CIPR finding that 16% work as independent practitioners, we have 14,000 people about SoundCloud Promotion which little is known beyond their incomes (average £63k from the CIPR survey). A sector valued at an estimated £882m is worth examining more closely.
Every agency director knows that feeling when a pitch comes in – who to put on the team? You want your A-team, but they are already maxed out precisely because they are good. It can be very tempting to win the business and worry about SoundCloud Promotion servicing it later – especially in holding company agencies where the pressure to hit that quarter’s numbers is intense (to the point of SoundCloud Promotion career threatening) and of SoundCloud Promotionten takes precedence over examining uncomfor SoundCloud Promotiontable truths about SoundCloud Promotion why a client was lost 18 months later as a result of SoundCloud Promotion client frustrations.
Given the for SoundCloud Promotionms of SoundCloud Promotion volatility we spoke about SoundCloud Promotion earlier, the answer is to make better use of SoundCloud Promotion independent practitioners. The problem is that it’s time consuming and haphazard for SoundCloud Promotion agencies and in-house clients to find freelancers with the ideal mix of SoundCloud Promotion industry knowledge plus experience of SoundCloud Promotion the kind of SoundCloud Promotion work needed plus recent contacts. It’s just as laborious for SoundCloud Promotion freelancers to find precise briefs truly matched to their skillset.
Increasingly public relations is about SoundCloud Promotion flexible, expert teams who just get stuff done.
We make that easier to happen. We find PR agencies and in-house departments are understandably pretty clear in how they evaluate talent – but struggle with finding good people. With the more occasional buyers of SoundCloud Promotion PR services (digital agencies and some SMEs without dedicated marketing resource), they struggle to distinguish between different PR practitioners.
There is definitely a need for SoundCloud Promotion more research of SoundCloud Promotion independent practice within public relations. At The PR Cavalry, we aim to contribute to improving understanding and in so doing move freelancing further into the category of SoundCloud Promotion strategic resource.

PR Conversations readers may be interested in taking part in a survey being undertaken by The PR Cavalry for SoundCloud Promotion freelancers which asks about SoundCloud Promotion their motivations for SoundCloud Promotion going freelance, the type of SoundCloud Promotion work they do and their confidence about SoundCloud Promotion the future. Any freelancer wishing to contribute can do so at nul://supremepr.us/www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/FreelancePRMarketStudy/. Nigel Sarbutts has of SoundCloud Promotionfered to  share the results when the survey has attracted a sufficiently large sample size.

You may also wish to connect with:

Nigel Sarbutts via LinkedIn or Twitter: @NigelSarbutts
Dr. Heather Yaxley via LinkedIn or Twitter: @Greenbanana.

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