A majority of marketers plan to increase internal staffing and overall spending on public relations over the next five years as the discipline continues to become an increasingly important part of the marketing mix, according to a new report from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).
The report, conducted by the ANA in partnership with the USC Center for Public Relations at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, also revealed that digital communications are driving public relations, and the three most important trends that will affect the future of PR are social listening, digital storytelling, and real-time marketing.
The survey was conducted in the winter of 2017 and was designed to understand current client-side marketer perceptions of public relations. Respondents were asked to identify the trends most important to the future of public relations, how public relations demonstrates its value, and how public relations will develop over the next five years.
More than half of the respondents (62 percent) indicated they plan to increase internal staffing to support public relations over the next five years, and 75 percent said they plan to increase overall spending on PR. Those figures compared to 16 percent and 25 percent, respectively, who said they plan to make similar increases in the current year.
“Public relations as a discipline is clearly evolving and becoming more important to marketers,” said ANA Group EVP Bill Duggan, in a news release. “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.”
Fred Cook, director of the USC Center for Public Relations and chairman of Golin, added: “Our findings clearly predict a convergence of PR and marketing over the next five years. It’s going to be very interesting to see how that merger plays out in agencies and organizations.”
- Public relations is converging with marketing. According to 54 percent of survey respondents, public relations will change over the next five years by becoming more closely aligned with marketing. In fact, 72 percent of respondents answered that public relations will either become more closely aligned with marketing or become a subset of it.
- An overwhelming 89 percent of respondents said public relations can demonstrate its value most effectively by proving how its programs achieve measureable business outcomes and by improving measurement of results.
- Respondents indicated that the number of overall agencies (public relations, advertising, marketing, branding, digital, etc.) their organization will work with over the next five years will either stay the same (44 percent) or decrease slightly (31 percent).
“From a bird’s eye view, the study shows how much PR itself is evolving and at that, becoming even more essential for businesses’ marketing tactics,” says Julie Talenfeld, president of BoardroomPR. “As BusinessWire notes regarding the study, much of this can be linked to the digital revolution and the corresponding speed within which businesses, clients and the public now communicate: ‘The result is a convergence between PR and marketing and a shared use of specific tools aimed at building a bridge with potential clients and customers.’
“As PR and marketing converge and the landscape continues to skew digital, it’s important to remember that the data also bolsters the tentpole, evergreen notion of the industry: to tell stories that resonate at the time those stories should be told,” Talenfeld adds.
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel—maybe just trick it out a little bit.”
In total, 100 client-side marketers participated in the survey. Of those, 53 percent are “senior marketers” (director level and above) and 47 percent are “junior marketers” (manager level and below). On average, respondents have 17 years of experience in marketing/advertising. Thirty-four percent of respondents work at organizations which have an annual U.S. media budget of $100 million or more; the other 66 percent work at organizations which have an annual U.S. media budget of less than $100 million. Those organizations are primarily B-to-C for 42 percent of respondents, primarily B-to-B for 15 percent, and equally B-to-C/B-to-B for the remainder.