PR consultancies are reporting a more relaxed optimism for the year ahead, coupled with creeping-back over-servicing, according to new figures from the PRCA’s Consultancy Barometer Q4 2014.
The survey of PRCA member consultancies revealed that 48 per cent of leaders report that the last quarter made them feel more optimistic about the industry, representing a 27 per cent decrease on the same quarter of the previous year. The number stating that it made them feel the same about the industry has doubled – from 25 per cent to 50 per cent.
Optimism about the wider UK economy has similarly cooled, while not extinguished. In the fourth quarter of 2013, 75 per cent stated that it would improve over the following 12 months and 19 per cent claimed it would stay the same. In the same quarter of 2014, respondents predicting improvement have dropped to 40 per cent and nearly half (48 per cent) suggested it would stay the same.
Coinciding with this, many practitioners report that over-servicing is beginning to rise again. Those reporting that it increased significantly in the last quarter have risen from 0 per cent to 4 per cent in a year, and respondents stating it had increased marginally have almost doubled (up from 14 per cent to 27 per cent).
PRCA Director General Francis Ingham said, "After the unchained optimism that came hand-in-hand with strong economic growth, we're starting to see the industry stabilise.
"We're still optimistic and we're still in a prize position compared to recent years, but we're seeing the over-servicing creep up and minor shifts away from the hugely positive figures we've previously seen.
"We've got to take this opportunity to get our house in order and to make sure bad habits and small changes do not obstruct the success we've enjoyed and will continue to enjoy."
Agency heads have also reported a shift in where their new business is coming from. There has been a 10 per cent swing from existing clients to new clients in past year, with the results now standing at 32 per cent and 68 per cent respectively.
54 per cent predict that staff numbers will increase, only a 2 per cent decrease on last year’s findings. Similarly, 36 per cent report that graduate recruitment will increase in the next quarter (a minor reduction of 3 per cent).
Clients’ budgets continue to paint a mixed picture of the industry. Whilst 6 per cent report that they have increased significantly (up from 0 per cent) and 31 per cent report that they have increased marginally (down from 42 per cent), the majority (51 per cent) state that their budgets remain unchanged.