This is a guest post by Burghardt Tenderich, Associate Director, Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center, at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Do you want to know what corporate PR departments really want from their agencies, and how important agency relationships are in the eyes of chief communicators? So did we, and have now published a comprehensive set of findings on the state of the public relations industry. Our research team recently surveyed 620 senior communicators and compiled results of the seventh biennial Communication and Public Relations Generally Accepted Practices (GAP VII) study, intended to provide practitioners with useful information to better manage the communication functions in their organizations.
Some of the findings indicate a shift in corporate-agency relationships. As an example, agency-of-record (AOR) relationships are vanishing. In 2002, more than 50 percent of public companies reported an AOR relationship. This number decreased continuously and now has shrunk to just over 15 percent. At the same time, the number of agencies individual corporations engage with continues to increase. This may mean more agencies are getting the opportunity to pursue more clients, many of which previously had AOR relationships. It may also be attributed to demand for specialized and/or regionally focused agency services, or, it could also be the result of increased competition and bidding for individual projects.
GAP VII also offers insight into why and how companies engage with agencies. Corporate respondents listed “additional arms and legs” as the primary reason. However, they also said that they retain agencies for purposes such as providing a unique perspective, offering market insight and a strategic point of view.
A deeper look into the motivations for corporate use of agencies reveals two clusters of PR departments: those that primarily use agencies for tactical purposes, and those that engage strategically. The data show a significant relationship between strategic agency use and higher scores on variables indicating success (e.g. the PR department’s recommendations taken seriously by management, and a positive view on how highly CEOs regards the PR function). Conversely, low strategic use and high tactical use are associated with the weakest scores on multiple success indicators.
The message to corporate clients: if you engage your agencies strategically, you’re more likely to be successful.
Other topics covered by GAP VII include areas of responsibility, budgets, trends in social media, reporting lines, integration and PR’s contributions to business goals.
Key findings include a steep rise in budgets allocated measurement and evaluation, more mainstream use of social media, and expanded responsibility for customer relations and internal communication. Marketing/product PR is on the decline.
Additionally, the study found that PR/Communication (finally!) has “a seat at the table.” In nearly 60 percent of responding companies, PR/Communication reported directly to the C-Suite (chairman, CEO, COO, etc.), reflecting today’s increasingly transparent, communication-intensive environment.
The GAP VII study report is available for free download at the USC Annenberg Strategic Communication and Public Relation Center’s (SCPRC) web site. The same location hosts the GAP VII Insight Base, a comprehensive online catalogue of detailed findings, where PR practitioners can gain insight into specific topics of interest to their organization.
Posted on: April 19, 2012 at 9:00 am By Todd Defren