Shift from project work back to retainer gives industry optimism in new year

 

-              Increase in proportion of fee income derived from retainers

-              Budgets remain stable but unspectacular

-              Optimism levels still increasing, except for UK economy in general

-              Francis Ingham: “Client-matching service has been inundated at the start of the new year”

London, 17th January - A notable shift from project to retainer work has given cause for optimism for the PR industry in the new year. A survey on the economic performance of 96 PR agencies in the last quarter of 2012 also reported that client budgets have remained stable, showing a slim net increase.

In total, 36% of consultancy Managing Directors recorded the proportion of retained work covering fee income at 81-90%, a rise of 9% from the previous quarter. This was reflected in a shift in new income levels towards existing clients (53%) compared to new clients (47%). However, 82% still saw either busy or very busy levels in new business.

Consultancies saw a tiny net rise in client budgets (2%), which shows the industry’s resilience, with UK GDP expected to have shrunk in the same period.

PR Managing Directors continue to have high levels of optimism for their own consultancy’s performance: 54% are more optimistic than before. This number gradually declines when it comes to the wider PR industry (30% are more optimistic) and more respondents felt the UK economy would worsen than improve.

In terms of recruitment, a third of those polled expected staff numbers to increase, with nearly the rest expecting numbers to stay the same. One in five expect graduate recruitment to increase, although 12% expect graduate recruitment to decrease compared to the same period last year. Interestingly, the same number expects the use of freelancers to increase as decrease.

What the industry experts say:

Francis Ingham, PRCA Director General: “The 2012 Benchmarking showed a slight recovery in the retainer versus project work balance and it is pleasing to see this trend continue. I am not surprised to hear that our members are busy with new business as our client-matching service has been inundated at the start of the year.

“Compared to similar disciplines such as advertising public relations is really showing its resilience. Whilst PR professionals tend to be overly-optimistic - and we should not dismiss the general UK economic performance – I share the industry’s confidence in the year ahead.”

Gareth Thomas, Capella PR Founder: “We’re optimistic about the outlook for 2013. Whilst the consumer market remains quite static, we’re seeing disruptive b2b companies continuing to do well and even the odd IPO on the horizon for some of the maturing tech businesses we work with. So there is certainly demand from brands for the creativity and hunger they can get from smaller agencies. It’s not necessarily about price - it’s about integrated creativity, service and value for money.”

Nick Brooks, 4cm Managing Director: “Although we don't foresee significant economic growth in the UK for 2013, we are experiencing major demand in online and international business from our industrial clients.  They are looking for high quality content, for multiple channels, and recognise that PR services provide a powerful tool that helps them drive online awareness and engagement”

Results:

FOR THE PERIOD 1 OCTOBER TO 31 DECEMBER 2012 WHAT HAVE YOUR CLIENTS DONE WITH THEIR BUDGETS?

Increased significantly

4.00%

Increased marginally

23.00%

Stayed the same

48.00%

Decreased marginally

23.00%

Decreased Significantly

2.00%

     

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE LEVEL OF NEW BUSINESS BETWEEN 1 OCTOBER AND 31 DECEMBER 2012?

Very busy

 

19.00%

Busy

 

63.00%

Quiet

 

14.00%

Very quiet

 

4.00%

     

DURING THE LAST QUARTER WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR OVER-SERVICING LEVELS?

Increased significantly

0.00%

Increased marginally

25.00%

Stayed the same

48.00%

Decreased marginally

21.00%

Decreased significantly

4.00%

Do not over-service

2.00%

     

HAS THE LAST QUARTER MADE YOU FEEL MORE  OR LESS OPTIMISTIC FOR YOUR CONSULTANCY?

More optimistic

 

54.00%

The same

 

25.00%

Less optimistic

 

21.00%

     

HAS THE LAST QUARTER MADE YOU FEEL MORE OR LESS OPTIMISTIC  FOR THE PR/COMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY?

More optimistic

 

30.00%

The same

 

57.00%

Less optimistic

 

13.00%

     

WHAT WILL  HAPPEN TO THE UK ECONOMY OVER THE NEXT 12 MONTHS?

Improve

 

21.00%

Stay the same

 

51.00%

Get worse

 

24.00%

Don't know

 

4.00%

     

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO STAFF NUMBERS IN THE NEXT QUARTER?

Staff numbers will increase

34.00%

Staff numbers will stay the same

62.00%

Staff numbers will decrease

4.00%

     

IN THE NEXT QUARTER WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO GRADUATE RECRUITMENT RELATIVE TO THE SAME PERIOD LAST YEAR?

Increase

 

20.00%

Decrease

 

12.00%

Stay the same

 

68.00%

     

IN THE NEXT QUARTER WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE USE OF FREELANCERS  RELATIVE TO THE PREVIOUS QUARTER?

Increase

 

25.00%

Decrease

 

25.00%

Stay the same

 

50.00%

     

WHAT PROPORTION OF YOUR INCOME FOR THE LAST QUARTER WAS DERIVED FROM RETAINED WORK?

0 - 10%

 

2.00%

11 - 20%

 

0.00%

21 - 30%

 

2.00%

31 - 40%

 

2.00%

41 - 50%

 

6.00%

51 - 60%

 

15.00%

61 - 70%

 

13.00%

71 - 80%

 

20.00%

81 - 90%

 

36.00%

91 - 100%

 

4.00%

     

IS YOUR NEW BUSINESS PRIMARILY FROM NEW OR EXISTING CLIENTS?

Existing clients

 

53.00%

New clients

 

47.00%

 

-ENDS -

Notes to editors

For more information on the PRCA's research, please contact tom.hawkins@prca.org.uk on 020 7233 6026 

About the PRCA

Who we are: Founded in 1969, the PRCA is the professional body that represents UK PR consultancies, in-house communications teams, PR freelancers and individuals. The PRCA promotes all aspects of public relations and internal 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 represents many of the major consultancies in the UK, and currently has more than 300 agency members from around the world, including the majority of the top 150 UK consultancies. We also represent over 100 in-house communications teams from multinationals, UK charities and leading UK public sector organisations.

 

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