THE TOP 150 PR CONSULTANCIES 2000: PR BRANDS - Brand recognition In an acquisitive market, the major players have recognised the need for the smaller brands within their stables to maintain their autonomy and the individual styles which clients have learn

One of the anomalies of the Top 150 is that some of the strongest brand names in PR do not appear in the league tables in their own right.

One of the anomalies of the Top 150 is that some of the strongest

brand names in PR do not appear in the league tables in their own


Their lights are hidden, not through modesty, but the more prosaic need

for PR groups to provide consolidated figures that allow for rankings

based on all their PR activities. In some cases, the brands, such as

Shandwick, are much better known to clients than the parent companies in

whose figures they are included, and would significantly change the

shape of the top 50 if they were split out.

So this year, for the first time, PR Week has also looked at the growth

of some of those brands which have ’disappeared’ from the Top 150 as a

result of this consolidation. The Bell Pottinger and Good Relations

brands do not appear in the table below since, under Chime’s structure

last year, all its PR interests were under the Bell Pottinger

Communications brand.

The company has now restructured, however, with more defined brands

(family tree, opposite page). The strength of the Good Relations name is

considered to be a huge asset, since it was the first PR consultancy to

be floated on the Stock Exchange, and other Chime businesses have been

clustered around it. It is expected that some of the businesses that do

not already bear the Good Relations tag will eventually be


Some agencies have such clear brand propositions that when they are

acquired by other agencies there is little question of them losing their


Such is the case with Aurelia PR, owned by Freud Communications.

’Our name carries a reputation for promoting premium brands across all

sectors,’ says Aurelia PR managing director Aurelia Cecil. ’There would

have been less point in buying us if Freud had lost the brand name.’

Shandwick UK CEO Philip Dewhurst is another staunch believer in the

value of having separate PR brands within the same group. Shandwick’s

parent group International Public Relations also owns technology

specialist Weber PR Worldwide and Golin/Harris.

’Having competitive brands keeps us on our toes and offers clients a

range of discreet options,’ says Dewhurst. ’If you get too big you get

unwieldy and it leads to complacency.’

Weber, meanwhile, is planning to launch a new internet brand, Red

Whistle, in the second half of this year. Weber Europe MD Cathy Pittham

says IPR believes in the value of strong PR brands. At a local level,

however, she feels that brand strength can be even more important in

attracting staff than clients.

Yet some agencies feel that stretching a brand name to cover new

services is not necessarily appropriate. That was certainly the view

taken by healthcare specialist Shire Hall Group five years ago when it

set up Oxford-based 4D Communications.

A new name was required, explains Shire Hall Group CEO Margot James, to

highlight to clients that Shire Hall had growing expertise in the

medical education sector. This differs from broad-based healthcare PR in

that it entails targeting medical opinion leaders with the aim of

changing practice and generally requires PR practitioners with a strong

medical background. Five years after its creation, 4D Communications

accounts for almost a fifth of Shire Hall’s revenue.

Westminster Strategy is the public affairs arm of Grayling, and chairman

Michael Burrell agrees there is merit in having a separate brand. ’A lot

of potential clients are looking for specialists and it helps them see

you as a specialist if you have a separate brand name.’

Several new PR brands emerged last year, one of which was Text 100’s

spin off, August.One Communications. This income appears as part of Text

100’s in the main table. Text has rolled out new brands before, such as

Joe Public Relations and Bite Communications, which have their own

entries in the Top 150, but what makes August.One interesting is that it

handles twice the amount of UK business as that left under the Text 100


There is a compelling reason as to why the offspring was designed to be

immediately mightier than the progenitor. The digital revolution has

meant that technology now impacts on all areas of commerce and all kinds

of businesses, but many companies that need help dealing with issues

related to the new digital world might consider a pure hi-tech agency to

have too narrow a focus for their interests. The decision was taken to

keep traditional technology clients within the Text brand and create a

new, more broadly focused brand for the communications needs of a wider

array of clients. ’Brands can have enormous power and strength, but they

can also have limitations,’ says August.One MD Tariq Khwaja.

’The classic mistake is to think of your brand as your logo,’ he says.

’It’s much more than that. It’s what you are and what you do.’

But while some groups are building new PR brands, others are culling

them. Euro RSCG-owned Biss Lancaster launched a second-string agency

called Sandpiper four years ago. Recently it was announced that this was

to be brought back into its parent as the Biss Lancaster Health and

WellBeing practice group. Regional PR networks GTPR and Leedex, the

latter of which was acquired in July 1999, have also been merged and

rebranded as Leedex GTPR. Isabel Greenwood, MD of Biss Lancaster and CEO

of Leedex GTPR, says it made sense to rationalise the brand structure

because the market has changed. In the mid-1990s, she argues, clients

were far more concerned about possible conflicts of interest. Today it

is much more important to them to find the ’right flexible environment’

that will offer them the best results.

Understandably, the bigger the agency the greater the opportunity it has

for generating name recognition among clients. This is borne out by PR

Week’s most recent In-House Survey (20 August, 1999) which found that

Shandwick, Hill and Knowlton and Countrywide Porter Novelli were the

three most well-known agency brands. Other agencies to receive a number

of mentions were Citigate, Brunswick, The Red Consultancy, Text 100,

Burson-Marsteller, Fishburn Hedges, Biss Lancaster, Key Communications

and Freud Communications.

’By definition, a PR company is in the business of brand stand-out,’

says Red Consultancy MD Lesley Brend. ’If you can’t make your own brand

stand out then clients should question whether you can do it for


Many in the industry are aware that few agencies have a defined brand

that is recognised in the same way as advertising agencies and

management consultants.

GCI CEO Adrian Wheeler says: ’We’re probably among the most anonymous

sectors in professional business services.’

And Nick DeLuca, MD of GCI’s sister public affairs agency APCO agrees,

arguing that advisers of the ilk of ’Goldman Sachs,

PricewaterhouseCoopers, and McKinsey’ are much more front of mind with

clients than consultancies from the communications and reputation

management sphere.

Wheeler is also chairman of the PRCA, which, at the end of February,

published the Image of PR report, sponsored by evaluation specialist

Echo Research and cuttings company Romeike and Curtice. The report

analysed over 2,500 cuttings about PR from the UK national press last

year and found that leading agency figures such as Matthew Freud, Tim

Bell and Sophie Wessex achieved a high profile, although a lot of the

coverage centred on their private lives.

Matthew Freud is, to some extent, the victim of his own success.

Entrepreneurial acumen has led him to investments outside of PR, such as

stakes in trendy Notting Hill restaurant Pharmacy and e-commerce

start-up Toyzone. It has also propelled him into the Sunday Times Rich


’High profile names give you awareness and profile,’ says QBO MD Trevor

Morris. ’But the danger is that you may get defined in the wrong


Success of this order triggers envy as much as approbation. There was

evident glee in the alacrity with which certain newspapers slammed

Brunswick for over-hyping the credentials of the Millennium Dome’s

putative saviour Pierre-Yves Gerbeau when he was parachuted in as chief


A new wave of PR agencies is mirroring the trend in the advertising and

marketing world, where start-ups like Circus, Farm and the Foundation

have thought more carefully about their branding than the old generation

of companies which bore their founders’ names.

The increasingly global nature of communications is raising questions of

brand consistency for those consultancies that have a presence in more

than one market. Issues such as staff training and development have to

be addressed to ensure that agency culture does not vary markedly from

one office to the next.

’Brands are the encapsulation of a certain set of values and procedures

and should be a guarantee of quality. The common name is simply the

cherry on the cake. You’ve got to get the cake right and the icing on

top of it first,’ says Brodeur Worldwide director of corporate

development EMEA Jonathan Simnett.

It’s a point that the two biggest PR companies in the UK, Bell Pottinger

Communications and International Public Relations, must be keeping in

mind as they continue to streamline the branding within their groups of



Company/Location     Fee income (pounds) Turnover 99     Staff   Clients

                          99          98    (pounds)   99   98   99   98

Shandwick Intl/   26,049,000  23,342,000  35,539,000  359  321  435  415


Weber PR W’wide/   9,886,961  10,786,202  11,979,608  129  140  143  185


GCI UK/London      9,271,400   7,421,700  14,561,500  130  128  144  130

CGI London/London  2,665,000   2,391,217   5,148,000   34   33   20   29

APCO/London        2,200,200   1,750,700   3,138,992   37   29   32   28

Aurelia Public

Relations/London   1,673,819   1,342,306   2,163,461   31   25   24   25

As the consolidation in the PR industry has continued apace over the

past couple of years, the top end of the Top 150 has increasingly been

dominated by groups of companies rather than individual consultancies.

For example, Shandwick and Weber, now both part of International Public

Relations, the PR arm of marketing services giant Interpublic, have not

appeared in the league tables in their own right for a couple of


This non-ranked - and not comprehensive - table shows the fee income of

some of the agencies which are strong brands in their own right, and

whose parent companies were prepared to show the performance of their

progeny. All of the consultancies would have achieved respectable

positions if they were split out in the main table.

It is no surprise that Shandwick - in itself a cluster of specialist

service groups - is at the top of the table by some distance. Its fee

income of more than pounds 26 million for 1999 was 12 per cent up on

last year.

Shandwick’s sister agency Weber - another mini-group within IPR - came

second, although fee income was down by nine per cent on 1998. Although

the company grew in most of its divisions, the fee income was hit by a

restructuring of its financial business.

The UK offices of GCI and APCO, which appear together in the main table,

both had a good year. GCI’s income went up by a healthy 25 per cent to

pounds 9.3 million, and public affairs arm APCO was up 26 per cent to

pounds 2.2 million.

CGI London, part of Biss Lancaster, came in with pounds 2.7 million of

fee income in its own right during 1999, up 11 per cent. This left the

fee income brought in by Biss Lancaster and its regional network Leedex

GTPR as just over pounds 7 million.

Aurelia Public Relations, the subsidiary of Freud Communications, had

growth of 25 per cent in 1999, taking fee income to pounds 1.7 million.

Fee income for Freud Communications alone was just over pounds 5


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