Nearly Half of New Jersey C-Level Executives Are Looking to Increase PR Budgets in 2015, Says PRSA NJ Survey

The “Business Case for PR” survey, conducted by Wakefield Research in partnership with the Public Relations Society of America New Jersey Chapter, reveals that 43 percent of C-suite executives in New Jersey plan to increase their PR spend in 2015, while only 9 percent anticipate a decrease in budget. Seventy four percent of those executives predicting an increase say the reason is because they’re seeing greater value in PR.

The findings show that C-suite executives in New Jersey understand that their PR teams are critical to building and maintaining their corporate reputations yet more than half (59 percent) do not fully understand the role and capabilities of PR.

“It’s encouraging that executives are willing to invest in public relations and recognize the value of reputation management,” said Cecilia Coakley, director at large, PRSA NJ and senior vice president of corporate communications, MWW. “But, it is equally important for executives to understand the approach to reputation building. The trade has developed into a skillful art that requires a total stakeholder approach, taking into consideration myriad external market forces that impact a brand. And, it’s up to us to ensure executives are knowledgeable about how these factors affect reputation, so they in turn invest in the right combination of resources.”

For example, when CEOs were asked to prioritize their top three objectives for PR, “reputation building” (85 percent) and “increasing brand awareness” (82 percent) were the objectives that jumped to the top of the list. However, PR capabilities that are integral to building reputation, such as “corporate social responsibility” (25 percent), “executive positioning” (18 percent), and “crisis management” (12 percent) were ranked much lower on the agenda.

Nathan Richter, partner at Wakefield Research and lead pollster for the study added, “Our survey shows that CEOs ‘don’t know what they don’t know.’ Good reputations don’t just appear out of thin air. A more well-defined articulation of how PR can benefit their companies is a must, but executives also need to get involved. Our findings indicate that executives spend too little time ensuring their PR programs are designed correctly and reach the right stakeholders at the right time.”

Moreover, even as executives point to reputation building as a key goal of PR, less than half (44 percent) of executives surveyed say they were “very involved” in establishing PR goals for their company in 2014, and 75 percent say they spend a half hour or less each week discussing their PR strategy.

Better Articulation of Goals and Objectives Lead to Increased Investment in PR

The survey also highlights the importance of effectively articulating the goals of PR to key stakeholders. In fact, 71 percent of executives say they do not feel their PR partners have articulated PR goals and strategies “very well,” and 64 percent say they would support increased investments in PR if goals and strategies were more clearly defined.

“Further educating executives inside an organization is not always as simple as a single conversation,” said Coakley, “but the ‘Business Case for PR’ survey shows that having a CEO who understands and supports our work is worth the extra effort.”

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