Survey Says Clients Trust Ad, Marketing Agencies Over PR Firms


We don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but a recent survey of in-house marketers conducted by Marketing Week and Weber Shandwick tells us that, when asked to name a “primary strategic partner”, far more clients chose their ad and marketing agencies than their PR firms. Here’s a mixed-message quote:

“More than five times as many marketers say PR agencies are losing ground as say they are gaining ground on other specialisms. There is good news too for the discipline. Respondents agree that PR agencies take the lead on messaging and are a strategic partner, and that reputation management is crucial in a digital world.”

The news could be worse, though–and it is far worse for social media agencies.

This graphic stings:


That isn’t to say that the outlook is sunny for ad/digital/branding agencies, though:

“Specialist consultants are gaining ground on agencies as marketers’ first port of call for business advice.”

At the same time, survey participants still go to their agencies most often when seeking business advice. Note the “I don’t have time to deal with it now” category:

marketing graph 2

So what’s the problem? ROI, of course. Another unsurprising conclusion:

“There is evidence too that the concept of having a lead agency is gradually becoming outdated in favour of more evenly weighted responsibilities.”

The key company heralding this trend is Apple, which recently took more of its own ad and marketing responsibilities in-house.

So how can PR firms do better? More accurate measurement, for one. Participants named statistical proof of ROI and personalization of campaigns as two of the areas in which they feel most “underserved.”

marketing graph 3

Clients also want their firms to keep them better informed on larger trends in the marketplace and, more to the PR point, consumer behaviors and emerging platforms like whatever the latest hot social network might happen to be.

In other words, one can never be too innovative. Here are some key “things you should do” quotes:

  • “Find us new and interesting channels to reach our target audiences – our media recommendations are always ‘same old’.”
  • “Understand changes in SEO and content marketing, and how they can be applied.”
  • “Have a view on how they integrate with the activities of other agencies and don’t land-grab.”
  • “Communicate and deliver – neither of which my agencies do. They are missing targets, which we agreed together, and are costing me money through failed projects and reputation through cancelled events.”

The survey can be dismissed due to the fact that it only involved 128 marketers, but like so many research pieces, it primarily serves to confirm things we already knew.