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Global investment in public relations (PR) is treading water, according to the latest Grayling Pulse Report, released October 2012. A plurality (41.7%) of in-house marketing and communications professionals surveyed from around the world report that their companies’ PR investments were unchanged in Q3 2012. The percentage who reported those investments to be down was virtually unchanged from the previous quarter (18.8% for Q3 vs. 19% for Q2), as was the proportion who reported an investment hike (20.1% v. 21.8%). Overall, companies appear more willing to invest in project-based PR than in retained PR relationships. Only 8.8% of companies increased their retained PR investment in Q3, while more than double decreased those investments (24%). By contrast, respondents reported being as likely to increase as decrease their investments in project-based PR (17.8% vs. 18.9%).

Social Media The Big Winner

Breaking down global PR investment by selected practice areas, social media and digital PR appears to be a top gainer, with 43.5% of respondents reporting increased investment in this area in Q3, compared to just 7.7% decreasing investment. Another 35.7% kept spending levels constant.

Corporate communications and reputation management had a relatively strong period, with almost twice as many respondents increasing rather than decreasing investment (24.2% vs. 13.7%). PR investments related to corporate social responsibility and crisis communications were less heady. The former saw 16% increasing compared to 11.7% decreasing; the latter was essentially neutral, with 9.5% increasing their investments, and 9.7% decreasing them.

There may be some crossover appearing between social media and crisis communications, and companies at this stage don’t appear to be ready to respond to those challenges. According to an Ethical Corporation and Useful Social Media survey released in July, of respondents that have been subject to social media criticism however strong (ranging from a single complaint to a full-scale campaign), fully 72% rated their preparedness as average or below, with 20% being completely unprepared.

Other Findings:

  • According to the Grayling survey, the most common primary objectives respondents named for their companies’ digital strategies were awareness (22.1%) and improved reputation (21.4%).
  • Asked how integrated their companies’ digital PR strategy is with overall communications strategies, 39.1% reported those strategies are fully integrated, 52.9% claimed they are partially integrated, and 6.2% say they are entirely separate.
  • 41.9% of respondents asid that the visibility of communications activity at a senior/board level increased, while another 45.8% said it stayed the same. Just 6.1% reported a decreasing level.

About The Data: The findings are based on a survey of 1,119 clients of Grayling, non-Grayling clients, and wider industry professionals. Respondents were chiefly in-house marketing and communications professionals, and were from a cross section of industries (including tech companies, retail companies, social media, etc.).

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