LONDON—Rising digital budgets are accelerating the expansion of UK PR firms into new service areas, according to initial findings from a new industry study released tonight.

The PRCA’s Digital PR Report 2013, produced in partnership with The Holmes Report and YouGov, sees two-thirds of in-house comms heads reporting rising digital budgets over the past year, with around the same proportion expecting continued growth in digital investment in 2014.

Main areas of digital spend include web design and build (79 percent), SEO (67 percent), monitoring and listening to customers (67 percent) and content creation (64 percent). The findings also revealed that 65 percent of communications departments now have overall ownership for digital content creation.

Unsurprisingly, those results are having an impact on how PR agencies invest for growth. 72 percent of PR firms, for example, now offer SEO services, up from 19 percent five years ago. 63 percent, meanwhile, provide web design and build, compared to 16 percent five years ago.

Danny Whatmough, Ketchum associate director of digital, and chairman of the PRCA Digital Group, believes the research shows that "PR agencies have really upped their game over the last few years". The survey drew responses from 136 agency and in-house comms heads.

"With a wealth of opportunity out there, now is the time for PR professionals to seize the initiative and show what they can do," said Whatmough. "The signs from our research is that they are taking up the battle cry and driving the industry forward.”

The full report will be revealed at a Festival of Marketing fringe event at Ketchum's offices in London this evening. The panel will be chaired by Whatmough, and will also feature Pete Sigrist, MD of 33 Digital; David Gallagher, CEO of Ketchum Europe; Jed Hallam, head of social strategy at Mindshare; and Candace Kuss, ECD of Hill+Knowlton Strategies' Interactive Lab.