According to PRWeek’s latest survey, PR is a global $10 billion industry that grew 5% in 2015 and employs 66,500 people.
It’s an industry that is in flux and there is a lot of talk of transition, especially among the top 15 global firms, which account for 80% of the industry’s total billings – it’s harder to turn a tanker than a liner after all.
Those agencies that are closely allied with advertising firms, such as Ogilvy PR and MSLGroup are attempting to align with their creative siblings to their mutual advantage, especially in relation to higher-value but lower-margin brand and marketing work.
Weber Shandwick, Edelman, and Golin are already far down the road toward the engagement engine, communications marketing, integrated communications or however they choose to market their converged offer.
Mid-sized and boutique firms appear to have been better able to adapt and evolve more nimbly to re-jig their client offers for this brave new world.
A process such as this throws up a lot of interesting soundbites - here are a few that summarize the essence of the 2016 report:
"Six of the top 10 firms are in zero growth or negative. That’s a bad sign. We’re missing the opportunity," Richard Edelman, president and CEO, Edelman – it’s always worth listening to what the leader of the world’s largest agency has to say.
"When you think about what drives influence and engagement, earned media has never been more important to just about every campaign we do," Andy Polansky, CEO of Weber Shandwick, emphasizes that, in this modern world of convergence and integration, media relations still has an important part to play.
"The integration of MSLGroup into Publicis Communications will make PR services and thinking more accessible to clients throughout the group. PR leads the charge when it comes to integrated communications, with campaigns being developed on platforms that are PR platforms at heart," Maurice Lévy, CEO of Publicis Groupe, bigs up the PR industry.
"The prospects for [PR at WPP in 2016] are good but unspectacular. We live in a slow-growth world and clients continue to be averse to risk and focused on costs," Martin Sorrell, founder and CEO of WPP, is more sanguine.
"Most of our growth is coming from integrated marketing… The only difficulty is growing too fast and finding the right talent to service that kind of work," Donna Imperato, CEO of Cohn & Wolfe, is bullish about the convergent future.
"I’m not in love with our inferiority complex and proclaiming the demise of the 30-second spot and the ‘advertising dinosaurs’," Ron Guirguis, U.S. CEO of MSLGroup, explains why it’s not about different disciplines fighting a battle to proclaim a winner – it’s more about working together to mutual advantage.
"We operate with one bottom line for the world, so we don’t care where things are housed," Margery Kraus, founder and executive chairman, APCO Worldwide, addresses a common bugbear of clients who yearn for a one P&L structure at their agencies.
"The marketplace is demanding two very big categories: world-class strategic counsel and cutting-edge strategic communications expertise," Don Baer, CEO and worldwide chair, Burson-Marsteller, notes the trend toward integration but underlines the fact there are some skills PR pros possess that marketers will never seek to emulate or muscle in on.
"It is no longer about diversification of business and revenue from abroad; it is also about bringing Western business concepts, models and franchises to meet the growing domestic consumption needs of home markets and ‘exporting’ these success models to the West," Lynne Anne Davis, APAC president, FleishmanHillard explains the evolution of the PR business in Asia.
"The tail is never going to wag the dog, but people see PR as a magic ingredient," Stuart Smith, global CEO of Ogilvy PR, notes how advertising people are suddenly understanding the potential of PR skills.
"Clients are asking for creative, digital, and strategic planning from day one," Karen van Bergen, CEO of Omnicom Public Relations Group, will be looking to deliver this across the network in her new position overseeing all Omnicom’s PR offerings.