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 almost back up to pre-pandemic levels.

Our Influence 100 now control PR spend of more than $4.7 billion, compared to $4.8 billion in 2019, with a 13% drop to $4.2 billion in 2020. Budgets are still much lower than the $6.5bn recorded when the survey launched ten years ago.

There was a slight rise in the number of this year’s CMOs and CCOs who said they were managing PR budgets of more than $100m: 27% compared with 24% last year. That’s still down from 31% in 2019, but well up on 11% in 2018.

Those who peg their budget between $75m and $100m was up again from to 6% in 2019, to 7% in 2020 and 11% this year, while those handling a budget of between $50m and $75m levelled at 13%, similar to 2020.

Many fewer respondents – 37% – now manage a PR budget of less than $25m, compared to a high of 55% last year as budgets were hit by the pandemic, and 40% in 2019.

We asked an open-ended question about how much budgets had increased or reduced by for 2021. At least half said budgets had been flat, and a healthy number said budgets had increased by between 2% and 40% for the year, but a large proportion also said 2021 budgets have been lower than 2020, from 5% cuts to a halving of the previous year, with a notable number saying 2021 was around 10% down on 2020.

Agency spend also appears to be on an upward trajectory, with 30% spending more than $20m on their PR agency partners compared to 28.5% last year and 17% in 2019. Around the same proportion – 32% – spent between $2m and $10m, up from 28.5 last year, while 16% had a PR budget of £10m-$20m, compared to 14% in 2020.

At the lower end, the number of respondents spending less than $1m was up again to pre-2020 levels at 16%, compared to 5% last year, and the number spending between $1-$2m was 7%, compared to 24% last year.

In-depth research into how the Influence 100 manages its teams, budgets and agencies can be found here, including reporting lines, the impact of Covid-19 on 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, Q7As with many of this year's cohort, and data on this year's demographics.

Two further waves of insights, to be released in the coming days, will look at budgets, organisational structures, relationships with agencies and diversity, and qualitative research into future challenges for the CCO and CMO roles.

PRovoke Media will also reveal who our influencers think are the best and worst communicators among the world’s leaders, which companies and brands have done the best and worst job of managing their reputations over the past year, and the PR agencies they admire the most.

The Influence 100 report will also identify the Crossover Stars – our ‘hall of fame’ of those former CCOs and CMOs who have taken the rare step of moving into a broader management role within their organisation, along with Rising Stars, our annual list of potential CCOs and CMOs of the future.