According to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the USC Center for Public Relations at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, PR spend will increase over the next five years. Focused on client-side marketers, the report says that the increase is due to that fact that PR is a discipline and clearly evolving and becoming more important to marketers.

The evolution has been interesting to observe locally. PR seemingly lost its footing, playing second-fiddle to digital marketing. Clients actually chose the latter over PR spend, which not only confused me, but eventually just plain annoyed me. Not only because there is no logic to that decision, but really because it was just plain stupid.

Of course the irony is the fact that ANA says that PRs rise has been fueled by the rise of digital communications and has “put PR front and centre”.   I think this should have happened a long time ago, and if ANA is predicting the next five years internationally, the convergence of PR and marketing in South Africa could take even longer.

But it’s good news, none the less, that PR is finally being recognised by marketers. More than 50% of the survey respondents said it will undoubtedly become more closely aligned with marketing with almost 20% saying it will become a subset.

The survey also predicts a possible loss for PR agencies as clients’ skill up in-house. Now this might be the case across the seas, but I think that locally we will continue to see growth in smaller, boutique agencies, that can very ably assist clients to achieve business goals.  The larger, more global agencies potentially face pressure as they fail to connect on a closer, more personal basis with clients, and also struggle to find and retain quality PR consultants.  Boutique agencies are largely run by PR professionals with almost 30 years of experience, and these same people are active and working with clients on a one-to-one basis. This value is almost immeasurable in my opinion.

So, as digital trends continue to dominate, make sure you either pull your PR closer in line with your marketing or find yourself a solid agency to work closely with and get ahead of the curve, instead of behind it.