The state of public affairs in 2022

Four in 10 public affairs practitioners are planning to look for a new job in the coming six months, yet half of recruiting managers are ‘struggling to recruit’.

By Donna Castle

One hundred and ninety-seven public affairs professionals completed the CIPR State of the Profession survey in February/March. It’s only a small sample, but what do their responses tell us about public affairs in 2022?

More than a quarter (26.5%) of respondents said their department is growing and only 5% said their team is reducing in size, suggesting the industry is buoyant.

Although it seems we aren’t immune to the current challenges of the job market - 51% said they agreed with the statement “we are struggling to recruit”, citing a low number of applicants with the required skills, a low number of applicants generally and competition from other employers as the key reasons for this.

With unfilled vacancies in 43% of agencies and 53% of in-house teams, there should be plenty of opportunity for the 41% who said they are very or somewhat likely to look for a new job in the next six months.

Possible reasons for this high number of people looking to make a move are a limited potential for promotion/advancement, unmanageable workloads/poor work-life balance, and a feeling of being undervalued – the top three things respondents said they don’t like about their current job. So, arguably, companies need to focus on getting these things right to attract and retain top talent. 

The parts of their job the respondents said they like most were good team/colleague relationships, meaningful work, and good/adequate pay, followed by a flexible schedule, clear/good organisational purpose, and a variety of work.

The activities the respondents carry out most in their jobs are public affairs (unsurprisingly!) followed by strategic planning, copywriting and editing, and PR programmes and campaigns. Next on the list were community and stakeholder relations, and media relations. 87% of respondents are currently working at manager level or higher, but the management of people or resources was only 10th on the list, suggesting that even at the manager level, roles are still very hands-on. 

The main challenges public affairs practitioners think the PR profession will face in the next 12 months are mental health problems among practitioners (highlighting the importance of the Heard Mentality campaign), fake news/disinformation, and the under-representation of practitioners at Board level.

These were followed by the loss of personal interaction between practitioners and the broader workforce, longer working hours, and labour/skills shortages – coming back to the recruitment challenges the industry is facing and the reasons four in 10 of us are looking to leave our current roles.

Post-covid, public affairs people are embracing remote and hybrid working. 64% said they work at home for the majority of the week, with only 14% reporting they spend the majority of the week in the office. 20% are dividing their time between home and office.

Of those that responded the majority are working in-house (83.8%). The gender split was male 37%, female 63%. 86% said they have a white background, suggesting little has changed since the CIPR Race in PR report was published two years ago, and the industry still has some work to do on diversity.

The full State of the Profession survey results are available on the CIPR website.

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