EDITORIAL: Numerous excuses PR firms give for failing to file annual revenues simply don't add up

Soon the Council of PR Firms will be asking agencies to file their 2002 revenues. Obviously, PRWeek has an interest in encouraging as many firms as possible to participate because the results appear in our annual issues of the US and global rankings. Our selfish motives thus disclosed, now I am able to tell you why I really think PR agencies should file.

Soon the Council of PR Firms will be asking agencies to file their 2002 revenues. Obviously, PRWeek has an interest in encouraging as many firms as possible to participate because the results appear in our annual issues of the US and global rankings. Our selfish motives thus disclosed, now I am able to tell you why I really think PR agencies should file.

First, that information is going to be used throughout the year for editorial purposes, particularly in our regional and market focus reports. A roundup on Atlanta, for example, will not include your PR agency if the Council does not have your numbers. It's really that simple - and there's no use calling the editor or reporter to complain if you don't supply the numbers. The rankings also play a vital role in helping us keep track of smaller and independent firms in regions where we do not have dedicated reporters. Agencies such as Catapult PR in Boulder, CO, Siddall, Matus & Coughter in Richmond, VA and Breslow Partners in Mid City West, PA may not have been known to us if it were not for the fact that they took the time to file with the Council. These rankings are also a critical resource for corporations that are looking for PR support, particularly in smaller regions. PR agencies are businesses, and they should not resist participating in the kinds of rankings that are standard for other industries. Many smaller firms think their relatively tiny revenues will be unfairly judged when listed in a table alongside industry giants like Weber Shandwick Worldwide and Fleishman-Hillard. By that logic, Family Dollar Stores should denounce the Fortune 500, because it is only ranked 443, and cannot compare with top-ranked Wal-Mart. But no Fortune reader would be confused about the relative merits or positioning of these companies. Don't PR firms, regardless of their size, have that same opportunity? Last year was a tough one. There will be a lot of red ink around. But the good news is that most PR agencies survived, sometimes against tremendous odds. When the industry rebounds, we will need the benchmark of this year to understand the extent of the recovery. The least convincing argument I've heard for not filing is this: We're not publicly traded, and we don't have to tell anyone how we are doing. Well if PR professionals truly believe that the only information worth revealing about a company is that which is mandated by the SEC, then we are all in trouble. PRWeek looks to reach for more in 2003 New Year's resolutions are being made (some already broken), and we have chosen a few ambitious, but achievable goals for the magazine. First, in the interest of trimming the fat, we will continue to find stories that explain the role of PR in meeting underlying business objectives. Next, we want to meet new people, particularly those who are advancing the crucial mission of increasing diversity. Finally, we want to help others, which we cannot do by being an uncritical fan of the industry. A CEO of a major PR agency asked me recently if PRWeek's role is to be an advocate or a critic of the industry. The answer is simple: you can't have one without the other.

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