MOSCOW—Russia's public relations market remains mired in uncertainty, even as the importance of social media rises, says a new study of the country's communications directors.

The second annual survey, conducted by Buman Media, polled more than 100 comms directors about the structure of Russian PR departments, their relationship with agencies and their changing budget policies, amid the country's current economic crisis.

It finds that PR budgets are being cut by around 10-20%. Last year, 51% of companies surveyed spent more than US$270k per year on PR, while this year only a quarter spent more than $110k. Only 20% plan to spend that much in 2016, with almost a quarter anticipating a budget of less $30k next year.

Meanwhile, creativity remains the biggest concern for Russian clients when it comes to their PR agencies, up from 53% last year to 71% this year. Other capabilities appear to be in better shape — with analytical skills (21%), social media expertise (21%), and internet marketing (18%) proving less problematic.

"The level of the creativity in PR agencies is falling but opposite to it the level of the analytics is growing," said Buman Media CEO Natalia Buchelnikova. "In such circumstances, it is vital to review the effectiveness of services, listen carefully to client opinions and trace market trends."

Social media continues to rise as a communications priority for Russian companies.  Online media is viewed as the leading communication channel, with  80% of Russian comms directors rating it efficient. 48% see social media as an effective tool, ahead of special projects, events, TV/radio. Print media only garners 21% support, just ahead of guerilla marketing methods.

Bucelnikova also pointed to the growing importance of visual media. 44% see Facebook as the most important channel, followed by VK at 24%, Instagram at 14% and LinkedIn at 12%. Video content emerges this year — with 7% of respondents calling it an important communication channel.

62% of those polled work with a PR agency in 2015. When it comes to measuring agency results, media coverage and events tops the list.

Among those who don’t work with a PR agency, over half (52%) do not believe they need an agency for their comms needs, 19% said they do not trust outside experts, whille 13% reported budget constraints. ​

Despite the economic slowdown, or perhaps because of their cuts in PR budget elsewhere,  22% of companies increased their communications headcount, while only 9% reduced staff.