The Indian PR industry still has its best days ahead of it, despite stalled growth, high unemployment and subsequent pressure on marketing and communications budgets, according to more than 60 percent of respondents to an online survey conducted by Penn Schoen Berland in partnership with Impact magazine for the annual Indian Public Relations & Corporate Communications Conference 2013.

An overwhelming majority, more than 90 percent of respondents, said the PR industry landscape is more complex today as a result of the emergence of the Internet and digital media complemented by the growth of social media platforms. But most suggest that consultancies have new growth opportunities—to build new competencies, invest in new technology and enhance best practices.

According to Ashwani Singla, chief executive and managing director of Penn Schoen Berland, Asia, “The industry may appear to be overly optimistic about its future, but our analysis indicates that the increasing complexity of the PR business in India is a result of many things, in particular due to client organizations seeking more ‘strategic’ bang for their investments to drive greater impact on their businesses.

“A customized communications approach that rests fundamentally on research-driven insights to take a PR campaign ahead is the way the industry is going to go toward to really drive greater value for smarter client audiences.”

Interestingly, 80 percent of clients say that PR plays a strategic role in their business, but only 69 percent of consultancies feel PR is treated as a strategic partner.

The survey also found two-thirds of respondents acknowledging the growing importance of social and digital media for their businesses and, indeed, for long-term strategic growth; and more than 85 percent of clients saying that digital marketing is a key tool for driving engagements due to its ability to connect in real time, its reach, and its ability to scale efficiently and with speed.

But clients are a divided house when it comes to evaluating PR consultancies on their ability to understand new mediums of engagement.