PR agencies are over-servicing their clients by as much as 50 per
cent and throwing away an average of pounds 681,000 in fees each year,
an industry report claims.
The survey, unveiled at the PRCA's annual conference in London last
week, found that fee-setting in PR is an imprecise science, that
fee-setting rules vary between firms, and that clients do not understand
the rules by which fees are set and are keen for greater
Addressing the conference, report author Professor Jon White of City
University Business School, said in-depth interviews with 15 agencies
and five clients were conducted, while a printed survey had gained
responses from 50 PR firms and 31 clients.
White said the way forward for PR was to align its practices with those
of management consultancies - to train staff in business and management
disciplines with an emphasis on negotiation and consultancy skills.
The report said: 'The PRCA should prepare templates and standard
approaches to fee negotiations. There is a need for a unified approach
to the practical problems of fee setting.'
PRCA executive director Chris McDowall met this week with his body's
Best Practice Committee to discuss implementation of White's
In a separate address to the conference, Paul Miller, chief operating
officer of global ad agency Leo Burnett, advocated the use of payment by
results (PBR) for PR firms. Major clients such as Unilever consider an
element of PBR as essential in paying for advertising services, Miller
First and 42nd MD Alison Canning challenged agencies to offer 'greater
organisational competence'. In a speech entitled 'Change or die',
Canning said the PR industry was under threat from management