Editorial: Agency rankings - we want this right

In the next few days, PRWeek will start the arduous task of putting together the PRWeek Agency Rankings 2000. This year’s survey promises to be the biggest and most comprehensive survey ever conducted. But it seems it will not get done without a fight.

In the next few days, PRWeek will start the arduous task of putting together the PRWeek Agency Rankings 2000. This year’s survey promises to be the biggest and most comprehensive survey ever conducted. But it seems it will not get done without a fight.

In the next few days, PRWeek will start the arduous task of putting

together the PRWeek Agency Rankings 2000. This year’s survey promises to

be the biggest and most comprehensive survey ever conducted. But it

seems it will not get done without a fight.



Agency rankings have been the subject of much debate recently. Many

firms have expressed concern at the number of rankings, arguing that the

cost of dealing with all the forms, each with its own definitions, is

unnecessary.



PRWeek shares this concern. The obvious solution is to combine forces

with the Council of Public Relations Firms, which we have repeatedly

tried to achieve, without success.



In the meantime, we believe that only PRWeek’s rankings provide an

authoritative and credible methodology; a comprehensive sample size; and

the right level of exposure and publicity.



The first issue with any ranking is its veracity. After all, why should

one agency submit accurate figures if it knows that others are cooking

the books? In order to qualify for PRWeek’s rankings, agencies will have

to provide either a CPA’s full audit or review.



And what of the competitors? The Book of Lists requires no audit.

O’Dwyer’s requires a CPA’s statement, but the wording effectively

relinquishes the CPA from responsibility. And the Council has abandoned

the requirement of an audit this year in favor of a system where ’up to

5%’ of the ranked firms without CPA statements will be randomly audited

for accuracy.



That means 95% can fiddle their figures with impunity. And even the 5%

who get caught will only be punished by the issuing of a press release

(to the trade media!) several months after the fact.



PRWeek will provide and analyze information that other rankings do not

collect. Only PRWeek asks agencies to supply total billings, as well as

information that we find not only valuable, but which helps to identify

inaccuracies. For example, last year’s Council rankings contained a

number of instances where agencies had confused gross billings with fee

income.



This year’s Council rankings promise further confusion. The Council has

replaced the word ’fee income’ with ’revenue’ because, it says, this is

’a more universally understood term.’ But the term ’revenue’ is

typically used to describe total billings, including media commissions

and everything.



Another issue is the sample size. The Council has sent out its rankings

form to some 400 agencies. PRWeek has sent it to 5,000 - more than 10

times as many. We believe it’s the duty of PRWeek - and the Council for

that matter - to find and rank not just the biggest agencies, but to

establish the size, scope and value of the entire PR agency

business.



Why is the Council doing rankings at all? Its purpose is to raise the

profile of its members collectively and individually. But it has no

voice.



PRWeek can provide agencies, both great and small, with exposure to the

largest readership of potential clients and employees. What’s more, with

regional and sector reports, and a web site, that exposure is guaranteed

week after week. If you want to ’submit only to (the Council’s)

rankings,’ you’ll be missing out.



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