Communicators pick public affairs and content marketing as key future skills, MSL PRmoment India PRogress Report 2019

The PR business in India is growing at an astonishing pace. Studies, including by the PRCAI, demonstrate that growth rates average between 15 and 18% for the last 3 years, well in pace with the growing importance of Asia as the new centre of growth for the global PR business.

And now that the uncertainty of the national elections is over, 2020 could very well be the game-changer for the PR business in India.

In order to find out what are the skills that the PR professional of the future will value most, what kind of compensation and benefits are being offered to PR professionals and what are their challenges for the future in terms of upskilling and expectation of benefits; PRmoment India conducted a survey in partnership with MSL to answer some of these questions. 

The anonymous survey conducted by Opinium covered communication professionals working both with PR firms and brand side.

Amit Misra, CEO, MSL South Asia said, “It is an exciting and transformative time for the industry with businesses focusing on digital transformation.

PR can no longer be looked at in silos of traditional, social, digital or PA; PR needs to be seen as integrated, working seamlessly towards achieving client ambitions and business goals. And the core of achieving this, is and always will be the talent.

Retaining talent, giving them a great place to learn and grow, makes our engines run and hence, this survey was an exercise to understand how we can as PR firms or in-house team step-up to meet their needs and ambitions.

We want this report to start an industry wide solution based conversation that helps us to become a highly-sought after industry.”

These are the key findings from the first baseline survey of careers and competencies for the PR business in India.

Top Skills at PR firms: strategic planning, media engagement, writing

We asked respondents from PR firms to share their top three skills sets. Across age groups and gender, the skills picked were strategic planning and counsel (17%) and counselling, managing and mentoring teams (17%). This was closely followed by media engagement (15%) and writing story pitches, press releases, Q and A documents, briefing documents, and opinion pieces for the C-suite (14%).

This was consistent for men and women with both genders picking strategic planning and counsel (19% of men and 15% of women) counselling and managing and mentoring teams as their top choices for strongest PR skills.

What skills do PR firm professionals want to acquire in the future?

The survey also asked the top 5 areas of work that PR professionals want further training in. The trend observed below was consistent for both men and women:

Top Skills for in-house communicators: Media Engagement, Strategic Counsel

Media engagement was among the top 3 skills for corporate communicators, along with strategic planning and counsel, indicating that traditional PR was still a top deliverable for in-house professionals.

16% of the brand side respondents picked media engagement and strategic counsel as their top two skills. This was followed by 11% saying a top skill was writing story pitches, press releases, Q and A documents, briefing documents, opinion pieces for C-suite.

Interestingly at 9%, C-suite management was not picked as a top 3 skill set, while crisis management clocked in at the fourth top skill with 12% of the respondents picking it as a key strength.

What are the key PR  skills for senior in-house practitioners?

The survey also assessed key skill sets in keeping with the number of years of PR work experience. Media management remains a top skill for professionals with 6 to 10 years of experience in PR as well as those with 11 to 16 years of PR experience. Not surprisingly, strategic counselling also remains a key skill as the number of years of experience notch up. Interestingly, while C-suite management was not a top 3 skills overall, it was one for critical age groups in senior roles. 

Here are the results of top PR skills for three such critical age groups, management, senior management and leadership:

The results were nearly equal for top key strengths for men and women, women picked media engagement, strategic counselling and writing as a key skill. But more men than women picked crisis management as a key skill.

When it came to C-suite management 11% of women picked this as a skill set as compared to 7% of the men.

Skills In-house communicators want more training in

Problem-solving under pressure, creativity and openness to new learning are key soft skills that will matter for PR professionals in firms and brand side in the next 5 years.

Across years of experience, brand side communicators want to acquire SEO skills and stakeholder management skills (including customer listening). Public Affairs was also not considered a strong skill, with just 7% of professionals in leadership positions picking it as a strength, compared to 1% at the senior level and 5% at the middle management level.

Consequently, these are the top 6 areas, corporate communication professionals felt they wanted more training in:

Training: Significant rise in training programs needed

PR firms

With the number of skills PR professionals want to acquire; training was a key focus area of the survey.

35% of the PR firm respondents said they received training once a year. Another 25% said they have never received any training at work, while 18% said they received training once during onboarding. Opportunities for training were mostly equal with 36% of the men and 34% of the women saying they received training once a year.

Corporate Communications Teams 

Corporate communication professionals, much like their colleagues in PR firms, were very clear on the areas where they want more training. However, the survey results show that 40% of corporate communication employees do not receive any training at work.

Another 39% said they received training once a year, while just 12% said they received training once while onboarding.

Compensation and Benefits: PR firms

PR firms in India are offering cash components as salary benefits and also offer a slew of other benefits including maternity and paternity leave and work from home options.

58% of all respondents across men and women said their salary fell between Rs. 1,80,000 to 12,00,000 annually. Out of this 58%, 28% of respondents said their salaries fell in the Rs. 6,01,000 to 12,00,000 range, with 30% of the men and 27% of women saying their salaries fell in this range.

The salary range began to rise for the age range of 25 to 34 with 43% of the respondents saying their salaries fell in the Rs. 6,01,000 to 12,00,000 per year range. 25% of the respondents in the age group of 25 to 34 said they earned between Rs. 13,00,000/- and 24,00,000/- annually and another 22 % earned between Rs. 3,61,000 to Rs. 6,00,000/- annually. 46% of professionals with experience of 3 to 5 years in PR said they earned between Rs. 6,01,000 to 12,00,000 annually.

In spite of the uncertainty of the general elections and the ongoing impact of GST reforms with a slow economy, professionals at PR firms received pay hikes ranging from 5% to 20%, with the average hike settling at 15.5%.


28% of respondents overall said they received 1 and 10% of their salaries in bonuses or performance and cash incentives. Another 10% said they received between 11 and 25% of their salary in various incentives.

As the age group rose, so did the percentage of salary received as bonuses. In the 1% to 10% range, 31 % of PR professionals in the age group of 25 to 34 received part of their payment in the form of cash and performance incentives as against 17% of the employees in the 35 to 44 age group.

In the age group of 35 to 44 years old range, 30% of the employees received 11 to 25% of their pay in the form of bonuses including cash and performance incentives.

Salary Levels: In-house

On average, brand side respondents said their annual package fell in the Rs. 16,00,000 to 40,00,000 brackets, annually.

At the lower level of salary ranges, more women than men earned between 2,16,000 to 15,00,000 rupees annually. The average percentage of men and women is particularly striking here as nearly double the number of women (45%), as compared to men (24%) earned between 2,16,000 to 15,00,000 rupees annually.

“Interestingly in the pay hike range of 21 to 30%, women far outstrip men. Over four times the number of women (18%) than men (4%) said they received hikes in this range."

In-House bonus and benefits: Health insurance a top benefit

Nearly half of the respondents (46%) said they received 1 to 10% of their salaries in bonuses or performance and cash incentives.

The top benefit received, is health insurance, followed by work from home, flexitime, maternity leave and paid vacation.

Why do you stay in PR?

PR firms: leadership, growth of major drivers

At PR firms for women, the most important driver at work was opportunities for growth (56%), while for men it was work culture (61%). Salary mattered nearly equally for men and women (42% and 41% respectively).

Interestingly, more men (57%) than women (44%), flagged off leadership, including their immediate manager as a reason to stay or go.

In-house: Salary, Independence motivators at work 


"The most important challenge at work for brand side communicators was not having enough face time with decision-makers."

The penultimate question in the survey was regarding what drives you to stay on at their current place of employment.

The results for in-house professionals were quite different than what PR firm employees said were their main drivers at work. For PR firms, respondents flagged off work culture and work relationship with managers as a key driver; salary also mattered but so did leadership and growth.

For in-house respondents the top reason for staying on was salary, independence and the relationship with their immediate manager: 

There was a sharp difference for men and women regarding career opportunities as a driver to stay at their current workplace. Nearly twice the number of male respondents at 47% said this was a major motivator for them at work as compared to 25% of women.

Professionals in leadership positions valued independence in handling their work the most (48% of respondents in the category of over 15 years of experience in PR). This was also a top priority for middle management corporate communication professionals as was salary ( 55 % each).

The survey is based on 212 respondents from PR firms and 100 respondents from in-house professionals.

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