PRCA Agency of The Future research identifies threats to agency model

The ability to offer more integrated communications and evidence of return on investment are the key issues facing PR agencies, according to clients and agencies surveyed by YouGov and the PRCA.

Research: PRCA and YouGov Agency of the Future survey
Research: PRCA and YouGov Agency of the Future survey

As part of the PRCA’s The Future of PR Agencies study released today at the PRCA 2013 National Conference, YouGov surveyed 51 in-house PR professionals and 63 agency PR professionals during the summer across a variety of sectors.

More than half of agency respondents (52%) predicted that during the next five years agencies would need to offer more evidence of ROI and increasingly integrated comms.

In-house respondents agreed these were the key threats facing the agency world (45% and 39% respectively), but also highlighted the need to offer better value for money (27%) and a better social media offering (30%).

Overall, the picture is relatively positive for agencies, with more than 80% of clients highlighting the value PR agencies bring to brand awareness, equity and credibility.

Clients were also generally happy with the skills available in PR agencies (in fact more content than agencies themselves), though agencies being unable to delivery strategic consultancy was highlighted by one in four clients.

However, 86% of clients also use a non-PR agency with "specialist expertise that their PR agency lacks", pointing to the need for agencies to expand their skill set.

One in-house respondent said: "The offer needs to be across communications and engagement and all its disciplines - not just narrow PR."

Eighty-five per cent of clients believed that traditional PR services would continue to be needed in the future, but 55% said they would consider buying traditional PR services from another type of agency.

Agency respondents also foresaw increased competition from other marketing disciplines, with 36% seeing other marketing agencies encroaching on PR.

Meanwhile, the move from retainer to projects is expected to continue (expected by 38% of agencies and 29% of clients), while 57 per cent of clients felt it was likely they would take more work in-house during the next five years.

PRCA comms director Matt Cartmell commented: ‘While clients are clearly happy with the work agencies do to build brand awareness and reputation, the industry faces some challenges in convincing clients of our wider skillset. And the perennial problem of proving value/ROI remains.

"The continuing work of the PRCA’s Future of PR project aims to find solutions to these issues."

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