Despite widespread budget cuts in 2009, most respondents predicted further belt-tightening in 2010 - with only 17 per cent of corp comms directors predicting an increase in their overall budgets. Just more than half (52 per cent) expected budgets to remain flat, while 31 per cent foresaw further cuts.
The executive search firm surveyed more than 120 in-house comms directors, media relations heads and public affairs directors of FTSE100 firms and other major UK organisations.
Some 78 per cent of comms directors expected agency spend to remain pegged at 2009 levels, with just four per cent predicting an increase.
Watson Helsby quoted one comms director as saying: 'I expect our agencies to deliver further efficiencies and to continue to share the pain.'
However, public affairs directors were more bullish.
A total of 28 per cent of PA respondents expected their overall budgets to rise, while 30 per cent expected agency spend to increase in 2010.