Marketers plan to increase both internal staffing and overall spending on public relations over the next five years, according to a new report conducted by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the USC Center for Public Relations at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Conducted this winter, the survey was designed to shed light on the public relations perceptions of client-side marketers.
Sixty-two percent of respondents answered that they planned to increase internal public relations staffing over the next five years and a full 75 percent said they planned to increase overall spending on PR over that same time period. Over the current year, 16 percent of respondents said they planned to increase internal PR staffing and 25 percent said they planned to increase overall spending on PR.
“Public relations as a discipline is clearly evolving and becoming more important to marketers,” ANA group executive vice president Bill Duggan said in a statement. “And PR is being fueled by the rise and omnipresence of digital communications. Digital has put PR front and center, as it allows immediate outbound communication and inbound feedback.”
“Our findings clearly predict a convergence of PR and marketing over the next five years,” added USC Center for Public Relations director Fred Cook. “It’s going to be very interesting to see how that merger plays out in agencies and organizations.”
Fifty-four percent of respondents said that public relations would change over the next five years by becoming “more closely aligned with marketing,” while 18 percent went as far as to say it would “become a subset of marketing.”
That doesn’t translate to an increased reliance on outside agencies.
Only 22 percent of respondents said that they thought they would increase the number of agencies they work with over the next five years, while 34 percent said they would likely decrease, either slightly or dramatically, the number of agencies with which they work. Forty-four percent expected neither an increase or a decrease. Top reasons cited for turning to outside agencies include “expertise in specific practice areas” and “strategic insights.”
There was widespread consensus on how public relations can most effectively demonstrate its value.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents agreed that demonstrating “how public relations programs achieve measurable business objectives” would accomplish that. Other top responses included improved “measurement of results” (53 percent), demonstrating “leadership on key business initiatives” (46 percent) and working “across all departments and business units” (44 percent).
Digital trends are of the utmost importance to the future of public relations, according to the survey. When asked to rank the importance of individual trends, respondents indicated that “social listening” and “digital storytelling” were their primary concerns.