BARCELONA--The public relations industry outperformed global economic growth in 2011, according to the ICCO World Report.

Then annual report, which consolidates information supplied by ICCO's 23 national trade association members, found strong consultancy growth of around 20 percent in Brazil, Russia, India and Australia. 

PR firms in the US, UK, Nordics, Czech Republic and Turkey also reported solid growth of as much as 10 percent in 2011. 

However, harder-hit European economies struggled, with a decline of as much as 20 percent in Portugal, Spain and Slovenia.

The world's two largest PR markets - the US and UK - both benefited from strong consumer activity, with the London 2012 Olympics expected to provide a further boost to the UK in 2012.

Elsewhere, Brazil reported its fourth-consecutive year of 20+ percent growth. National trade association Abracom now estimates the size of its PR consultancy market at €833m. Both Brazil and Russia benefited from public sector demand, although - in Russia's case at least - there are structural concerns over the sustainability of public sector fee income.

While Europe reported a varied picture, in line with corresponding economic conditions, Ireland continues to maintain a stable outlook, despite an ongoing environment of austerity.

Many markets reported good growth prospects for digital/social media services. Other sources of rising PR demand are crisis/issues management; public affairs, particularly across Europe and the BRICS; and, healthcare.

For the fourth year in a row, energy tops the list of most promising industries in terms of demand for PR services. A little more surprisingly, banking and finance is also on the rise again.

The report also identifies five challenges ahead for PR consultancies - staffing; pricing; client budgets; profitability; and, measurement.