The 2013 PR Report list of the top 25 PR agencies is out and it raises an interesting question – of all the top 25 PR lists one can imagine which would be more useful than one on agencies.
The blog asks the questions because of the reality that while PR agencies are an important part of the industry they are in decline when compared with numbers and salaries in the corporations and the public sector. So fascinating lists would be top paying jobs in listed companies; government departments and agencies employing most PR people; salary surveys listing differences in salary levels between companies, NGOs and government departments and agencies; and lists of the most influential players in the market. The online newsletter, crikey, had a go at the last in a series of articles a while ago and it was useful if a bit limited.
Meanwhile we have the top 25 list from PR Report. It finds that the top 100 agencies have combined revenue of $295 million and employ 1820 people. The largest PR company is PPR followed by Ogilvy PR group (actually a group of companies rather than one agency) and then followed by Rowland, Haystac, Edelman, Hausmann, FTI Consulting, n2nCommunications, SenateSHJ and Porter Novelli.
Between 2012 and 2013 PPR and Ogilvy have swapped places as the largest and second largest; Haystac has moved from sixth to fourth position; and Edelman, Hausmann, SenateSHJ, n2n and Buchan have all climbed in the ranking. Hill + Knowlton, Kreab Gavin Anderson and Burson-Marsteller have all fallen in the rankings with BM down 10 places. The full details are at http://www.theprreport.com/2013/09/the-pr-reports-top-25-pr-agencies-2013/ The falls of Hill + Knowlton and BM are perhaps the best indication of the profound changes the consulting industry has experiencing in the last decade or so.
Of course, as the blog has remarked before, revenue rankings are all well and good but the key figure is what sort of margins the agencies are achieving at a time when there are considerable pressures on hourly rates, more set fee projects and the loss of the easy money from many services once offered by consultancies (such as media lists) which online disintermediation has caused.
In the restaurant business, as a friend reminded the blog the other day, the industry is going through tough times and one of the factors which obscured the situation for some time was the emphasis on gross revenue figures. It is easy to think you are more successful than you are when you look at the top line too closely rather than the bottom one. Looking through the PR Report list it seems unlikely that any of the top list would make that mistake but one can’t help wondering how the list would be re-ordered if it was done according to profit margin.