LONDON—Almost six out of 10 corporate communications professionals worldwide report that their public relations budgets are either increasing or holding steady, despite the difficult economic environment, according to Grayling PULSE, a new global quarterly survey of in-house communications professionals.

At the same time, almost half of those surveyed say that public relations has increased visibility at the senior management or board level (while only 4 percent say visibility is increasing).

According to Michael Murphy, Grayling global CEO, “The global PULSE findings reflect many of the trends that we are seeing from our clients around the world. Despite the challenging economic conditions, there are many new opportunities, both in traditional as well as emerging markets, with clients increasingly looking for more flexible, entrepreneurial and cost effective solutions in order to meet their communications needs. Importantly, the visibility of the importance of communications in the boardroom and its impact on commercial success continues to grow strongly.”

Globally, more than a fifth of those who responded said that investment in PR is still increasing this quarter, against a backdrop of ongoing client budget pressures and continued global economic instability. And visibility of communications activity at board level and the perceived value of communications activity to commercial success, remain strong with increases of 47 percent and 55 percent respectively

However, organisations remain cautious in budget and resource planning in many areas; project PR support sees a 20 percent increase in spend versus an 11 percent increase for retained support. In addition, in-house teams’ headcount shows growth with 25 percent reporting an increase this quarter

Not surprisingly, spend on social media & digital is reporting the largest increase in investment with 44 percent; corporate communications and reputation management was 26 percent and 17 percent reported an increase in spend on CSR communications.

Geographically, Asia-Pacific sees the largest increase in PR investment this quarter with 17 percent reporting an increase; Middle East also performs well with 9.2 percent reporting an increase and only 5 percent reporting a decrease.

The consumer and retail sector appears to be trying to invest its way out of recession most aggressively, with the largest proportion of responses reporting an increase in spend this quarter (28 percent), increase in-house team headcount (32 percent) and increase of visibility of communications at board level (52 percent).

“Going forward, we hope that the quarterly PULSE report will provide our clients and others in the industry with invaluable benchmarking data to help them with their own communications planning,” says Murphy. “We also hope to prompt debate around important issues facing our industry and provide insights which can be acted upon collectively by Grayling teams and our clients around the world.”