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 dropped by 13% in 2020.

The numbers indicate that the individuals in our Influence 100 now control PR spend of more than $4.2bn – down a not-surprising but significant amount from last year’s total of $4.8bn. This is still up on 2018’s $3.3bn, although much less than the $6.5bn recorded when this survey launched in 2012.

There was also a drop in the number of our CMOs and CCOs who said they were managing PR budgets of more than $100m: 24% compared with 31% last year, although that’s still up on 11% in 2018.

Those who peg their budget between $75m and $100m was slightly up from to 6% to 7%, while but those handling a budget of between $50m and $75m levelled at 14%, from 17% in 2019.

A lot more respondents – 55% – now manage a PR budget of less than $25m, which is comparable with 2018 but a hike on the 40% figure last year.

The majority said budgets had been flat within their organisation, and a healthy number said budgets had increased by between 5% and 50% for the year, but a large proportion also said 2020 budgets have been lower on 2019, from 5% cuts to a halving of the previous year, with a notable number saying 2020 was around 20% down on 2019.

To capture how much of this was down to the financial impact of Covid-19, we specifically asked if PR budgets have been cut this year as a direct result of the pandemic: 56% said they had.

Agency spend again appears to be up, with 28.5% spending more than $20m on their PR agency partners, compared to 17% last year. The same proportion spent between $2m and $10m, while 14% had a PR budget of £10m-$20m. At the lower end, the number of respondents spending less than $1m was way down on the previous two years: 5% compared to 17% in 2019 and 20% in 2018.

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 during lockdown, and pitch processes, including the role of procurement.

The full Influence 100 listing can be found here, including profiles of each executive and insights on their demographics.