EDITORIAL: Top 150 numbers reflect strong PR

2000 was a year of many firsts for the PR industry. The PRWeek Top

150 league table, published today, moved towards a truer reflection of

the UK consultancy sector as, for the first time, the top three holding

companies - Incepta Group, Chime Communications and Interpublic

subsidiary Allied Communications - revealed fee income figures for the

PR brands they actually trade as. Now this trend has been established,

it is time for all those holding companies entering future league tables

to follow suit.



2000 was a boom year that saw fee income rise spectacularly, breaching

the pounds 600m barrier for the first time, with correspondingly large

rises in staff numbers as the industry sought to service its growing

client list.



The economy was undoubtedly robust, and with PR's place in the marketing

services family firmly established, it was in a position to capitalise

on a dot.com sector that continued to hit the headlines.



There is no shortage of market analysts ready to proclaim confidently

that PR is in a far stronger position than many other elements in the

marketing mix to deal with a slowdown if, as looks likely, the economy

as a whole follows the dot.com sector into a downturn. Offering better

value for money than some higher visibility services, PR budgets will

hopefully remain firm.



An industry that is seen to be transparent should be more able to hold

itself up to client scrutiny should the hard times come. Which is why

another first in the league table, one which may initially appear

negative, will ultimately prove to be beneficial to the industry.



Several very successful consultancies have seen their places in the

rankings drop, and this despite individual figures which paint a very

positive picture of year-on-year growth - sometimes comfortably into

double figures.



More brands in the table mean inevitable changes in position. But,

despite the short-term pain, it is without doubt better for a

consultancy to be accurately placed in a credible table than

misleadingly high in one, that could have been, and now has been,

improved upon.



The fastest-growing agencies of note this year contain one or two

surprises.



It might have been thought that firms such as Gnash Communications -

which boasted a long list of dot.com clients this time last year - would

suffer the reversal of fortunes suffered by the new economy stocks in

the US.



But it is testament to the value of PR, that good communications is as

much an important business requirement in bad times as well as good.



Whatever the year ahead may bring, the PR industry is prepared.



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