Solid growth under diverse leadership

One regular observation about PRWeek's Agency Business Report is that the big agency profiles feature a gallery of principally white middle-aged men. This year I'm pleased to say things are changing and the top levels of PR firms better represent the gender makeup of the industry.

One regular observation about PRWeek's Agency Business Report is that the big agency profiles feature a gallery of principally white middle-aged men.

This year I'm pleased to say things are changing and the top levels of PR firms better represent the gender makeup of the industry. Seven main profiles feature a woman in the accompanying picture, compared to two last year: APCO's Margery Kraus and Waggener Edstrom's Melissa Waggener Zorkin.

The appointments or promotions of Karen van Bergen at Porter Novelli, Renee Wilson at MSLGroup, Susan Gilchrist at Brunswick, Gail Heimann at Weber Shandwick, and our elevation of Cohn & Wolfe, led by Donna Imperato, to a main profile make the report more balanced and representative.

This shouldn't mask the fact that only a third of the other 44 firms profiled have a woman atop their leadership, so there is still a long way to go. And there are still bigger steps to be
made on other diversity measures. But it's a welcome start.

Unlike last year's positivity, the overall story for PR firms is mixed. Of the 132 agencies that reported in both years, average US revenue growth was 9% in 2012, compared to 14% in 2011. Across all firms, the respective averages were 12% and 15%, while the median figure was the same, at 10%.

In the top 50, which as usual doesn't include holding company firms that hide behind Sarbanes-Oxley to avoid being transparent, average revenue increased 13% in 2012, down from 17% in the previous 12 months – median figures were closer, at 11% and 13%, respectively.

So it was a good year, but not as stellar as 2011, suggesting the stalling effect of the presidential election and fears about macro and global economics hindered the industry from realizing its full potential in 2012.

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