Survey says tech PR waiting for recovery

SAN FRANCISCO: With hi-tech communicators expecting a slow rebound in 2003, they are adopting a wait-and-see attitude to spending more on PR, according to a new survey from Golin/Harris International.

SAN FRANCISCO: With hi-tech communicators expecting a slow rebound in 2003, they are adopting a wait-and-see attitude to spending more on PR, according to a new survey from Golin/Harris International.

Golin queried communications executives from 100 hi-tech firms about the tech sector and PR. And while 41% said PR has become a more important factor in marketing this year (up from 34% last year), only 30% enjoyed an increase in their PR budgets. In 2001, only 18% actually saw budgets increase.

"I was surprised by the wait-and-see attitude," said Tim Johnson, managing director of Golin's San Francisco office. "Between October and February last year, we were inundated with new-business leads. There was optimism from clients that things were going to turn around, and they would have budgets.

"We're not seeing that this year. We've had leads, but we've really had to dig for them. Companies are taking a wait-and-see attitude before committing to an agency."

But there remains optimism that things will get better, despite an unwillingness to bet PR budgets on it. Forty-four percent expect company revenues to be higher than last year, an increase from 22% who believed that the year before. The majority of respondents - 56% - believe PR spending will remain flat next year, while 29% expect an increase and 15% expect a decrease.

While 41% said that PR had increased in importance, 68% reported that their PR departments remained the same size. And 20% said their departments would shrink next year, while only 13% anticipate department growth.

"These companies may not be looking to retain an agency until late first quarter or second quarter," said Johnson. "And the work might just be project-based. That would provide clients with an easy out if they didn't like the agency. Companies are being very careful."

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