Public Sector: Top 25 Public Sector Consultancies

Hit by government spending cuts, many public sector consultancies suffered double-digit percentage fee income drops during 2010. Matt Cartmell reports.

It is no secret that the public sector comms industry, once a booming economy, suffered immense cuts during 2010 and continues to feel the pain.

A mixture of factors following the general election, including the Comprehensive Spending Review, the subsequent crumbling of the COI and budgets being frozen within government departments, have hit agencies hard.

This has resulted in far fewer tenders as campaigns are handled in-house or dropped altogether, a greater emphasis on proving value for money and retainers being replaced by project work.

The top of this year's table looks significantly different to 2009 - the leading five's combined public sector fee income has dropped from £13.8m, to just £8.9m.

Grayling took top position, with a fee income of £3.1m, beating long-standing top dog Kindred, whose public sector income dropped by 53 per cent, to nearly £2.4m.

Grayling public sector MD James Ford explains the agency's relative success: 'We still saw significant opportunities, particularly within the NHS, such as consultations, reconfiguration, regional public awareness campaigns and education - particularly universities.' Grayling picked up clients including the Anglia Cancer Network and NHS Specialised Services.

Despite a drop in public sector fees of ten per cent, Hertfordshire-based Communications Management jumped to third place, from fifth. The agency's MD, Pam Calvert, says it did not suffer as much as other agencies because none of its income came from central government campaigns.

'We have successfully developed our business with regionally based organisations in the public sector that really value our in-depth knowledge and experience of their sectors,' adds Calvert, pointing to clients such as higher education institutions and primary care trusts.

In fourth place is Golley Slater Public Relations - making its public sector league table debut. MD Martin Long says the reason it is now in the public sector list is because it had not previously identified the sectors driving its revenues. 'We have always worked very closely with the public sector, both across the UK and at national and regional levels,' adds Long.

Munro & Forster's position at number five is a rise of one place from 2009, despite a loss of 27 per cent in public sector fee income.

53% - Drop in public sector fee income for Kindred

Rank Consultancy name/ Public Sector % Total PR % total Staff
in Top Location fee income chng income 10 PR
150 (pounds k) (pounds k) income
2010 2009

1 12 Grayling*/ 3,098 3,779 -18 17,421 18 228
2 57 Kindred Agency/ 2,388 5,043 -53 3,496 68 40
3 89 Communications 1,335 1,491 -10 1,851 67 24
St Albans
4 49 Golley Slater PR 1,054 NE NE 4,054 26 49
5 73 Munro & Forster 1,013 1,388 -27 2,717 38 30
6 48 Consolidated PR/ 800 1,784 -55 4,081 20 55
7 34 The Big 780 965 -19 6,266 13 89
Partnership Grp/
8 NA The Bridge Group/ 760 871 -13 791 96 14
9 NA Word Association/ 754 NE NE 754 100 13
10 69 London 702 799 -12 2,807 25 20
11 25 Lansons 626 654 -4 8,283 7 83
12 NA DTW/ 618 620 0 709 87 10
13 47 Camargue Group/ 592 1,700 -65 4,553 13 55
14 NA Quantum PR/ 522 470 11 647 81 13
15 28 Four 478 307 56 7,037 7 124
16 42 Freshwater/ 477 294 62 4,945 10 71
17 55 Smarts/ 372 501 -26 3,535 11 56
18 68 Colman Getty/ 343 646 -47 2,837 12 35
19 141 Linstock 328 NE NE 912 36 10
20 41 3 Monkeys 176 NE NE 5,187 3 54
21 74 MC2/ 169 NE NE 2,633 6 35
22 92 Focus PR/ 164 NE NE 1,823 9 29
23 122 90TEN Healthcare/ 160 NE NE 1,240 9 14
24 143 Admiral PR/ 150 346 -57 895 17 10
25 59 Hanover/ 141 NE NE 3,388 4 38


Public sector fee income pounds: 3,098k

Losses: 18%

- How did public sector PR fare in 2010?

Many public bodies have had to manage comms - often through significant change with fewer comms staff - and watch expertise leave and not be replaced.

- What were the key trends in public sector PR during the past 12 months?

Fewer tenders, a great emphasis on providing - and proving - value for money, fewer retainers and more discrete projects.

- What is the market like now?

Many public sector bodies are having to find significant savings; staff are often not being replaced.

- Are there certain types of public sector clients that are offering more work?

Some clients are experiencing massive change in their sector - higher education, NHS - but that does not mean they are offering more work.

- What kind of work do clients want?

Consultations, reconfiguration and service change.

- What do you predict will happen in public sector PR during the next 12 months?

The public sector will continue to need external support - it is a massive part of the UK economy.


High points: Delivering Stern review on rape complaints and exposing the illegal trade in personal information for the Information Commissioner.

Low points: Three Department of Health campaign contracts were not renewed.

Key client wins: NHS Specialised Services, Stern review on rape complaints and Anglia Cancer Network.

Best hire: Client executive Alicia Kearns.

Strategy for 2011: We have established a new consultation unit while applying colleagues' health and education public sector experience to the private sector.

Predicted public sector fee income for 2011: In line with 2010, about £3m

Word Association: 9

Public sector fee income pounds: 754k

Losses: N/A (first time in league table)

- How did public sector PR fare in 2010?

Although it was a good year for us, with turnover up nearly ten per cent, it was a bad year for public sector PR as a whole.

- What were the key trends in public sector PR during the past 12 months?

The initial vagueness of the Big Society/localism agenda meant that a wide range of public sector organisations could argue their work was the very embodiment of it.

- What is the market like now?

We sense that our clients are feeling that things did not turn out quite as badly as the worst-case scenarios they imagined.

- Are there certain types of public sector clients that are offering more work?

We will be watching the role of GP consortia and the development of Local Enterprise Partnerships.

- What kind of work do clients want?

There is much more of a focus on comms strategy and stakeholder engagement.

- What do you predict will happen in public sector PR during the next 12 months?

PR professionals will be looking for cheaper, better, different ways of achieving their objectives.


High points: A tool kit we developed in response to changes in social housing regulation. The tool kit was read by more than 200 housing providers and led to about 20 new projects.

Low points: Local authority clients taking work in-house following the Government's first Comprehensive Spending Review.

Key client wins: Lyng Community Association.

Best hires: Copywriter Wyn Matthews.

Strategy for 2011: We will continue to offer good value, creative, innovative and strong strategic solutions to our existing client base. We plan to take this successful approach into other parts of the public sector, namely health and education.

Predicted public sector fee income for 2011: More than £800,000


Public sector fee income pounds: 592k

Losses: 65%

- How did public sector PR fare in 2010?

There was a sudden halt to most public sector comms, with the biggest impact felt around May/June, shortly after the general election.

- What were the key trends in public sector PR during the past 12 months?

No spend or, at best, low spend with central government either cancelling projects or putting them on ice.

- What is the market like now?

Spend remains low and is focused on 'maintenance' or 'ticking over' projects - work that needs to continue but is doing so at a fairly basic level.

- Are there certain types of public sector clients that are offering more work?

There is still work in some niche areas and this plays to agencies with specialist strengths.

- What kind of work do clients want?

Clients want to use specialist agencies that can offer a level of insight, expertise and ROI, which they do not get from more generalist agencies.

- What do you predict will happen in public sector PR during the next 12 months?

We see little changing in the public sector during the next year. In fact, things could get worse.


High points Our migration away from pure public sector work and building our focus on major infrastructure work and public/private partnerships.

Low points: The sudden fall in public sector spend.

Key client wins: New projects in energy and construction, and briefs for suppliers to the public sector such as Morgan Sindall Professional Services.

Best hires: We are not currently looking to hire for specific public sector briefs.

Strategy for 2011: To continue our successful migration to public/private partnership and major infrastructure work, while positioning ourselves for public sector opportunities.

Predicted public sector fee income for 2011: Around £200,000

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