Editorial: Global evolution of PR shapes up

Despite the talk of an economic downturn over the last quarter of 1998, judging by this year’s PR Week Top 150 consultancies league table, the PR industry has proved itself fairly resilient and recession proof.

Despite the talk of an economic downturn over the last quarter of

1998, judging by this year’s PR Week Top 150 consultancies league table,

the PR industry has proved itself fairly resilient and recession

proof.



After a more modest five per cent growth in overall fee income last

year, income levels have returned to the mid-1990s highs of 15 per cent

and more.



The shape of the table itself has, however, changed over the last 12

months, as a result of a round of acquisitions and the grouping of PR

interests under marketing services parent companies. As a result, some

of the best known brands have disappeared from the chart, their fee

incomes consolidated with other newly acquired sister companies. As

pointed out in PR Week’s futurology report - this is a trend that is set

to continue with profound implications for the industry.



If, as suggested, the industry is to take on an hour glass structure,

with larger consultancies grouped at the top and smaller niche players

thriving at the bottom, medium-sized generalists may well find

themselves an endangered species. However, an analysis of the winners in

this year’s table also points to an increasing international presence

for many medium-sized consultancies. Significantly, many of those

registering rises in fee income have also reported handling an

increasing amount of pan-European work out of the UK.



Chemistry still plays an important part in the hiring process and many

medium-sized players are still able to offer a personal touch that can

generate the trust required to enable them to truly act as a

consultant.



In an increasingly specialist market, what these medium-sized

generalists may now need to do is to look closely at increasing their

international presence if they are to survive.



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