The study, which attracted 326 respondents from across the globe, asked agency heads to rate recovery prospects on a scale of one to five, with almost two-thirds (64%) rating it as two or above. Conversely, barely 10% rated it four or lower, reflecting rising confidence after the preceding wave of research revealed an improved business outlook.
That may be down to heightened expectations regarding the role of business in addressing social issues in the post-pandemic world. 81% believe there will be more license and expectation for business to address social issues, while 67% think that the renewed focus on employee, supply chain, and community engagement is here to stay.
The challenges of the past 12 months cannot be overlooked, though. The highest
proportion of agency respondents (21%) reflect that earnings dropped by 10-24% over the past year. Overall, 46% of firms reported a decline, with almost 14% of firms declining by more than 25%.
On the flipside, 14% were effectively flat, and almost 40% reported an increase in revenue, reflecting the differing fortunes of PR firms based on their business profiles.
Younger employees bore the brunt of lockdown challenges, according to survey respondents, with more than 60% selecting under 30s as those most impacted. And, unsurprisingly, a majority of respondents said that women had been affected worse.
The study again underlines the nature of the hybrid work situation, which ranks top (69.3%) as the biggest return-to-work challenge facing agencies, ahead of mental health and health, hygiene and sanitation.
There is little consensus, furthermore, on how quickly staff will return, if at all, to the office — perhaps reflecting the new realities of hybrid working. The highest proportion (24%) still favour more office-based working, even if commuting/travelling time (89%) is ranked as the biggest benefit from a more dispersed workforce, ahead of real estate savings (39%) and happier employees (38%).
Further survey coverage will follow this week, including tracking of in-house communications challenges and budgets over the past 12 months.