Both the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) have issued figures for the final quarter of 2012.
The IPA’s Bellwether Report, which polls clients, is the gloomier of the two as it suggests a downward revision in PR budgets.
The PRCA’s PR Industry Economic Barometer, which polls agency bosses, has produced a positive reading, though much less positive than its reading for the previous quarter.
The PRCA has been critical of past IPA reports on the grounds that they have only measured PR as part of a wider category called ‘all other’, which includes other sectors such as events.
However, the IPA has now started breaking out PR and its debut finding is that a net balance of 3.8% of respondents revised down their budget for the current financial year during the fourth quarter.
Tim Moore from research company Markit, which compiles the Bellwether, told PRWeek that ‘comfortably over half’ of the 300-strong Bellwether panel of clients responded to the question on PR budgets.
The PRCA asks its panel a slightly different question, which is whether their clients have increased or decreased their budgets during a quarter relative to the previous quarter.
Its net reading was a balance of 2% saying budgets had increased, out of 96 respondents, but this was a lot weaker than the Q3 2012 figure of 16% saying budgets had increased.
The PRCA’s survey includes other data, which shows among other things that retained work accounted for a greater proportion of income in Q4 than in Q3. In addition, the level of new business increased over the same period.
Francis Ingham, PRCA director general, said: "Our 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."