A new survey of corporate communications, public relations, marketing and industry leaders reveals that 76 percent rely on word of mouth recommendations from their peers to find PR agencies and other communications firms. The survey, conducted by CommunicationsMatch in partnership with CommPRO.biz, also found that 37 percent of respondents are planning to engage new agencies in 2017. Although respondents rarely expressed dissatisfaction with existing agencies, the survey shows the primary reason for hiring new firms was a need for new capabilities.
Where companies were looking to hire, the main focus was on digital skillsets. When selecting communications partners, the report also found that creativity, multi-disciplinary communications capabilities, reputation and specialized expertise were priorities.
The report highlights what respondents consider to be the most important communications capabilities to business success. More than nine out of 10 pointed to public relations, closely followed by digital marketing and social media. Traditional marketing followed in terms of its importance cited by eight out of 10 respondents. Digital (six out of 10) and traditional advertising (four out of 10) were lowest ranked.
The research shows that Google and LinkedIn were used by 20 percent of respondents, alone or in combination with other resources as a means to find agencies. Associations, trade media and industry meetings being used as resources to find agencies by around 10 percent of respondents.
“Word of mouth is the principal tool for businesses to find the agencies they are looking for and other resources play a secondary supporting role,” said Simon Erskine Locke, founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatch, in a news release. “The downside of asking peers is this may not surface many agencies with skillsets that would be a match for a company’s needs, including smaller or diverse firms.”
The survey found that around two-thirds of respondents didn’t believe it was easy to find agencies—but the one-third who specifically said it was difficult or somewhat difficult to find agencies underscores the limitations of word of mouth as a resource.
Ninety-one corporate communications, marketing and industry influencers responded to the survey of CommPRO.biz readers. With the modest sample size, the survey statistics should be considered directional.