PR budgets up, but AOR relationships on the decline

PR budgets are mostly up compared with two years ago, and measurement and evaluation are also on the rise, according to findings from the USC Annenberg Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center.

PR budgets are mostly up compared with two years ago, and measurement and evaluation are also on the rise, according to findings from the USC Annenberg Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center.

The bi-annual study was conducted in the fourth quarter of last year, with the help of the Arthur W. Page Society, the Institute for Public Relations, the International Association of Business Communicators, and Public Relations Society of America. It contacted 620 senior-level communicators or their direct reports for the generally accepted practices (GAP) study.

The overall purpose of the study is to provide PR practitioners actionable insight into best practices, said Burghardt Tenderich, associate professor and associate director of the strategic communication and PR center (SCPRC) at the University of Southern California. The study considered factors such as budget, reporting lines, and areas of responsibility.

“The way practitioners have been using the GAP report is in planning discussions for how the PR function should be managed and should be run,” Tenderich said.  

Since the time of the last GAP study, corporations have reported an increase, from 4% to 9%, in budgets allocated for the measurement and evaluation of PR and communications programs.

“Our hypothesis is this is a reflection of the widespread adoption of social media and social media monitoring tools,” Tenderich said. “But it may also really be an indication that PR is viewed more strategically now by the rest of the organization.”

The study found that in terms of communications measurement, outcome-based metrics like the bottom line, influence, and strategic outcomes are more frequently related to success than measures such as advertising equivalency, impressions, and clips.

Another continuing trend is that AOR relationships are on the decline and being replaced with more of a “best-of-breed” approach. Just 15% of respondents reported AOR relationships, while the number of agencies used by corporations is on the rise. In 2002, more than 50% of corporations reported AOR relationships.

“We found that the trend away from the single AOR continues, and that's a finding we've now seen very consistently over the last 10 years,” Tenderich said.

Both the Gap VII study and the Gap VII Insight Base, which provides more comprehensive data, are available online free of charge through the USC Annenberg Strategic Communications and Public Relations Center website.

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