London,
16
January
2017

PRCA Consultancy Barometer reveals increased budgets, new business, and optimism

Leaders of PR and communications consultancies are reporting increased budgets, increased new business, and notable optimism about their own consultancy.

The findings in the PRCA Consultancy Barometer Q4 2016 have revealed that 33% of consultancies have very busy levels of new business. 53% say that it is busy and just 2% say that it is unchanged. 12% said it is quiet. No respondents said it is very quiet.

Adding to this, 33% of clients increased their budgets significantly or marginally. 51% reported clear stability with no change to these budgets.

The last quarter has resulted in a significant optimism boom: 59% of PR and communications leaders state that the quarter made them more optimistic about their own consultancy. While 31% reported that their optimism has stayed the same, just 10% feel less optimistic.

Outside of their own organisation, 39% of PR and communications consultancy leaders report that the last quarter has made them feel more optimistic about the industry. 47% reported no change to their overall outlook and just 14% said they feel less optimistic because of the last quarter.

Over-servicing levels continue to decline: 33% said that it had decreased while 47% said that it stayed the same. 20% saw an increase.

When asked what they think will happen to the economy over the next 12 months, a combined 49% expect it to improve or stay the same. Whilst 31% expect the economy to worsen despite extremely positive barometer results, a significant 20% of leaders said that they did not know what would happen to the UK economy.

Reporting on staff numbers in their consultancy over the next quarter, just 6% foresee a decrease: 52% responded that staff numbers will increase and 41% said numbers will stay the same. Similarly, 67% said that graduate recruitment (relative to the same quarter last year) will stay the same. 25% expect an increase and just 8% expect graduate recruitment to decrease. Related to new businesses and the gradual increase in project work seen over the last PRCA Consultancy Benchmarking studies, 31% expect use of freelancers to increase. Whilst 55% expect it to stay the same, 14% said that their use of freelancers would decrease.

Looking directly at whether new business was primarily through new or existing clients, 37% reported it came from existing clients compared to 63% from new clients.

Francis Ingham MPRCA, Director General, PRCA, said: “PR and communications exists for times such as these: organisations across the board are making a proper investment in their reputation.

“Although a small proportion of leaders are uncertain about the economy in general, the vast majority are positive about their own consultancy; about our industry; and about the country as a whole. The simple truth is this: new business levels are up, budgets are up, headcounts are up, and the industry is on the up. The negativity that followed the Brexit vote is well and truly dead.”

Richard Fogg CMPRCA, CEO, CCgroup, said: “The tech PR and communications sector was incredibly busy in Q4 2016. Indeed, it's been difficult to find any tech agency CEOs who haven't been struggling to hire to cope with demand. It signals a strong start to 2017 and a significant boost in optimism in the sector.”

Jack Irvine MPRCA, Executive Chairman, Media House International, said: “Brexit is an opportunity, not a threat. Get out there and take your talents to the world.”

Robert Montague MPRCA, CEO, RKM Communications, said: “We have seen a general increase in brands looking for PR - both start-ups and established - and the investment split between paid, earned and shared media is changing.”

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About PRCA

Who we are: Founded in 1969, the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) is a UK-based PR and communications membership body, operating in 48 countries around the world. We represent in excess of 20,000 people across the whole range of the PR and communications industry. The PRCA promotes all aspects of public relations and communications work, helping teams and individuals maximise the value they deliver to clients and organisations.

What we do: The Association exists to raise standards in PR and communications, providing members with industry data, facilitating the sharing of communications best practice and creating networking opportunities.

How we do it and make a difference: All PRCA members are bound by a professional charter and codes of conduct, and benefit from exceptional training. The Association also works for the greater benefit of the industry, sharing best practice and lobbying on the industry's behalf e.g. fighting the NLA's digital licence.

Who we represent: The PRCA currently has more than 400 agency members; 270 in-house PR and communications teams from multinationals, charities and leading public sector organisations; and thousands of individual members.

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Matt Cartmell
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