LOS ANGELES: Corporations doled out over dollars 1 million more to PR firms this year than in 1998, but the top agencies could use some PR of their own.
LOS ANGELES: Corporations doled out over dollars 1 million more to
PR firms this year than in 1998, but the top agencies could use some PR
of their own.
That was the central finding of the latest Harris/Impulse Research
Public Relations Client Survey. The 1,730 responding clients reported an
average PR budget of dollars 4.4 million in 1999, up 29.4% from the
dollars 3.4 million spent in 1998. Over the past two years, PR budgets
have almost doubled, up 91%.
The entire budgetary gain came from work assigned to PR firms - an
average of dollars 2.9 million, up a whopping 70% from the dollars 1.7
million last year. Meanwhile, internal PR budgets declined 11.8%, from
dollars 1.7 million to dollars 1.5 million.
Bergen attributed the trend to ’the expansion of tasks given to
corporate communications staffs without added head-count and the
increasing professionalism of PR agencies, particularly in high-risk
counseling and delivery of emerging technologies.’
But PR budgets accounted for only 0.1% of total client revenues, showing
that PR continues to make do with mere crumbs from the corporate
’The biggest thing for me is that the average investment in PR is still
terribly modest in terms of the range of vital corporate audiences that
PR reaches,’ said Jack Bergen, president of the Council of PR Firms.
But survey author Thomas Harris disagreed. ’It was fairly good, compared
with the total revenues of companies,’ he said, noting that responding
clients averaged dollars 4.4 billion in revenues. Harris said a better
question - and one which might be tackled in next year’s edition of the
survey - is what percentage of marketing budgets go towards PR.
While PR budgets are increasing, clients’ awareness of the leading PR
agencies leaves much to be desired. In fact, clients’ familiarity with
eight of the top 15 PR firms declined in 1999, with only a handful of
firms (Edelman, Golin/Harris, BSMG) raising their profile (see
Top 10 firms Shandwick, Weber and BSMG did not feature in the Top 10
awareness rankings. Harris attributed the downturn to a change in the
survey’s methodology, which saw the firms listed alphabetically, rather
than by size.
In a further chart, Edelman edged Fleishman-Hillard and
Burson-Marsteller as the top firm on clients’ short lists of PR
partners, followed by Ketchum and Hill & Knowlton.
Burson rose from third place to tie H&K as the most highly regarded
public affairs firm, while Kekst & Co. ruled IR. Cunningham was top dog
in hi-tech, Porter Novelli easily led healthcare, Ketchum was the top
consumer choice and Burson tied with Fleishman in the
The study found that clients perform a bit less than two-thirds (63%) of
all PR activity in-house and give just over one-third (37%) to PR
Work done mainly in-house includes staff relations and IR.
See p2 for more results
Awareness of national PR firms
1999 1998 Change
1 Hill & Knowlton 56% 59% -3%
2 Burson-Marsteller 54% 59% -5%
3 Edelman 54% 52% 2%
4 Fleishman-Hillard 46% 50% -4%
5 Ketchum 44% 55% -11%
6 Porter Novelli 41% 42% -1%
7 Ogilvy PR Worldwide 40% 43% -3%
8 Manning, Selvage & Lee 33% 33% 0%
9 Golin/Harris 33% 30% 3%
10 Ruder-Finn 27% 29% -2%
NOTE: Respondents are non-clients of each PR firm. Figures are the
percentage of non-clients familiar enough with each PR firm to rate its
quality. Adds to more than 100% due to multiple answers.
Source: Thomas L. Harris/Impulse Research