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 have been slashed, as the global economic slowdown continues.

This year, our Influence 100 cohort control a combined spend of $3.7 billion, a drop of more than $1bn on last year’s figure of $4.8 billion and far below 2020’s dip to $4.2 billion, after being at $4.8 billion in 2019.

The drop is largely down to a significant dip in the number of our Influence 100 managing top-end budgets. Last year the number who managed budgets of more than $100m was 25% (compared to 27% in 2021), while this year it is down to 17%.

The number of CMOs and CCOs managing between $75 and $100m also dropped, from 12.5% last year to 10% (although this is on a par with 11% in 2021), and the next budget bracket, $50-$75m, also saw a drop from 17.5% to 13%, one percentage point lower than 2021.

The proportion of communications leaders managing budgets of between $25m and $50m remained the same as last year, at 10%, and the only budget bracket that saw an increase was at the lower end, $10m-$25m, which shot up from 12.5% to 30%.

At the bottom end, the percentage handling budgets under $5m was back up to 13% from 7.5% last year (in 2021 it was 14%), and those managing $5-$10m dropped from 15% to 7% (compared to 9% in 2021).

Despite the drop in combined budgets, many respondents said their own budget had remained flat this year, up from less than half last year. For the few who had seen an increase in budget, for most this was only between 5% and 10%.

Mirroring this, agency spend has fallen significantly again this year. In 2021, a full 30% were spending more than $20m on their PR agency partners; last year this dropped to 26%, and this year just 17% have agency budgets of more than $20m.

Our research also reveals some notable changes ahead in spending priorities for our Influence 100. Corporate reputation remains the top budget priority, up two per cent from last year to 68%, but corporate social responsibility/ESG has dropped well down the table from 59% to 32%, despite the continuing focus in the industry and the wider landscape on environmental and social issues.

By contrast, executive positioning and thought leadership has jumped up, from 28% of last year’s Influence 100 seeing it as a spending priority, to 59%, putting it in second place. In third position as a priority area of a spend is employee engagement and change management, up from 49% to 53%. Content development and marketing has dropped slightly from being a priority for 56% last year, to 50%.

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 and the research results revealed so far can be found here including profiles of each executive, plus 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.