Charting the future of public relations
Influence 100 Controls PR Budgets Of More Than $6.5bn
Arun Sudhaman
Holmes Report
President/Editor-in-Chief

Influence 100 Controls PR Budgets Of More Than $6.5bn

The Holmes Report's annual Influence 100 list reveals that the world's 100 most important communicators control budgets in excess of $6.5bn.

Arun Sudhaman

The Holmes Report's annual Influence 100 list reveals that the world's 100 most important in-house communicators collectively control budgets in excess of $6.5bn.

Formally unveiled at the Global PR Summit in Miami last month, the dedicated microsite includes profiles and interviews with the 100 corporate comms chiefs, who once again reflect the rising importance of the role of senior public relations professional within major corporations— and other institutions that face intense public and media scrutiny.

Like last year, the Influence 100 features in-depth research of the budget, responsibilities and attitudes of the senior communications pros selected for the list, comparing the findings with the 2011 results. 

The 100 executives, 20 percent of whom are new entrants, are also polled to find out their favourite agencies and communicators; insight into their geography and background; and, information on their reporting lines, budgetary and agency oversight. This year, the study also breaks down the gender ratio and investigates social media usage among the 100 executives.

Budget

Exactly half (50 percent) report that they are responsible for a total public relations budget in excess of $100m. Another 11 percent peg their budget between $75m and $100m. After that, results are fragmented. 11 percent say they control a public relations budget between $25m and $75m. Another 16 percent have a budget between $10 million and $25 million; 11 percent have a budget of less than $10m.

That means that between them, the 100 most influential corporate communicators in the world are likely responsible for public relations budgets in excess of $6.5 billion.

On average, less than a quarter of that amount is being spent with public relations agencies. Just 18 percent of the Influence 100 are spending $30m or more with public relations agencies, with another 24 percent spending between $20m and $30m, and around 12 percent spending $15m to $20m —which means that there are probably around 56 eight-figure public relations budgets among these 100 major companies.

Geography

Unsurprisingly, given the size and stature of the US public relations industry, 48 of the Influence 100 are based in North America (compared to 50 last year), with a further 13 located in the UK. The remainder are spread across 23 countries around the world, including Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as all of the major markets in Western Europe.

Agency oversight

About five percent of those surveyed say they spend the vast majority of their public relations budget on one global agency-of-record — down from last year’s 16 percent but in line with 2011, when just four percent indicated a single AOR.

Significantly, the highest proportion of agency decisions are now made on a project basis, with 35 percent using this to describe their approach (up from 22 percent last year.) Another 30 percent have separate AORs in each market, while 25 percent say they have a global agency of record, but also work with several other firms.

Edelman was once again the most frequently cited public relations agency when respondents were asked which firm they most admired. Global firms dominate responses; others cited were Burson-Marsteller, Weber Shandwick, FleishmanHillard and Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

Responsibilities

Like last year, two members of the Influence 100 — Sue Clark and Margit Wennmachers — hold senior management roles that include operational responsibility. There is a significant increase, however, in the number of people that oversee combined marketing and communications functions, reflecting the trend towards convergence. 22 of the Influence 100 operate in these kinds of roles, compared to 15 last year.

In 55 percent of the companies responding to our survey, public relations has primary responsibility for social media work (essentially unchanged from last year). In most of the remaining companies (20 percent), responsibility for digital and social media is shared between different departments. In 15 percent of companies, the marketing department has primary responsibility for social media.

Gender & social media

69 percent of the Influence 100 are male, down from 71 percent last year. Less than a quarter of the Influence 100 have active Twitter accounts, which we define as having been used in the past three months, representing a significant drop on last year’s proportion of 33 percent.

Once again, it appears that this group of communications professionals appears to prefer listening to active personal engagement. Although honourable exceptions must be made for prolific tweeters such as Stephen Forshaw, Corey duBrowa, Blair Christie, Beth Comstock and — unsurprisingly — Twitter’ Gabriel Stricker.

Tenure

The tenure of Influence 100 communicators is, on average, just over eight years. Exactly half have spent six years or less with their current companies, with almost a third (30%) joining their organizations within the past two years.

More than two-thirds (70 percent) have been with their companies for less than decade. The remaining 30 percent count considerable tenures at their organizations, including 11 who have been with the same company for more than 20 years, most of whom are based in the US, led by ExxonMobil’s Ken Cohen; J&J’s Michael Sneed; McDonald’s Bridget Coffing; JP Morgan’s Joe Evangelisti; and, Dow Chemical’s Matt Davis.

Conversely, 20 of the Influence 100 have arrived at their new roles within the past year, including such names as Walmart’s Dan Bartlett; Levi’s Kelly McGinnis; and, Bayer’s Herbert Heitmann. Two — Diageo’s Charlotte Lambkin and Pearson’s Kate James — have started in their new positions this year.

All of this information and much more, including in-depth interviews with the 100 comms heads, and their favourite brands, media and communicators, is available on the Influence 100 microsite.

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