The latest IPA/BDO Bellwether Survey singles out the PR industry as part of the only marketing sector to record a downward revision to spend in Q1.
The 'all other' category, which includes PR and events, recorded a 3.5 per cent fall, while sales promotion and direct marketing budgets were unchanged.
Generally, marketing budgets were revised up in Q1 for the first time in ten quarters, with about 21 per cent of firms reporting a rise.
Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit and author of the Bellwether reports, attributed the downward revision in 'all other' to the cost of PR services.
However, Lord Chadlington, chief executive of global marcoms group Huntsworth, said: 'The results from the latest Bellwether do not square with our experience. I suspect that events and event management have been very hard hit and PR has been lumped into this category for its own disadvantage.'
Porter Novelli managing director Sally Ward added: 'These figures tell a different story to the one we are experiencing. I can see that events budgets may still be slow to increase and we have seen this quarter that some clients have been slow to sign off on work for the year.
'On the other hand, we are seeing an uplift in budgets generally, with digital being particularly healthy. It feels counter-intuitive for marketers to make their PR budgets the last ones to revive, but then they may have been the last ones they cut.'
Bosses at Grayling, 3 Monkeys and Burson Marsteller also expressed surprise at the results. Grayling MD James Acheson-Gray said: 'We are seeing evidence of measured, yet consistent progress from the end of 2009, with a marked upswing in new business won. We believe this is evidence of improving confidence at a client level.'