Most businesses rely on internal or external public relations personnel to improve image and play a marketing role. The USC Annenberg Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center has been tracking changes in the industry and recently published its seventh biennial Communication and Public Relations Generally Accepted Practices (GAP VII) study. The data in this study shows the latest trends in the PR industry and the growing role of social media.

The PR department may have taken a hit during the recession but at least half of surveyed companies say that the budget for next year will not change. And for 25% of respondents, the PR budget will increase. PR professionals say that, for the most part, they play a role in their firm’s strategic direction because they report directly to the C-Suite.

The biggest industry change in the past year relates to social media. PR professionals say they are spending more time measuring ‘outcomes’ instead of ‘outputs’.  Analysts say this “speaks to widespread adoption of social media monitoring tools and increasing use of primary research in program planning and evaluation.” About 70% of PR departments oversee their firm’s budget for social media monitoring and 66% also have responsibility for social media participation. The most popular social media tools are:

  • Social networking sites 53%
  • Micro blogs 53%
  • SEO 52%
  • Sharing/producing online video

Only 51% of PR departments now report that they have budgetary responsibility for marketing/product PR. Analysts say this is a drop and could reflect the way businesses are now relying on “social media to promote products.”

The study also found that only 15% of companies currently have a single PR agency of record. Instead, companies are more likely to hire firms for specific issues or projects and may use multiple firms to access specialized talent.

[Source: Definitive Study on the State of the PR Industry. USC Annenberg School for Communications. 26 Mar. 2012. Web. 9 Apr. 2012]