JOHANNESBURG — The majority (67%) of African PR professionals believe the reputation of PR in business and society has improved since the beginning of the pandemic, according to PRCA Africa’s inaugural research.

‘The State of the African PR Industry Report’, conducted by Reputation Matters, examined the perception of PR, attitude towards ethics, developing talent, and the challenges and opportunities facing the industry.

The study surveyed more than 550 practitioners from 27 countries across Africa, found that 33% of respondents said their strategic counsel is valued more than ever by business leaders, and a further 27% said they feel valued at board-level.

However, the pandemic has also created significant challenges for the African PR industry, with 36% of respondents having had their employment affected. And despite growing overall optimism, 62% believed reduced budgets still posed the greatest threat to the PR industry’s future

The majority of PR practitioners across Africa feel the profession is viewed as ethical, although 13% of respondents said they had been asked to act unethically within the past 12 months.

The research also revealed the scale of the challenge facing the industry’s attempts to adopt more rigorous measurement and evaluation methods, with the discredited Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) metric remaining the most common form of measurement.

In fact, poor measurement and evaluation was seen as one of the biggest threats to the African PR industry in the immediate future, alongside recruitment and retention, and technology and innovation.

Digital and social media was a clear leader when those surveyed were asked which areas had grown in importance over the past two years, closely followed by reputation management and crisis management.

PRCA Africa chair Jordan Rittenberry said: “The pandemic’s impact has been felt differently in different parts of Africa, and elsewhere in the world, but what all geographies have in common is a heightened appreciation of the value of good communications.

"Whether through public health campaigns promoting Covid-19 safety measures, to reassuring crisis communications from companies facing unexpected incidents, those organisations able to effectively connect with key audiences and stakeholders have been more effective and resilient during the pandemic. Meanwhile, those without proper comms capacity have suffered.”