The marking system for this year’s agency report does not
correspond exactly to that used in the previous three surveys. As ever,
the marks have been carefully designed to reflect the relative
importance of the factors which determine an agency’s all round ability
For this reason, the weighting given to different agency credentials has
been re-balanced slightly to ensure that the report is reflecting
growing standards in agency management.
PR Week publishes not only the final score but the elements that make up
that final star rating. The report should be treated as a guide and as a
commentary on the agencies’ relevant areas of strength, rather than an
absolute indicator of their ability.
The system rates each agency based on two pieces of research: factual
information provided by the agencies in response to a detailed
questionnaire, and a survey of their clients conducted by independent
research company Westcombe Business Research. These two elements are
combined to produce a final figure and a star rating.
Criterion for inclusion
Consultancies listed in the PR Week Top 150 league table with a 1998 fee
income of pounds 1 million or more were invited to participate in the
1999 Agency Report.
In this part of the survey, consultancies were able to score up to 40
points, as in previous years, on the basis of their own responses to a
questionnaire. In order to grade their responses to financial questions
fairly, and to compare like with like, the consultancies were divided
into three bands according to their size: pounds 1 million to pounds 2
million; pounds 2 million to pounds 4 million; and pounds 4 million
The questions were divided into the same five categories as previous
years, and were weighted according to importance within each
- Business performance: Percentage income growth; pre-tax profit
margins; and average earnings per head and formal business planning.
This is still the most important section, but is now worth 12 points
instead of 15.
- Staff: Investment in training and benefits as well as qualifications,
staff turnover, and appraisal systems. Previously worth 9 points, this
category is now worth 10 points.
- Infrastructure: The agency’s investment in technology and systems.
The total points available here has gone down from 7 points to 5
- Quality controls: Management systems such as BS 7750, ISO 90002,
Investors in People, and planning systems used, with rewards for
agencies which have invested in in-house evaluation programmes, as laid
out in the Research and Evaluation Toolkit. This is now worth 10 points,
rather than 7.
- Industry recognition: Membership of professional bodies, and industry
awards won in the past three years. This section carried 2 points, and
is now worth 3 points.
The methodology and points gained for this second part of the survey
were exactly the same as that used in previous years. Each agency was
asked to supply a list of contacts at between five and 20 client
Westcombe Business Research then interviewed five clients per agency
using a detailed questionnaire designed to elicit the client’s view of
the consultancy’s performance. Up to 60 points were available in this
section, broken down into five areas which were weighted according to
- Pitch promises: Reflects how well the agency has met its brief and
lived up to claims made at pitch stage, and how proactive it has been in
its ideas and services since winning the contract. 10 points.
- Client/agency relationship: Chemistry between staff; the level of
contact and responsiveness; perceived quality time spent on the account
by senior management; and consistency of handlers on the account. 10
- Nuts and bolts: Keeping deadlines and promises; agency contacts;
written and oral skills; attention to detail; quality of research; and
how willing the agency is to offer tough advice. 10 points.
- Evaluation: How well the agency met set business objectives; the
quantity and quality of media coverage; the agency’s ability to
influence opinion formers; planning; and the agency’s own evaluation of
its work. 10 points.
- Client satisfaction: Overall performance rating; whether the agency
has improved, got worse or remained the same during the past year;
whether costs were perceived as fair; whether the service was viewed as
being good value for money; and how likely clients would be to
While clients remained anonymous in this survey, each was also invited
to add candid comments on what they liked best and least about the
Those agencies which scored 65 or more marks out of 100 were awarded a
two-star rating, and those which notched up between 65 and 74 marks were
given a three-star rating. Agencies with 75 to 79 marks were given four
stars, and consultancies with 80 or more scored the maximum five stars.