Between the pandemic, emerging technologies and an information landscape where a viral Tweet or TikTok can mean success (or scandal), the world of communications has seen massive change over the past few years. These factors paired with a 24/7 news cycle fueled by cultural events galore, has caused the world of public relations to change just as quickly.

To help you keep up, let’s discuss the current environment for public relations professionals. We’re sharing statistics on the intersection of social media and PR from Sprout Social’s State of Social Media Investment Report, along with other industry facts from top sources like Edelman. Here’s what you can expect from the PR landscape in 2022 and beyond.

Public relations through a new lens

Let’s paint the landscape of the industry before diving into the statistics.

1. Public relations professionals must wear several hats

Traditionally, PR work consisted of damage control, crafting press releases, disseminating company news and pitching journalists. Today’s PR professionals are digital multi-hyphenates who require a diverse skillset. Knowledge of SEO, influencer marketing, social media campaigns, link building and trending topics all sit on the wishlist of skills.

The need for multifaceted professionals is also essential in a world where virality and a 24/7 news cycle are part of everyday life. Consumers continue to hold their favorite brands and businesses accountable for social and political issues. PR teams must act quickly and strategically to maintain a positive relationship with their audiences. According to a report by Edelman, 43% of professionals said COVID-19 and the events of 2020 significantly disrupted their communications agenda. Some 73% of chief communications officers also report that social issues shifted their communications agenda.

The past decade created a permanent shift in communication, adding complexity to information dissemination and audience engagement. Social media has also become a significant driver for news, business operations, sales cycles and marketing. As such, the role and value of public relations has grown significantly.

Building a positive public image now also means understanding how to increase online engagement, get backlinks and identify opportunities for content. The internet and social platforms are vital tools for storytelling, brand management and connection.

2. Public relations professionals’ technology toolkit expands

Email and video conferencing are everyday tools regardless of your role, but PR professionals use a variety of other digital platforms, too. Web analytics tools like Google Analytics and Twitter Analytics are common PR aids, along with SEO platforms like Moz and Ahrefs. Public relations professionals also frequently use media databases, news monitoring and email automation through services like Mailchimp and HubSpot.

These tools are used to show value and impact to stakeholders and illustrate potential strategies to engage with audiences. As for social media, PR professionals use these platforms in various ways to:

  • Create and maintain relationships with journalists and publications
  • Gauge positive and negative sentiment from audiences
  • Proactively plan for crisis management
  • Quickly collect and analyze audience data to inform communication strategy

3. PR will continue to evolve over the next few years

As social media and other technologies grow deeper roots, the needs of companies and consumers will also change, requiring PR professionals to break out of their traditional roles. The blurring lines between marketing and public relations also call for higher collaboration and redefinement.

We’ve set the scene for today’s environment, so let’s dig into the details by reviewing some stand-out public relations statistics.

20 PR statistics you can’t ignore in 2022

As a public relations professional, staying updated on top trends is essential for success. It’s also important to gauge the industry and understand how your approach to crafting strategies, managing brand reputation and interacting with audiences will shift. Here are 20 PR statistics to keep in mind as you navigate through 2022.

Public relations professionals must balance traditional and modern skills

1. According to the Muck Rack State of PR Report 2021, 73% of public relations professionals don’t think the term “public relations” as it’s defined today will describe the work they’re doing in five years.

2. Across agencies, brands and nonprofits, 60% of those surveyed said the term public relations will need to be redefined.

3. Some 88% of PR professionals say strategic planning will be one of the most important skills for success in the next five years, followed by media relations (77%) and social media (72%).

4. Written communications, data and analytics, and diversity, equity and inclusion were also considered essential skills over the next few years. About 65% of PR professionals report written communication and data and analytics as important skills, compared to 67% for DEI skills.

5. Two-thirds of the PR firms that had top profit performance in 2021 focused on DEI with a pay equity audit.

6. Corporate reputation is the leading area of growth for PR leaders this year, followed by strategic consulting and corporate social responsibility.

7. Nearly 35,000 advertising, PR, media and related marketing services positions have remained unfilled since the start of the pandemic.

How data and analytics impact public relations

A strategic combination of paid, earned and owned media is critical to building a strong brand—which has introduced a new overlap between PR and marketing roles. This has also contributed to a need for more data-driven communications.

8. When asked how often they use marketing software, 61% of PR pros report using web analytics software at least monthly. Almost half use email automation software at least monthly as well.

9. In the International Communications Consultancy Organization World PR Report, 21% of PR agencies list measurement and analytics technology as having the greatest impact in the future.

10. According to the 2021 PRWeek/Boston University Communications Bellwether Survey, PR agency respondents are more likely to view their teams as more advanced in applying data and analytics compared to in-house leaders (3.41 versus 2.87 on a five-point scale).

11. Only 20.7% of public relations professionals report feeling very comfortable using data and analytics

Social media and public relations: What you need to know

Since social media drives the news cycle and influences brand perception, it’s no surprise that it maintains a significant (and growing) role in the PR industry.

12. Some 33% of PR professionals use social media tools daily and 17% use them weekly. About 43% of brands and nonprofits are more likely to use social media tools daily, compared to 24% of agencies.

13. Professionals view LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as the most important platforms to their company’s social strategies. A majority, 81%, deemed LinkedIn the most important, followed by Twitter (77%), Instagram (65%) and Facebook (64%).

14. According to Sprout research, 89% of business executives agree companies that don’t invest in social media marketing will be left behind.

Graphic featuring statistics from Sprout Social's State of Social Media Investment report, including the percentage of executives who agree with the importance of investing more resources into social marketing15. Social media is almost as common as word of mouth and TV/radio ads for learning about brands or companies. One in three consumers say it’s their preferred way to learn about brands going forward, with Gen Z being the demographic most likely to learn via social media.

16. Social media is becoming one of the most dominant external communications channels. A whopping 84% of brands expect their company’s use of social media for communications to increase over the next three years. Currently, 48% use social as their primary external communication channel and 58% anticipate it will become a main channel in the next three years.

17. Many consumers (80%) expect brands and corporations with a social media presence to interact with their customers in meaningful ways.

18. More than half (58%) of consumers find it more engaging to connect with a brand or company on social media than to visit a physical store.

19. The majority of business executives (90%) agree creating interactive experiences for customers through social media is critical for the company’s success.

Chart showing statistics from Sprout's State of Social Media Investment report, including the likelihood of consumers taking specific actions after a positive interaction with a brand on social20. About 45% of PR companies expect to invest more in social media management, and another 32% say the same for multimedia content creation.

Strategizing for better communication in 2024

It’s clear that social media reigns supreme in the public relations world.

Now that you’ve gotten a glance at what’s ahead, learn about some of the best social media skills corporate communications professionals need to succeed.