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The following research is based on responses from a survey sent to this year's Influence 100, and when applicable, our own analysis and research. Because of rounding, some percentages might exceed 100%.
In a hopeful reversal, the number of executives who oversee PR budgets greater than $100m continues has rebounded after a multi-year free fall: 50% in 2014, 27% in 2015 and 14% in 2016. Meanwhile the number of people who peg their budget between $75m and $100m spiked up to 19.35% after two years steady at 10% and those who report a budget between $50m to $74m tumbled down to 12.9% from 28% in 2016. Another near 20% oversee budgets between $25m to $49m. Meanwhile, nearly 30% have PR budget oversight for budgets under $25m.
These budgets include a range of activities, most commonly: media relations, employee engagement, all communications, executive visibility, events, analyst relations, content marketing, social media — in a handful of instances, this included staff salaries, agency fees, branding and advertising.
The number who saw budgets increase is down, meanwhile 46% respondents saw their budgets hold steady over 2016 (meanwhile, increases were mostly under 10%, plus 4% saw decreases that ranged from 15% to 5%). Most of the Influence 100 — 47% — manage teams that exceed 100 people and while budgets were flat, 36% of respondents were able to expand their teams up to 30%. Meanwhile, 54% kept their teams flat and the rest reported a decrease.
The majority of spend goes towards PR/corporate reputation — but respondents expect to spend less on this and content development in 2018 and, instead, spend more on organic and paid social media. Advertising, CRM and employee engagement are others areas where respondents expect to spend less next year. Spend on analytics, experiential and sponsorships are expected to hold relatively steady.
Agency spend appears to be up with 15% spending more than $30m on partners, up from 4% in this category last year. Meanwhile, one-third of the respondents spend between $10m to $29m on agencies. On the lower end, the number of respondents spending less than $1m declined from 20% to 14% this year.
The Influence 100, this year, has more influence on hiring agencies beyond PR firms. This year, 79% of respondents were the primary decision-maker for digital/social agencies (up from 64% last year) and 47% said the same of advertising agencies (up from 43% in 2016).
There’s been a surge of respondents who use one global agency of record. Last year, only 6.5% said they use one global AOR — that figure doubled this year. It makes sense, then, the number who said they have a global AOR, but also work with other firms dropped by 16 points down to 32%. Even so, selecting firms on a project basis is on the rise — this is up 13 points from last year. Those who have AORs for each region slipped down from 6.5% in 2016.
There’s been a big uptick those preferring an invitation-only pitch — 63% versus 55% from last year. This comes at the cost of the traditional RFI/RFP process which is losing steam at 27% from 35% in the previous year. Also, notable — the number of respondents who prefer to hire an agency they have previously worked with is down to just 3% from 17% last year. Those opting to tap into their referral network is down three points to 7%.
There’s also been some significant shifting in the perceived value that agencies bring to their clients. This year, generating new ideas and creative thinking soared past last year’s top response — strategic counsel and direction. Somewhat disappointingly, strategic counsel and direction is down considerably from last year’s 40%, while tactical support and execution has surged ahead from 17% last year. Geographic coverage is down from last year’s 10%.
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