Editorial: A warm welcome to hard statistics

The PR industry has always been lacking in statistics, and has made a business out of ’touchy-feely stuff.’

The PR industry has always been lacking in statistics, and has made a business out of ’touchy-feely stuff.’

The PR industry has always been lacking in statistics, and has made

a business out of ’touchy-feely stuff.’

The Harris/Impulse survey is therefore a welcome respite. To know that

agency work has grown by 70% since last year is vital from two points of

view: first, it reveals that the growth of agency business has not come

at the expense of corporate in-house budgets, which remained more or

less static; second, it confirms that the extra work in the industry is

coming not just from dot-com startups, but across the board - which has

got to be good news for those of you bored with all the media coverage

in this area.

One can guarantee two things: first that agencies will be furiously

extrapolating the data to find the good news - ’we may only be 12th in

national awareness, but in terms of quality we’re second in Washington,

third equally in business-to-business, and we’re sixth on everyone’s

pitch lists.’ Second, that the 12 agencies who take part in

supplementary - and secret - benchmarking analysis of their own

performance will be furiously trying to work out who’s who and why they

scored so highly.

How seriously should these awareness and quality ratings be taken? While

one finds oneself nodding in agreement at many of the findings, there

are clearly anomalies. For example, is Copithorne & Bellows really the

equal-best agency by quality reputation?

All the same, the results will provide many agencies with an indication

of how hard it is to register in the consciousness of busy corporate and

marketing professionals, and suggests that some companies - even

successful ones who’ve enjoyed stellar years, like Ketchum and BSMG -

have much to do by way of PR for themselves if they are to get on those

short lists automatically.

Perhaps most interesting of all, though, were the new questions about

the Internet. On the one hand, the survey shows that in more cases, the

Web is used as a means of communication with customers (63%) than it is

for advertising products (53%) or selling products directly/through

e-commerce (34%).

That’s the good news for PR agencies who are looking to muscle in on web

work. The bad news is that while advertising agencies (18%) are used

little more than PR firms (16%) in the creation of web sites, web

development firms are actually dominating (66%) far more than they

should. PR firms should be having more of a say in the creation of


What the survey won’t tell you, however, is who’s responsible for

maintaining and updating the content. These and other important

questions will be answered in our own corporate survey, the results of

which will be published in October.

PR isn’t so easy after all

Everyone in PR - and journalism - should read the story about Marc Allan

and his switch from reporter to public relations pro (see analysis,


All journalists assume that PR is easy, but as Allan found, even with a

great story and the inside track, it’s not a piece of cake.

The experience also brought home to Allan how rude and unreasonably

arrogant journalists can be. Enjoy.

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