The findings by Releasd, a business that provides a tool for creating engaging PR activity reports, surveyed 300 executives in a range of companies with more than 1,000 employees, with each respondent working at either senior management, director or C-suite level.
Over a third of execs admitted that they did not have a good understanding of what the PR function does within their business (below).
Execs were then asked to name the business functions they had the strongest understanding of - only 15 per cent of participants put communications in their top five.
The perceived value of PR varied by rank. Thirty per cent of C-suite level execs indicated that they did not think PR delivered good value, compared to 40 per cent of directors and 45 per cent of senior management (below).
Eighty per cent of the execs who had a good understanding of PR also thought it delivered good value to the business.
Richard Benson, CEO of Releasd, said: "The communications industry is rightly obsessed with demonstrating the value of its work. Whilst the conversation has typically centred around measurement and metrics, this research, the first of its kind, shows that many execs simply do not have a good understanding of what the comms function does in the first place.
"Luckily, the ones that do understand it, tend to value it. Ironically, we need to do a much better job of PRing ourselves."
Simon Whitehead, CEO of H+K UK, agreed: "There is a job to be done to educate business executives of the value of public relations – at every level, in every industry, and in businesses of every shape and size."
You can view the full report here.