Firms should regard rankings as arbiters of transparency, but not only during peak years

Last week, we collected the final entries for the 2005 Agency Rankings, which will be published next month with the Agency Business Report.

Last week, we collected the final entries for the 2005 Agency Rankings, which will be published next month with the Agency Business Report.

For the third consecutive year, the financial performance of agencies like Hill & Knowlton, Fleishman-Hillard, and Weber Shandwick will go undisclosed, as holding companies continue to withhold that information, citing Sarbanes-Oxley.

As ever, we object to that position, and believe they will come back to the rankings tables again one day - probably when the top independents definitively surpass the old positions of owned agencies.

The good news is this situation has not diminished independent agencies' commitment to the rankings.

However, a few independent firms have made the troubling decision to abstain from the rankings when their financial performances are not as strong as the previous year. Thankfully, this is a tiny minority of firms. But it is cowardly and pernicious to let your company dip in and out of rankings tables on a year-to-year basis.

PR agencies should either be committed to the principles of transparency on a consistent basis or forgo the opportunity entirely. Employees and clients deserve consistent information about their firms. If they expect to find it through rankings and do not because the firm has opted out for one year, stakeholder contracts are violated and trust compromised.

The importance of the rankings goes beyond one's own firm and its ability to market itself. The industry needs benchmarks like rankings to reflect its increasing maturity, credibility, and legitimacy.

Ducking out of the rankings because of one bad year reflects badly on the entire profession, particularly if you plan on coming back.

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