Academic Research into the PR Industry5th August 2014
As I reflect on the 25 years that Clare PR has been established, one thing remains constant: our commitment to providing the best level of service for our clients as we help them to build and manage their reputation. As one would expect the PR industry has evolved significantly over 25 years and, in an increasingly competitive and globalised world, it has become a necessity rather than a luxury for businesses to tell their story and build meaningful relationships with their audiences. The most recent PR Week/PRCA Census (2013) is testament to the need for professional public relations counsel, highlighting the UK PR industry is worth £9.62bn.
Over the past 25 years a number of anecdotes have been shared with me; many of which are based on the relationships between my peers and their clients. In an attempt to find out if these scenarios were isolated incidents or part of the culture of the PR industry, I decided that I would use my 25th year anniversary as an opportunity to shine a light on client management and billing practices by commissioning the Institute of Communications Studies at the University of Leeds to carry out an exploratory survey. As well as highlighting any problems, I was keen for the findings of the research to be used to enhance the PR industry in order to better serve its clients.
The results of the exploratory survey revealed an accountability gap between PR agencies and their clients, and that work needs to be done to demonstrate that clients are receiving a return on their investment.
- Just 21% of agencies said they always provided an estimate of the return on investment (ROI) to clients.
- Only 41% of respondents always providing a service level agreement for their clients.
- 2% of PR agencies calculate their fees wholly on results.
- 59% of agencies always keep their ‘pitch’ team as the team on the client account.
- 42% of PR agencies think there is a need for industry guidance about calculating fee structures and agency rates.
- 38% of PR agencies think there is a need for industry guidance about communicating fee structures and agency rates.
There is reason for concern about the degree to which agencies make themselves accountable for their work. In order for PR to continue to be seen as a necessity, agencies need to adopt a more commercially sound approach that must include communicating to clients about their return on investment and being transparent about the billing process. Any agencies that are not operating to these standards do a disservice to the PR industry and businesses should not engage their services.