PRWeek survey: Nine in 10 PR pros say campaigns have been cut due to coronavirus

Agency and in-house staffers differ on the impact on retainer arrangements.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Consumer and brand campaigns are the PR work that has been most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by PRWeek.

Of its 121 respondents, 78.5% work at a PR agency and 21.5% are employed in-house. The survey opened on Friday and closed on Wednesday morning.

Asked what areas of PR and communications will be affected by the virus, a vast majority said consumer and brand campaigns (88.3%), followed by corporate assignments (44.2%), crisis communications (37.5%), public affairs (27.5%) and public information (23.3%).

Here is how coronavirus is affecting employment policies, budgets, campaigns, retainer arrangements and the PR industry’s reputation, according to respondents.


Asked if clients have canceled campaigns in response to the crisis, 88.3% said yes, and 94.2% said campaign launches will be affected.

Budget changes

Four in 10 in-house respondents (40%) said their communications or PR budget has been cut this year. Twenty-four percent said their budget has gone up, and 36% said there has been no change.

However, the budget cutting hasn’t all been in response to coronavirus. Thirty-six percent of respondents said the virus was “not significant at all” to the decision. Twenty-eight percent said coronavirus was “very significant,” and 24% answered that it was “significant” to the budget change.

Employment policies

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents said there has been “no change” from their employers in reference to job cuts, hiring freezes or adjusted pay. More than one-quarter (26.3%) said there has been a hiring freeze, 15.8% reported a reduction in staff and 14% noted adjusted pay.

Retainer arrangements

Agency and in-house respondents differed on the impact of coronavirus on retainer arrangements. Nearly one in four (24%) of in-house comms professionals said arrangements have changed and 32% said they may change; 44% said there was no change.

However, 42.6% of PR agency staffers said clients reduced retainer arrangements in response to the virus; 34% said they hadn’t; and 23.4% said there was no change.

The PR industry’s reputation

PR will be viewed positively following this crisis, said 37.6% of respondents. A plurality of respondents, 39.3%, said coronavirus would have no impact on the industry’s image, while 23.1% said it will be viewed negatively when the pandemic is over.

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