PR book On-line Readings in Public Relations by Michael Turney
Public relations practitioners in Greater Cincinnati
©1995 Michael Turney Table of contents PR class home page About the author

It's hard to accurately estimate the number of public relations practitioners in any American city, let alone describe them, since public relations is not a licensed activity in the United States and there is no authoritative record of who's doing it or what they're doing.

Unlike many other countries where public relations practitioners have to pass special tests, graduate from special schools, or be registered by the government before they can practice public relations, none of these restrictions exist in the U.S. Anyone who wants to say he or she is a public relations person can do so. -- Whether they'll be successful or not is another question. -- But, there's nothing to stop anyone, regardless of their credentials or lack thereof, from claiming to be a public relations practitioner, seeking clients, and trying to perform public relations work.

As a consequence, people are constantly moving into or out of the field. Career-changing and re-location are commonplace. Practitioners who've been long-time employees of large organizations may suddenly decide to quit and strike out on their own as independent consultants; others who've been entrepreneurs may decide to go to work for a large corporation. Firms are constantly being created, expanded, dissolved, and reorganized. The duties are also incredibly varied and constantly changing, as are the expectations of public relations employees. So, this or any other attempt to profile a particular public relations community offers, at best, only a partial, and fuzzy snapshot of the organizations, practitioners, and environment in which they operate.

The snapshot of public relations practitioners in Greater Cincinnati presented here was as focused as possible when it was developed during the summer of 1995. Details have undoubtedly changed since then, but several Cincinnati communicators who reviewed this profile in late 2000 said its general impressions are still accurate.

Cincinnati is an interesting venue for public relations.

As the economic, cultural, and transportation hub of the Ohio River Valley, it's a quirky and inconsistent blend of the old and the new and of traditional and progressive thinking. Additional background on Cincinnati is available in a linked file.

Cincinnati has a fairly broad-based economy that cuts across several service and industry sectors including manufacturing, retail sales, financial services, and health care. Hundreds of organizations in each of these sectors employ their own public relations and communication personnel, and more than 250 advertising, public relations, and communication consulting firms have offices in Cincinnati to serve those who prefer outside service providers.

Who does public relations in Cincinnati?

The best estimate, based on yellow pages listings and membership lists of local communication organizations, is that there are 50 companies that can be described as public relations firms with offices in Greater Cincinnati. Some offer only limited and specialized services, e.g. special event planning, news release distribution, or newsletter editing. Others are full-service public relations firms that handle everything from research and public relations planning through the production and dissemination of messages to the subsequent evaluation of communication campaign effectiveness. And, some of the largest firms also include marketing and advertising in their repertoire of communication services.

Firms that do only public relations -- as distinguished from advertising agencies and marketing firms that do public relations as one aspect of offering broader and more comprehensive communications services -- range in size from one-person entrepreneurships such as JSL Public Relations operated by Julie Steers or Triad Communications run by Mev Wilson which service two or three local clients at any given time up to Dan Pinger Public Relations, Inc. whose 16 full-time professionals typically work with 35 or more clients at a time.

There are other larger communication agencies doing public relations work in Cincinnati, but the majority of their work is advertising and marketing rather than public relations. Northlich and Sive-Young & Rubicam, for instance, each have more than 50 full-time employees, but only a half-dozen or so who are public relations professionals.

Determining the total number of practitioners is even more of a guess-timate and more likely to be inaccurate than projecting the number of firms. However, the memberships lists of the major communication organizations is one way to start.

Discounting those with multiple memberships, there are roughly 285 Cincinnati public relations practitioners who belong to at least one local communication organization.

The general consensus gleaned from talking to dozens of Cincinnati public relations people is that there are at least twice as many practitioners who are not members of these professional organizations as there are who are members. This is probably a very conservative estimate given national statistics which suggest a ratio approaching 5 to 1 based on a comparison of U.S. Census data and U.S. Labor Department projections of more than 120,000 public relations practitioners in the U.S. with PRSA and IABC's combined U.S. membership of roughly 27,000.

Using the conservative Cincinnati estimate of a 2-to-1 ratio of non-members to members, the total number of public relations people in Greater Cincinnati can be projected as about 850.

The typical Cincinnati public relations person ...

Who employs Cincinnati's PR people?

The organizations for whom these practitioners work range from amusement parks to a nuclear weapons development center. They manufacture products which range from potato chips to jet engines, provide services which range from blood transfusions to real estate sales, and collect everything from art treasures to solid waste.

Cincinnati's largest concentration of public relations people (over 20 percent according to the surveys) is employed in the medical and health care field. Each of the area's more than 30 hospitals employs at least one public relations person, -- Some have over a half-dozen. -- and so do the dozens of medical labs, physicians groups, and drug companies.

The second largest concentration of public relations people (almost 15 percent) are those employed by in non-profit organizations and trade associations. This includes social service providers, traditional charities, museums, and special committees and organizations set up to manage specific festivals and events such as the "Tall Stacks" riverboat reunion, the "Fine Arts Sampler Weekend," or "Summer Fair."

The third largest concentration of practitioners (also nearly 15 percent) includes those who work for public relations and other communication counseling firms.

What do they do?

Given the wide range of employers, experience, salaries, and job titles, a single description or list of the typical duties of the average Cincinnati area public relations practitioner could be very misleading. However, the 1991 IABC/Cincinnati survey attempted to find out what percentage of local practitioners performed various tasks.

Asked how they spend their work time, more than half of the public relations practitioners who responded said they spend ...

Are you surprised that none of the respondents mentioned spending any time on-line? You shouldn't be. The World Wide Web, Netscape, Yahoo, and other communication tools we take for granted today hadn't even been invented when this survey was done in the early 1990s.

There is clearly a need for an updated survey.

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26 May 2001