WASHINGTON, DC — Public relations firms who have adopted remote working as a way of life have enjoyed a host of benefits, including dramatically reduced real estate costs and impressive profit performance, according to research conducted by law firm Davis+Gilbert and PRovoke Media, presented at the Entrepreneurs’ Forum yesterday.

While firms were split when it comes to the future of work — about half the firms surveyed have asked or plan to ask their employees to return to the office at least two or three days a week, while a slightly smaller percentage are not asking employees to return for a set number of days — about a third (32%) of firms expect more than half of their workforce will continue working remotely on a full-time basis and about a quarter expect the majority of their employees to do so.

When firms were asked about the most important tools for retaining staff, “creating more flexible working arrangements” was number one, ahead of “one-time salary corrections,” expanded employee benefits, increased professional development stipends, and offered retention and inflation-related bonuses.

Meanwhile, 31% of the firms who reported increased revenues by more than 10% expect their workforce to continue working remotely on a full-time basis, and 39% of firms that increased profit by at least 10% expect to continue remote work — a strong indication that remote working has not hurt revenues or profit.

One reason, perhaps, is that a quarter of the firms surveyed eliminated more than half of their office space in 2022, and another 10% discontinued plans for more office space. “These actions had a positive impact on profitability for these firms and likely tempered the additional expense on salary and retention bonuses,” said Marc Rogers, Davis+Gilbert partner who presented the research findings at the Forum.

Overall, the research found that public relations firms are continuing to experience very positive revenue and profitability trends. Davis+Gilbert found that 81% of the more than 130 PR firms that participated in the survey increased revenue this year. In addition, 61% reported a profit increase, which is remarkable given investments the firms are making in attracting and retaining talent.

“The data shows that the year-over-year revenue and profit increases firms are experiencing is not merely a one-year aberration from a boost in crisis communications related to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Davis+Gilbert public relations practice group chair Michael Lasky. “What’s developed is a ‘new normal’ of PR firms not just surviving but thriving in a world where communications and earned media have become exponentially more important — as some industry insiders have been saying even before the pandemic.”

Other notable takeaways from this year’s report indicate that the PR industry has learned to be remarkably nimble in many ways and has implemented creative financial arrangements to incentivize better performance. For example:

  • 82% of the firms created more flexible working arrangements

  • Firms focused their staff trainings on leadership and client management, as ways to grow revenue
  • 46% of the firms conducted a pay audit in the last year to evaluate equitable pay practices by gender, race or other criteria

Meanwhile, merger and acquisition activities grew stronger with 59 consummated deals from January 1 through September 30, 17 more than last year in the same time frame.

“More than half of those reporting stated that they are interested in acquiring at least one firm in the next three years,” added Davis+Gilbert corporate + transactions practice group co-chair Brad Schwartzberg. “This continuing appetite to acquire seems to indicate that firms believe deploying a strategic M&A initiative can further enhance their overall growth objectives.”