Large firms looking to bounce back after year of transition

This year's Agency Business Report is a fascinating and authoritative audit of the state of the agency nation, an annual opportunity to dive deep into trends and issues affecting PR firms and, by extension, the clients that support them.

This year's Agency Business Report is a fascinating and authoritative audit of the state of the agency nation, an annual opportunity to dive deep into trends and issues affecting PR firms and, by extension, the clients that support them.

The figures show lots of interesting trends, not least a tougher year for the holding company agencies, which posted lower revenue growth than the prior year, especially compared to midsize firms.

The latter weathered the challenges posed by macroeconomic concerns and were less susceptible to struggling global regions such as Southern Europe.

Context is everything, and if this was written in 2009 we would be celebrating solid growth. But expectations are higher now, and the industry expects sustained high single- or double-digit organic growth, especially given the status of smart communications and reputation counsel within the C-suite.

As our review shows, many large firms went through significant leadership changes, which were bound to have a knock-on effect on company vision and morale as new regimes put their vision in place. There was also lots of movement among executive levels just below the senior leaders, the engine rooms of agencies.

All this adds up to an uncertain and unstable foundation on which to expand and some of the sector's more progressive midsize outfits picked up business that fueled their healthier growth numbers.

Of course, it is easier to post higher growth when your revenue is in the $10 million to $65 million category – but this was definitely a tougher year for the big firms and they will be looking to bounce back strongly in 2013.

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