THE TOP EUROPEAN PR CONSULTANCIES 2001: Belgium - Apart from the local industry, public affairs for the European Commission is booming

The PR industry in Belgium is really two businesses. First there is

the local industry, which focuses on the promotion of goods and services

domestically. Second, there is the European public affairs

industry that surrounds the European Commission.

The past year has seen growth in these two parallel industries. For the

domestic business, growth has come from a strong economy and the

decision of an increasing number of businesses to make Brussels their

European hub. For the European public affairs business, growth has come

from a gradual increase in the importance and influence of the European

Commission. Besides the increased role PR has won generally in corporate

activity across Europe in the wake of the boom, both industries

also benefited in 2000 from a series of scandals that have thrust PR

higher up the corporate agenda.

Many of the country's biggest agencies combine the two sorts of PR work

and these firms form the majority of the 15 that belong to the national

trade body ABCRP/BGRCA. These had an average growth of 20 per cent in

2000, continuing the steady growth of the past decade.

Overall growth for the country - including non-BPRCA members - is

difficult to gauge, partly because many of the agencies that specialise

in European public affairs are not BPRCA members. Overall, it is this

work that is showing the most growth and, as a result, many agencies are

increasingly focusing their efforts in this direction.

Burson-Marsteller Belgium chief executive Jeremy Galbraith says: 'We

have decided to focus more and more on European public affairs and we

are doing less in the Belgian PR market, which now accounts for less

than ten per cent of our business.'

Galbraith says clients want public affairs activity that is broad-based

and includes such areas as grassroots work, using the internet and

political advertising.

Interel Marien managing partner Jean-Leopold Schuybroek, says margins

are higher in the European public affairs work, which accounts for 40

per cent of his agency's billings. The presence of increasing numbers of

NGOs and pressure groups in the capital accounts for the increased

importance of the European work.

It is also true that the activities of the Commission, which are now

less about arcane regulation and more about direct relevance to

consumers, have also increased the importance of public affairs work in

the city.

Interel Marien has worked on crisis management relating to a series of

scandals that have hit Belgian firms in recent years, from the dioxin

crisis that hit food in 1999, to the bankruptcy of Lernout and Housepie,

a high-profile company specialising in speech recognition products, in

which a great many people invested before it was found to have been

operating illegally.

The fall-out from these has benefited agencies working in public affairs

and locally. European Communications Strategies (CS) senior partner

Johan Ral says: 'In Belgium, each sector has been confronted with deep

crises or difficult strategic issues. In this context you have a further

development and professionalisation of issues management, public affairs

and corporate governance, and a growing insight into the added value

that strategic communications can bring.' This means the PR industry is

maturing fast, he says.

The increasing importance of PR in Belgium has been underlined by the

new government's focus on the importance of good communications. This

has filtered through the economy to the benefit of the country's local


Local Belgian business (complicated by the split of the country into two

communities - the French-speaking Walloons and the Flemish) has also

been boosted recently by the fact that multinationals are increasingly

choosing to have European HQs in Brussels and to run pan-European

business from the city.

Interel Marien client Monsanto is an example. The UK's BT also moved its

European public affairs operation from London to Belgium during the

year. Hill & Knowlton director with responsibility for Belgian PR Paul

Baeyaert agrees. He says: 'We have just won a large transnational PR

account, which will be run from Brussels. Brussels is increasingly

important as a hub. There is a huge opportunity for the city.'

Like those across Europe, agencies working in Belgium have been hit by

the fall-out from the over-expectation associated with


According to Weber Shandwick Belgium CEO and ABCRP/BGRCA chairman

Ludovic Goethals, in the first half of 2000 PR agencies could not cope

with the demand from internet start-ups wanting PR programmes on which

they could build their businesses in return for little cash.

Now, says Goethals, old economy companies are providing the most

exciting opportunities for PR agencies, partly because agencies in the

country are being asked to act in a wider variety of roles. Brand

management and customer relationship management skills are increasingly

required alongside more traditional PR skills, he says.

Baeyaert adds: 'We are also getting into such things as guerrilla

marketing, going to the clubs and out on the streets. That is an

evolution as well - it is a widening of approaches.' Getting under the

skin of these different segments will require Belgian PR firms to

increasingly broaden their offering.


Rank Company Fee income (pounds) Growth

2000 2000 1999 %

1 Porter Novelli Brusselst 4,532,249 3,761,021 21

2 Burson-Marsteller* 3,983,008 3,550,000 12

3 Interel Marien* ** 3,963,000 3,164,000 25

4 GCI/APCO Brussels* ** 3,961,000 2,980,000 33

5 GPC Brussels 3,858,038 3,272,353 18

6 Hill & Knowlton* 3,406,000 2,737,000 24

7 Adamson BSMG W'wide(1) 2,728,123 2,384,608 14

8 PR Force 2,653,000 2,145,000 24

9 Shandwick Belgium* 1,987,000 1,486,000 34

10 Ogilvy PR Worldwide* 1,709,294 2,153,000 -21

11 Edelman Belgium 1,625,000 1,239,804 31

12 European Comm Strategies* 1,567,074 1,181,512 33

13 Grayling Political Strategy 924,538 748,500 24

14 PRP* 860,300 660,000 30

15 Anthonissen & Assocs* ** 647,397 468,856 38

16 Luna* 604,730 547,450 10

17 B & S Syntagmes* 596,409 520,272 15

18 Decitime* 474,016 617,323 -23

19 Key Communications 400,000 544,500 -

20 Kate Thomas & Kleyn* ** 377,472 292,000 29

Rank Company Location Status


1 Porter Novelli Brusselst Brussels PNI subsidiary

2 Burson-Marsteller* Brussels B-M subsidiary

3 Interel Marien* ** Brussels PROI member

4 GCI/APCO Brussels* ** Brussels GCI subsidiary

5 GPC Brussels Brussels GPC subsidiary

6 Hill & Knowlton* Brussels H&K subsidiary

7 Adamson BSMG W'wide(1) Brussels BSMG subsidiary

8 PR Force Brussels Independent

9 Shandwick Belgium* Brussels WS subsidiary

10 Ogilvy PR Worldwide* Brussels Ogilvy subsidiary

11 Edelman Belgium Brussels Edelman subsidiary

12 European Comm Strategies* Brussels Independent

13 Grayling Political Strategy Brussels Grayling subsidiary

14 PRP* Brussels Independent

15 Anthonissen & Assocs* ** Antwerp Independent

16 Luna* Hoelaart Independent

17 B & S Syntagmes* Brussels Worldcom subsidiary

18 Decitime* Brussels IPRN affiliate

19 Key Communications Brussels Euro PR member

20 Kate Thomas & Kleyn* ** Brussels Euro RSCG affiliate

All figures relate to the year ended December 2000

Fee income = PR fees only

* Denotes member of ABCRP/BGPRA.

(1) also includes fee income from offices in Geneva and Strasbourg

** 1999 fee income as submitted for 2000 European Consultancies tables

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