Editorial: PRWeek's global rankings report

This week's issue includes the first ever Global PR Agency Rankings report (see p21). It is an historic publication, bringing together the resources of PRWeek's international network of journalists across the globe to report on PR in more than 40 countries.

This week's issue includes the first ever Global PR Agency Rankings report (see p21). It is an historic publication, bringing together the resources of PRWeek's international network of journalists across the globe to report on PR in more than 40 countries.

This week's issue includes the first ever Global PR Agency Rankings report (see p21). It is an historic publication, bringing together the resources of PRWeek's international network of journalists across the globe to report on PR in more than 40 countries.

There are several key messages to take from the report. On a global level, the understanding of PR and its importance to business is growing. Ironically, one of the main catalysts for this understanding is politics. The latest example is in Mexico, where the successful use of PR by president-elect Vicente Fox has been widely discussed, prompting business leaders to ask agencies if PR can have a similar impact on their own reputation.

The effects of this political chain-reaction can almost be visibly tracked across the globe. In Germany, the use of PR in the election of Chancellor Gerhard Schroder in 1999 was inspired by the example of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who in turn learned from President Bill Clinton.

In all these markets, the effectiveness of PR has impacted business as a whole.

A second key finding is that while all the world is indeed a stage, there are very few global players. We have defined a global PR agency as one in which the agency has interests on more than one continent. That limits the number of global players to not many more than the top 25 global agencies identified in our chart (see p30-31). The last agency on our list has just dollars 10 million in fees, far smaller than plenty of other agencies that have chosen to remain local.

One of the reasons for the lack of global agencies is the difficulties of applying cookie cutter PR given all the linguistic, cultural, religious and social hurdles. No matter how many times the mantra of 'think global, act local' is chanted, it is far harder to pull off than people estimate.

PR is a service business. The point is well made by our analysis of the PR requirements of the top 10 brands (see p25). Not one of these clients has an agency of record. The world's leading brand, Coca Cola, has at least 50 agencies to manage.

Some, such as Waggener Edstrom with Microsoft, enjoy an almost umbilical relationship with the mothership. But the relationship is not, nor is there any prospect that it will be, a truly global one. WagEd remains almost exclusively US-based.

Regardless of the difficulties, however, there is a growth in demand from clients for global PR solutions, and with the backing of communications conglomerates, there are now some very deep pockets committed to the concept of fulfilling those relationships.

It doesn't follow necessarily that clients will be asking a single agency to manage the account globally; but we can certainly expect the number of agencies to be rationalized for the sake of simplicity, cost and consistency of message.

But there's a big 'if' in all this, and that is quality. It's all very well to provide clients with offices in every country; the challenge in the future is to make sure that the quality of work in each office is of a high standard. As some of the more mature global agencies have learned in recent years, that's easier said than done



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