Public Relations Society of Japan conducts eighth PR Industry Survey

July 20 in News Release
The Public Relations Society of Japan (PRSJ) conducted its eighth biannual survey of the Japanese PR industry in March 2021 to identify trends based on the conditions of individual firms and estimate industrywide sales in FY2020, which ended in April 2021. The survey polled 210 companies, including 185 association members and 25 non-members engaged in PR and related businesses, of which 69 replied for a response rate of 32.9% (35.1% in previous survey).Based on the responses, PR industrywide sales in FY2020 are estimated* to be 111.1 billion yen, down 17.9 billion yen or 13.8 percentage points from 129.0 billion yen in the previous survey taken in FY2018. Since the survey began, this was the first sales decline in the Japanese PR industry, which had been growing steadily. While society’s awareness of the importance of public relations and related activities is increasing, COVID-19’s impact on PR business performance was clearly evident this time.
* Using the per-employee sales average based on each respondent’s mean workforce size for the year

PR Industry Fact-Finding Survey Summary
(Conducted by Hummingbird Inc. by mail from March 2–19, 2021)

Profile of PR Firms Surveyed

  • The average number of employees is 84.7.
  • Due to the existence of many small firms, however, the median workforce size is 15.0.
  • The ratio of female to male employees is 53:47, with women continuing to outnumber men.
  • The ratio of female directors is 32.5%.
  • The average percentage of female managers is 41.0%, but 65.3% in firms with 19 or less employees.
  • Hiring plans in spring 2021 average 3.9 employees, although 39% have no plan to hire anyone.


Business Outlook – Sales (figures in parentheses from previous survey)
49% (59%) of respondents said sales will “increase” while 20% (9%) said “decrease.” This is the first time since the survey began that the “increase” percentage has fallen below 50%.

Business Confidence (figures in parentheses from previous survey)
12% (34%) of respondents said their current business confidence is “good” whereas 51% (18%) answered “bad,” suggesting that the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact. Regarding business confidence going forward, 36% (34%) said “will improve” and 16% (14%) said “will worsen.” Expectations for a turnaround in the business environment were similar to the results of the previous survey conducted prior to COVID-19.

Types of Work Handled – Top 10 Categories (multiple responses)

1.       Publicity planning and implementation 88%
2.       Media relations 80%
3.       Information gathering and analysis 78%
4.       Planning and implementation of in-person press conferences and PR events 78%
5.       Retainer-based PR consulting 77%
6.       Media monitoring and clipping 75%
7.       Planning and management of owned and social media 73%
8.       Planning and implementation of online press conferences and PR events 71%
9.       Editorial tie-up advertising 67%
10.   PR effectiveness measurement 65%
  • Publicity planning/implementation and media relations occupy the top two positions. There is no significant change in the overall trend among top items.
  • “Planning and management of online press conferences and PR events” (71%), was newly added and made the top 10, indicating that PR work has increasingly shifted online due to COVID-19.


Top 5 Fastest Growing Work Categories (multiple responses, parentheses indicate previous survey)

1.       Employee education and training services 48% (35%)
2.       Community relations (consensus building with local residents, etc.) 38% (27%)
3.       Government relations 29% (18%)
4.       Planning and management of owned and social media 73% (62%)
5.       Video production and promotion 61% (54%)
  • The fastest growing work categories since the last survey are those other than media relations, confirming the increasing emphasis on internal communication.
  • Relationship-building with stakeholders such as local communities and government agencies also is growing fast.
  • The use of owned and social media is becoming more widespread and increasingly important.


Top 10 Areas in Which Operational Needs Are Expected to Increase (multiple responses)

1.       Planning and implementation of online press conferences and PR events 67%
2.       Production and promotion of videos 65%
3.       Planning and management of owned and social media 61%
4.       Planning and implementation of online seminars and symposiums 58%
5.       Communication related to SDGs and ESG investments 55%
6.       Communication leveraging influencers 54%
7.       Crisis-management media training 46%
8.       Crisis management public relations (excluding media training) 41%
9.       Marketing consulting 38%
10.   Risk and crisis consulting 38%
  • The top four items in this grouping are all online-based, indicating a clear shift toward online PR work.
  • 55% of the respondents selected “ Communication related to SDGs and ESG investments,” indicating an increasing focus on this field.
  • The importance of public relations for crisis management is gaining recognition, as evidenced by the fact that three related items made the top-10 list.


Key Issues Regarding Public Relations Services
(multiple responses, figures in parentheses from previous survey)

1.       Securing and developing human resources 70% (80%)
2.       Developing new public relations methods 65% (55%)
3.       Leveraging online public relations methods 58% (new item)
4.       Diversification of service offerings 51% (38%)
5.       Securing quality partners and subcontractors 45% (44%)
6.       Forming business alliances with other PR firms and subcontractors 45% (32%)
  • The top two issues, “securing and developing human resources” and “developing new public relations methods,” are the same as in the previous survey.
  • “Leveraging online public relations methods,” which was added to the survey this year, came in third place, confirming the shift toward online work.


Key Business Issues
(multiple responses, figures in parentheses from previous survey)

1.       Expanding sales 7% (65%)
2.       Increasing employee motivation 57% (52%)
3.       Reforming workstyles 45% (42%)
4.       Allying with other companies 38% (32%)
5.       Securing mid-career hires offering immediate skills 33% (44%)
  • “Expanding sales” increased 12 points from the previous survey, reflecting the urgent need for business recovery.
  • “Increasing employee motivation” rose by 5 points. Together “reforming workstyles,” this has become a key issue related to teleworking.
  • “Securing mid-career hires offering immediate skills” decreased by 11 points, indicating COVID-19’s impact on recruitment plans.


Top 3 Workplace Reforms Implemented So Far
(figures in parentheses include those planning implementation)

1.       Introduction of teleworking 91% (91%)
2.       Introduction of fully flexible work schedules 61% (68%)
3.       Introduction of commuting-rate targets 57% (64%)
  • “Teleworking” is the top reform implemented so far, cited by 91% of respondents.
  • 61% of respondents have already introduced “fully flexible work schedules,” and the figure rises to 68% including those planning to do so in the foreseeable future.


COVID-19’s Impact on Fiscal 2020 Sales

1.       Caused sales to decrease greatly 44%
2.       Caused sales to decrease slightly 35%
3.       Caused sales to remain flat 10%
4.       Caused sales to increase 6%


Business Sectors Impacted by COVID-19
(n=50 companies, multiple responses)

1.       Events 22
2.       Media relations and advertising 16
3.       Tourism 8
4.       Overseas 5
  • The most affected sector was “events,” followed by “media relations and advertising.”
  • Restrictions on outbound and inbound travel had a significant impact on public relations-related “tourism” and “overseas” business.