TOP 50: HI-TECH PR: The hard drive towards hi-tech

The hi-tech industry spread its PR net wider last year, demanding more sophisticated communications programmes from its PR consultants in an attempt to establish dialogues with business and consumer audiences beyond the confines of the IT industry. This has created new business opportunities for PR companies handling hi-tech business, and many report enlarged budgets from current clients as well as business from IT companies new to PR.

The hi-tech industry spread its PR net wider last year, demanding

more sophisticated communications programmes from its PR consultants in

an attempt to establish dialogues with business and consumer audiences

beyond the confines of the IT industry. This has created new business

opportunities for PR companies handling hi-tech business, and many

report enlarged budgets from current clients as well as business from IT

companies new to PR.



As a result, qualification for entry into the hi-tech top 50 has been

even tougher this year, entry level fee income having risen to over

pounds 324,000 compared with pounds 240,000 last year - signifying a

substantial increase in business for specialist as well as generalist

agencies.



The top three slots in the table are dominated by the same players as

last year. Text 100 has held on to number one spot, and managed to clear

the pounds 5 million hurdle for the first time in 1996. A Plus and

Shandwick have stayed second and third places respectively, still

comfortably ahead of the rest of the pack as they start to nudge the

pounds 4 million mark.



The battle for fourth place was won by Firefly. It leapfrogged two

places with a 90 per cent increase in its hi-tech fee income up to

pounds 2,370,046.



Harvard PR dropped into fifth place but still registered a 30 per cent

increase in income, with hi-tech business now accounting for 65 per cent

of its overall income.



For the second year running Ogilvy Adams and Rinehart has made storming

progress up the table. It raced up from 19th to ninth place with an 80

per cent hike in its hi-tech fee income - and only two years ago it

occupied position 47. This is the effect of its hefty IBM account which

continues to increase in size for OA&R.



Another big climber is Icas PR which has taken a jump from 50 to

position 27, more than doubling its hi-tech income over the past year

from pounds 239,284 in last year’s tables up to pounds 618,821. This is

largely due to the agency’s concerted effort to beef up its IT division

and its success in luring Cathy Pittham away from Spreckley Pittham.



For some agencies acquisition has proved the quick route to

expansion.



Keene Communications bought out Bogard Communications, bringing the

agency in at number 20 in the tables with a fee income of pounds

852,488. And Grayling is seeking to boost its hi-tech offering through a

merger with John Brace and Associates, although the impact of the Brace

business would not be felt until next year’s figures.



The argument over whether general or specialist hi-tech agencies serve

IT clients best continues. Nicholas Taylor, MD of generalist agency

Harvard PR, says: ’One hundred per cent technology agencies usually lack

the more generic business-to-business and consumer knowledge.’



But this is changing. In the past, hi-tech PR largely involved

product-based campaigns for the trade press which demanded specialist

agencies with technical knowledge. Now general PR concepts such as

strategy, branding and public affairs are sweeping into hi-tech and

there is a real crossover in hi-tech PR.



Grant Butler Coomber, for example, puts its continued growth down to

diversification and the establishment of a consumer division enabling

the agency to transfer hi-tech skills into different markets.



Similarly, agencies are finding that they are required to bring consumer

expertise to hi-tech accounts - such as Harvard’s Nintendo account and

Firefly’s Sony Broadcast and Fox Kids. Firefly’s Mark Mellor says:

’Clients are demanding a knowledge of IT products with an understanding

of consumer PR techniques.’



Branding is also becoming a priority in the hi-tech industry. Suzy

Frith, managing director of Citigate Technology, says that because the

industry is starting to mature it is having to compete on more than just

technical competence. Companies are having to communicate with business

people as well as IT experts.



’IT is moving out of the back office and into everyone’s lives and so

companies are having to leverage themselves up from a technical platform

onto a business platform.’ says Frith.



System Publicity client Pegasus Software, for example, upped its fees by

20 per cent when it launched its on-line banking service and started

talking to business people and not just the computer press.



What has fuelled much of the growth in the hi-tech PR business is the

Internet. Last year the Internet made the volume breakthrough past the

techno-nerds and into home and offices but there is a lot more to

come.



Further deregulation of the telecommunications and the progress towards

convergence - where telecoms merge with computing - will be a ’big

driver’ of future business, according to many agencies including Profile

and A Plus.



Another new area opening up for hi-tech PR is public affairs. As hi-tech

starts to form a much larger part of government and EC decision-making,

agencies such as Text 100 and the Weber Group are beginning to set up

public affairs units. Clients and agencies are realising they cannot

afford to sit back and leave the legislators to get on with it.



Top hi-tech consultancies 1-50

 Rank    Company                     UK hi-tech  % overall  Total UK fee

96  95                              income 1996     income   income 1996

                                       (pounds)

1   1    Text 100                     5,097,800        100     5,097,800

2   2    A Plus Group                 3,899,610         98     3,979,194

3   3    Shandwick                    3,626,700         15    24,178,000

4   6    Firefly Communications       2,370,046         95     2,494,785

5   4    Harvard PR                   2,336,750         65     3,595,000

6   7    Hill and Knowlton            2,270,100         14    16,215,000

7   5    The Argyll Consultancies     1,919,184         84     2,284,743

8   10   The Weber Group Europe       1,548,422        100     1,548,422

9   19   Ogilvy Adams and Rinehart    1,174,250         55     2,135,000

10  8    PA Consulting Group*         1,156,870         65     1,779,800

11  9    AD Communications            1,154,537        100     1,154,537

12  11   Strategic Alliance

         International                1,126,519        100     1,126,519

13  -    Scope Ketchum

         Communications               1,099,462         23     4,780,270

14  12   Noiseworks                   1,085,000        100     1,085,000

15  14   Profile PR                   1,011,000        100     1,011,000

16  23   Charles Barker                 948,125         15     6,320,836

17  38   Grant Butler

         Coomber (GBC)                  940,739         76     1,237,815

18  13   DPA Corporate

         Communications                 928,635        100       928,635

19  22   Lewis Communications*          905,469        100       905,469

20  -    Keene Communications           852,488         56     1,522,300

21  15   Citigate Technology1           786,250         85       925,000

22  21   Berkeley PR                    775,000        100       775,000

23  16   Roger Staton Associates        696,244        100       696,244

24  18   Edelman PR                     672,558         14     4,803,983

25  29   Grayling                       664,768         11     5,935,426

26  -    Bite Communications            656,190         90       729,100

27  50   Icas PR                        618,821         35     1,768,060

28  36   Spec Communications            606,017        100       606,017

29  30   Mathieu Thomas/Herald          601,171         52     1,167,323

30  25   Insight Group                  576,290        100       576,290

31  35   Companycare PR                 550,235         50     1,100,470

32  17   The Reputation Managers        524,206         30     1,747,352

33  46   Portfolio Communications       516,975         85       608,206

34  -    Banner PR                      509,582        100       509,582

35  -    Johnson King                   503,236        100       503,236

36  -    Manning, Selvage & Lee         496,060         17     2,918,000

37  34   Words etc.                     449,562        100       449,562

38  45   Systems Publicity              443,346         47       943,289

39  28   Fleishman-Hillard UK           438,962         22     1,995,282

40  31   Sheldon Communications         435,600         55       792,000

41  37   Euro RSCG International        418,075          6     7,208,186

42  -    Cohn and Wolfe                 416,793         12     3,473,278

43  41   EMC Euro PR &

         Marketing Consultants          395,473         65       608,420

44  -    Technical Publicity            372,331        100       372,331

45  39   Buffalo Communications         355,180         95       373,874

46  48   Bourne River PR                354,539        100       354,539

47  -    Fodor Wyllie Associates        351,057        100       351,057

48  -    MacLaurin Communications       345,955         20     1,729,775

49  43   Kinross and Render             325,071         52       625,137

50  49   Ludgate Group                  324,949          5     6,498,989

 Rank    Company                   Staff   Agency type

96  95

1   1    Text 100                     90   Hi-tech

2   2    A Plus Group                 73   Hi-tech, business-to-business

3   3    Shandwick                   379   Full service

4   6    Firefly Communications       45   Hi-tech, business-to-business

5   4    Harvard PR                   50   Hi-tech, consumer

6   7    Hill and Knowlton           232   Full service

7   5    The Argyll Consultancies     54   Hi-tech, business-to-business

8   10   The Weber Group Europe       29   Hi-tech

9   19   Ogilvy Adams and Rinehart    26   Full service

10  8    PA Consulting Group*         14   Full service

11  9    AD Communications            19   Full service

12  11   Strategic Alliance

         International                16   Hi-tech

13  -    Scope Ketchum

         Communications               70   Full service

14  12   Noiseworks                   20   Hi-tech

15  14   Profile PR                   19   Hi-tech

16  23   Charles Barker               75   Full service

17  38   Grant Butler

         Coomber (GBC)                31   Consumer, hi-tech

18  13   DPA Corporate

         Communications               16   Hi-tech

19  22   Lewis Communications*        18   Hi-tech

20  -    Keene Communications         27   Consumer, bus-to-bus

21  15   Citigate Technology1         16   Corporate, bus-to-bus

22  21   Berkeley PR                  18   Hi-tech

23  16   Roger Staton Associates      11   Hi-tech

24  18   Edelman PR                   59   Full service

25  29   Grayling                     93   Full service

26  -    Bite Communications          13   Full service

27  50   Icas PR                      34   Corp, hi-tech, bus-to-bus

28  36   Spec Communications          14   Hi-tech

29  30   Mathieu Thomas/Herald        22   Full service

30  25   Insight Group                16   Hi-tech

31  35   Companycare PR               26   Cons, corp, bus-to-bus

32  17   The Reputation Managers      29   Bus-to-bus, corporate

33  46   Portfolio Communications     14   Business-to-business, hi-tech

34  -    Banner PR                    10   Hi-tech, business-to-business

35  -    Johnson King                 12   Hi-tech

36  -    Manning, Selvage and Lee     42   Full service

37  34   Words etc.                   12   Hi-tech, business-to-business

38  45   Systems Publicity            17   Full service

39  28   Fleishman-Hillard UK         28   Full service

40  31   Sheldon Communications       15   Hi-tech, business-to-business

41  37   Euro RSCG International     139   Full service

42  -    Cohn and Wolfe               52   Full service

43  41   EMC Euro PR &

         Marketing Consultants        16   Full service

44  -    Technical Publicity          12   Business-to-business, hi-tech

45  39   Buffalo Communications       11   Hi-tech, business-to-business

46  48   Bourne River PR              15   Hi-tech

47  -    Fodor Wyllie Associates       8   Hi-tech

48  -    MacLaurin Communications     21   Full service

49  43   Kinross and Render           17   Full service

50  49   Ludgate Group                69   Full service



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