BEIJING — BlueFocus and Ruder Finn have come out on top of R3's biannual study of PR agency relationships in China.

The two firms were ranked highest for 'demonstrating active transformation', while SKI-II, Tencent and Huawei were rated as producing the best PR campaigns over the last two years.

The most recent wave of R3's study interviewed 121 senior executives from 109 companies working with China-based PR agencies, analyzing 139 relationships. After the last wave found that digital is transforming agency relationships in China, the latest edition reveals the extent to which PR firms have expanded beyond their traditional media relations and public affairs heartland.
R3 China PR Agency Scope - Strenghts
More than half of survey respondents reported that their PR agencies' scope of work included event and experiential marketing, as well as influencer and digital marketing, with 15% involved in customer relationship management, and 20% in IP sponsorship and e-commerce. 

According to the report, this reflects the view that PR firms are better able to think and plan from a holistic perspective compared with other types of agencies, leading to improved strategy and integration. This, according to R3, is also an important reason why PR agencies tend to be invited to brand-level pitches.

"Aside from traditional PR scope of work, like media and government liaison, the capability to handle digital and social marketing gives PR agencies an advantage in today’s media landscape," says R3 China MD Sabrina Lee. "How they use data and technology to drive performance will separate the agencies that can expand their client relationships from those who might lose work to more specialized partners, or even in-house capability."
R3 China PR Agency Scope - Keys to Transformation
According to China marketers, the keys to PR agency transformation are led by understanding new media trends, strategic insight, industry expertise and integrated marketing capabilities. 

While those findings are encouraging, the report also reveals that 29% of Chinese marketers are planning to review their PR agencies and 50% find agency management a challenge, even while agency-client relationships have increased in duration by one year since 2018.
R3 China PR Agency Scope - Challenges
The biggest challenges facing PR firms, according to respondents, are talent and innovation — which will come as little surprise to industry observers. 

“Marketers are more demanding of their PR agencies and have higher expectations, with 35% providing active feedback,” said Lee. “For agencies that have shown their capability and commitment, the door is open for increased scope of work.”