LONDON — A new survey of the Influence 100, PRovoke Media’s annual list of the world's most powerful brand and corporate communicators, reveals that total PR budgets are back up to pre-pandemic levels.

This year, our Influence 100 cohort control an estimated PR spend of more than $4.8 billion, an increase on last year’s $4.7 billion and far ahead of 2020’s dip to $4.2 billion, after being at $4.8 billion in 2019.

Despite the overall rise, there was a dip in the number of our overall Influence 100 managing budgets of more than $100 million. Last year the figure was 27%, this year it was 25%. The number of CMOs and CCOs managing between $75 million and $100 million grew, however, from 11% last year to 12.5% in 2022. And the next budget bracket, $50-$75 million, also leaped from 14% to 17.5%.

At the bottom end, the percentage handling budgets under $5 million almost halved, from 14% in 2021 to 7.5% this year, and there was an almost corresponding rise in those managing $5-$10 million, up to 15% compared to 9% last year.

Overall around 40% of respondents said their budget had remained flat this year – last year almost half had experienced no movement in their budgets. A robust 46% reported an increase in budget of between 5 and 20%. Just 7% said budgets were down, by between 5 and 15%. The remaining 7% said budgets had increased substantially, between 30 and 50% year on year.

Agency spend has stalled ever so slightly since last year, when a full 30% were spending more than $20 million on their PR agency partners. This year the figure has dropped to 26%, with a further 25% spending between $10 million and $20 million, compared to 16% last year. At the lower end, 18% of respondents were spending less than $1 million, slightly up from 16% last year, and 8% were spending $1-$2 million, up slightly from 7% last year but down significantly from 24% in 2020.

Our research also reveals there are big changes ahead for spending priorities for our Influence 100. Although corporate reputation remains the top budget priority, up one per cent from last year to 66%, the new category of corporate social responsibility/ESG is set to be a major area of spend, at 59%. This reflects a growing focus in both the industry and the wider landscape on environmental and social issues. Content development and marketing has also jumped up the list, up from a priority area for 46% last year to 56% in 2022.

Social media, by turn, has decreased as a priority spending area. Last year it was second on the list, as a priority for 60%, this year it has slipped to joint fourth alongside employee engagement and change management, both at 49%.

In-depth research into how the Influence 100 manages its teams, budgets and agencies can be found here, including reporting lines, team size, where PR spend is likely to be directed in the year ahead, relationships with agencies, and pitch processes, including the role of procurement.

The full Influence 100 listing can be found here, including profiles of each executive and insights on their demographics.

In the coming days we will also release the results of our research into the future challenges for the CCO and CMO roles, attitudes to diversity, the Influence 100’s views of the best and worst corporate and political communicators and the agencies they most admire, plus the Crossover Stars list of those who have crossed from the comms world into broader management roles, and the Rising Stars list of future CCOs and CMOs nominated by this year’s cohort.