The study, conducted in the winter of 2017 by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in partnership with the USC Center for Public Relations at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, surveyed 100 client-side marketers to understand attitudes to PR.
Overall, 75% of respondents said they plan to increase overall spending on PR, while 62% said they plan to increase in-house staffing in support of the broader PR effort.
Commenting on the findings, ANA Group EVP Bill Duggan said the discipline was "clearly evolving and becoming more important to marketers … fuelled by the rise and omnipresence of digital communications.
"Digital has put PR front and center, as it allows immediate outbound communication and inbound feedback."
The results suggest marketers appreciate the discipline’s capacity for measurement, as 89% of respondents felt PR could demonstrate value by proving business outcomes and improving the overall measurement of results.
According to 72% of survey respondents, public relations will change over the next five years by becoming more closely aligned with marketing, or becoming a subset of it.
Fred Cook, director of the USC Center for Public Relations added that the findings "clearly predict a convergence of PR and marketing over the next five years".
The findings form part of a larger piece of research conducted by the Annenberg School into global communications, which also surveyed more than 800 PR professionals, 87% of whom believe the term "public relations" does not describe the work they will do in the future.
Cook also expects "consolidation on both the agency and corporate fronts", with the potential to "diminish the role" of PR professionals, as 31% of marketers said the number of agencies their company works with will decrease, while 44% expected it to remain the same.
Data sourced from the ANA, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism; additional content by WARC staff