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Demand for PR services strong: survey

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BLOG: The results from our 2021 Financial Services Marketing Executive Survey are in, and they add to the anecdotal evidence that public relations skills were keenly sought-after in marketing communications in the past year. It is a demand that the survey suggests will continue through 2022.

In all, 40 per cent of respondents said that they increased their public relations spend during 2021 with only 4 per cent saying they decreased spending.  It would seem that COVID-19 clearly hasn’t slowed an increased use of public relations.

Expanding use of public relations during the pandemic is consistent with our own experience in business development and is contributing to the recruitment difficulties we, and others, are experiencing. This is an issue being addressed by the Public Relations Institute of Australia with initiatives such as its submission to the Department of Home Affairs highlighting the profession’s skills shortage.

For marketing departments it would seem cost-effectiveness is a big attraction of public relations, with most respondents (85 per cent) admitting they used public relations during the year to make their budgets go further.

Executives’ opinions of their public relations advisers also improved during 2021, and 80 per cent of respondents said they thought better of them during the year than before.

Despite the increasing discussion around use of other communication channels, marketers still see media relations as highly important.  In all, 44 per cent of respondents said that one of the aims of increasing their public relations budget was to gain more media coverage.

This is consistent with larger local and international studies during the year that we have referred to before, such as those by the US based Institute of Public Relations and Telum Media.

Strategic advice and content placement both scored 60 per cent in our survey, and content development came next (55 per cent) in importance to marketing executives.

Perhaps surprisingly, social media was not seen as a prized consultancy offering, perhaps because marketing executives sourced this service elsewhere, or possibly because the financial services industry is still cautious about its use because of regulatory and compliance issues.

And in response to a question “What do you prize most from your consultancy?”, 80 per cent said “easy to work with” and that its people were reliable.

Looking ahead, marketing managers expect media relations in particular to grow in importance (90 per cent) with strategic advice and content development and placement continuing as important services.

One very satisfying response for public relations professionals is that the outlook is very positive. In all, 40 per cent of respondents said they are likely to increase public relations spending in 2022 while 45 per cent were unsure. Only 15 per cent said they were unlikely to increase their public relations budget.

It would seem that if there is one other thing that marketing executives would like more of from their public relations advisers in 2022, it’s more creativity and coming up with more ideas.  A total of 45 per cent of respondents said they would see this as a major improvement they would like to see.

But, as mentioned before, in the immediate future, the lack of available people with the right skills and talent is likely to have a severe impact on the public relations profession and curtail its growth prospects.

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