The Top 150 PR Consultancies 2004: Top 50 Regional

Of the regional firms in the Top 50, three quarters have seen increases in fee income over the last year. Robert Gray finds a buoyant mood for agencies outside the capital More than a few of the big London-based agencies had a rotten 2003, but the general picture was healthier for the regions. Only four of our Top 20 suffered fee income decline in 2003, and none by more than six per cent. By contrast, there were plenty of double-digit revenue rises. Table-topper Beattie Communications posted a near six per cent fall in fee income, following the loss of its biggest client, Hewlett-Packard, which contributed about one fifth of the firm's fees. This blow aside, chief executive Gordon Beattie claims 2003 was a good year. Retail/consumer, property/construction and energy have all been strong growth sectors, and Birmingham has, says Beattie, shown itself to be 'probably the strongest region in the UK'.

The next two positions are occupied by Cardiff-based Golley Slater, whose fee income jumped by eight per cent over last year, and Leeds-based Brahm, which saw its fee income rise above £2m this year.

'It's tough, and budgets everywhere are under pressure,' says Brahm joint managing partner Phil Reed. 'You have to be canny in terms of what you go for and the fees for that work.' He adds that about 85 per cent of Brahm's work is national in nature, and points to a growth in work from public sector clients.'

'Forget the PR soundbites, 2003 was a year of hard graft trying to maintain and improve creative and service standards in the face of increasing pressure on margins,' says fourth-placed Ptarmigan MD Gordon Forbes, who's fee income also broke the £2m barrier. 'We adopted a sales growth strategy driven by a value-for-money proposition, and we're probably as pleased with the results we achieved in 2003 as we've been in any of our 14 years in business.'

Glasgow-based The BIG Consultancy is increasingly moving into the big time, with a 44 per cent growth in fee income.

Elsewhere, Green Issues, the Reading-based environmental PR specialist, opened offices in Cardiff and Manchester during the year and enjoyed impressive growth in fee income of more than 50 per cent. Managing director Tom Curtin identifies one reason for its success as being the conscious decision to work on projects alone and not seek retainer business.

West Midlands consultancy Haslimann Taylor, which was acquired by Lord Chadlington's Huntsworth last October, has benefited from good market conditions in and around Birmingham, increasing revenue from clients such as Mitchells & Butlers and house builder Taylor Woodrow and securing new client Goodyear Dunlop.

There were mixed fortunes for the technology specialist PR agencies based outside the capital. The ITPR Group saw revenues snowball by 46 per cent.

Meanwhile, Strategic Alliance has been hit by a fee income fall of nearly a third. It has responded by concentrating on finding more clients based in the UK and Europe rather than relying on US-headquartered clients as heavily as in the past. The company has also broadened its offer beyond technology to B2B, with new wins that include Continental's truck tyre division.

There are some absentees from our regional chart. Omnicom-owned Countrywide Porter Novelli is excluded owing to Sarbanes-Oxley. Rival Harrison Cowley (HC) underwent some management changes in August last year. Former CEO David Heal became chairman and was replaced by Paul Kelly, who ran corporate and B2B, with operations director Loretta Tobin stepping up to become deputy CEO.

The acquisition of Leeds agency Adamson Usher last year also added ballast to HC's regional offer. 'The market is tough but so far it's hanging together well,' says Kelly. 'We've done very well in London, Birmingham and Edinburgh.'

A handful of notable exceptions notwithstanding, it seems to have been a better year in the regions than in the capital.

REGIONAL AGENCIES 1-20

Rank Company Fee income (pounds) Turnover 03

03 02 % chge (pounds)

1 Beattie

Communications Group 6,652,722 7,058,468 -6 7,440,782

2 Golley Slater

Public Relations* 2,621,192 2,427,667 8 3,272,458

3 Brahm

Public Relations 2,218,268 1,956,038 13 4,768,670

4 Ptarmigan

Consultants* 2,177,166 1,993,901 9 3,173,055

5 The BIG Partnership 2,071,471 1,440,125 44 2,201,629

6 EHPR* 2,029,581 2,027,982 0 3,117,493

7 Insight Marketing

and Communications 1,829,000 1,880,000 -3 2,076,000

8 Medicom Group 1,667,800. 1,020,480 63 4,100,000

9 Green Issues

Communications 1,613,966 1,029,949 57 1,685,992

10 AD Communications+ 1,588,231 1,506,091 5 2,570,585

11 B2B Communications 1,563,714 1,450,013 8 4,405,840

12 Sinclair Mason 1,555,620 1,453,980 7 2,145,683

13 Atlas Media Group 1,551,020 1,318,567 18 3,245,241

14 Companycare

Communications* 1,415,924 1,421,603 0 1,628,131

15 Haslimann Taylor 1,404,431 1,127,308 25 1,858,995

16 The Whiteoaks

Consultancy* 1,356,593 1,430,682 -5 1,356,593

17 Myriad

Public Relations 1,297,431 1,187,404 9 1,892,061

18 The ITPR Group 1,284,842 881,489 46 1,589,542

19 Strategy

Communications* 1,242,446 1,008,063 23 1,480,168

20 Quay West

Communications 1,184,300 1,235,475 -4 1,315,600

21 Seal Communications* 1,135,946 1,021,539 11 2,911,713

22 Willoughby PR 1,115,804 922,251 21 1,778,247

23 Ashley Communications 1,071,806 859,775 25 2,299,082

24 Berkeley PR

International 1,007,283 1,118,068 -10 1,037,018

25 Barrett Dixon Bell* 1,003,000 867,000 16 2,400,000

26 Wyatt International 976,342 951,694 3 4,463,426

27 Kavanagh

Communications* 950,458 775,001 23 1,145,789

28 Prowse & Company 944,482 725,782 30 1,009,102

29 DTW 940,061 885,476 6 1,787,470

30 Brazen 939,426 438,173 114 1,379,179

31 Pegasus

Public Relations+ 859,788 790,187 9 988,961

32 Barkers Scotland 848,185 326,588 160 22,008,324

33 PFPR Communications 847,312 589,659 44 2,253,541

34 Roger

Staton Associates* 824,408 973,580 -15 901,794

35 EML 812,433 966,382 -16 1,019,496

36 Pinnacle Marketing

Communications 805,358 762,250 6 1,400,000

37 William Murray PR 792,295 859,571 -8 1,032,431

38 The Bright

Consultancy* 774,709 464,000 67 1,023,342

39 Cohesive

Communications 769,611 754,082 2 1,188,087

40 Strategic

Alliance Int'l 755,555 1,123,153 -33 795,320

41 City press PR 745,084 632,681 18 879,203

42 JBP Public Relations* 733,121 710,162 3 870,727

43 BCLO Public Relations 701,549 547,900 28 858,855

44 Corixa Communications 685,060 689,859 -1 992,407

45 Howell Petersen 645,000 426,000 51 1,270,000

46 Market Engineering 585,000 472,500 24 624,000

47 Target

Public Relations* 540,584 371,710 45 2,597,645

48 Spin Media 531,307 498,355 7 531,307

49 Leader

Communications* 526,000 560,991 -6 646,395

50 Pagoda

Public Relations 512,808 504,230 2 534,894

Rank Company Staff Clients Location

03 02 03 02

1 Beattie Communications Group 111 126 178 190 Falkirk

2 Golley Slater Public Relations* 43 41 150 112 Cardiff

3 Brahm Public Relations 22 19 47 39 Leeds

4 Ptarmigan Consultants* 46 44 36 39 Leeds

5 The BIG Partnership 36 27 55 46 Glasgow

6 EHPR* 34 36 18 16 Berks

7 Insight Marketing

and Communications 36 34 36 38 Cheshire

8 Medicom Group 20 20 21 17 Surrey

9 Green Issues Communications 19 12 96 71 Berks

10 AD Communications+ 16 20 41 32 Surrey

11 B2B Communications 20 16 12 10 Surrey

12 Sinclair Mason 15 17 55 50 Leeds

13 Atlas Media Group 29 24 89 51 Leeds

14 Companycare Communications* 22 25 52 42 Reading

15 Haslimann Taylor 25 24 31 35 West Mids

16 The Whiteoaks Consultancy* 32 34 42 27 Surrey

17 Myriad Public Relations 22 21 51 N/A Cambs

18 The ITPR Group 20 15 33 19 Surrey

19 Strategy Communications* 22 21 41 34 Bristol

20 Quay West Communications 17 19 21 21 Essex

21 Seal Communications* 30 24 34 32 B'ham

22 Willoughby PR 25 22 42 31 B'ham

23 Ashley Communications 10 7 9 7 Middlesex

24 Berkeley PR International 20 24 28 17 Berks

25 Barrett Dixon Bell* 23 22 19 17 Altrincham

26 Wyatt International 10 10 81 78 B'ham

27 Kavanagh Communications* 12 11 5 8 Surrey

28 Prowse & Company 17 14 30 31 Surrey

29 DTW 26 26 42 51 Cleveland

30 Brazen 25 15 28 11 M'chester

31 Pegasus Public Relations+ 17 15 32 24 W.Sussex

32 Barkers Scotland 7 7 42 29 Edinburgh

33 PFPR Communications 15 10 11 7 Kent

34 Roger Staton Associates* 13 15 24 30 Bucks

35 EML 13 19 22 24 Surrey

36 Pinnacle

Marketing Communications 8 7 25 19 Middlesex

37 William Murray PR 21 19 25 21 Surrey

38 The Bright Consultancy* 13 9 19 11 Midlands

39 Cohesive Communications 13 14 38 28 Chepstow

40 Strategic

Alliance International 13 15 24 25 Bucks

41 City press PR 16 15 32 32 M'chester

42 JBP Public Relations* 14 16 30 36 Bristol

43 BCLO Public Relations 14 13 17 23 Bristol

44 Corixa Communications 12 16 15 21 Bristol

45 Howell Petersen 12 10 38 29 Cardiff

46 Market Engineering 9 8 14 11 Oxon

47 Target Public Relations* 12 9 14 14 Glos

48 Spin Media 13 14 55 70 M'chester

49 Leader Communications* 12 15 23 23 Warks

50 Pagoda Public Relations 11 10 41 31 Edinburgh

All figures relate to year ended December 2003. Fee income = PR fees

plus mark up. *Denotes PRCA member. + Turnover given is global figure,

owing to overseas accounts billed in the UK

- Three of this year's top five regional agencies broke the £2m

barrier for the first time

- Medicom Group saw the biggest leap in fee income out of the top 20,

with a 63 per cent increase

- Leeds-based Atlas Media Group added 38 new clients to its portfolio in

2003

- Barkers Scotland increased fee income by 160 per cent over the

previous year

- More than a third of the Top 50 regional agencies are based in the

south east

- Bristol-based BCLO PR has six fewer clients than last year, but still

increased fee income by 28 per cent

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