Commitment of clients is only 50%

LOS ANGELES: There were many surprises in the 1999 Harris/Impulse survey, but none was more staggering than the finding that only 50% of 1,730 respondents were ’very committed’ to their agency.

LOS ANGELES: There were many surprises in the 1999 Harris/Impulse survey, but none was more staggering than the finding that only 50% of 1,730 respondents were ’very committed’ to their agency.

LOS ANGELES: There were many surprises in the 1999 Harris/Impulse

survey, but none was more staggering than the finding that only 50% of

1,730 respondents were ’very committed’ to their agency.

While 70% of those surveyed ranked the overall performance of their PR

firm as either ’very good’ (46%) or ’outstanding’ (24%), the commitment

figures clearly evince a ’what have you done for me lately?’ mentality,

and suggest that firms are being given substantially less leeway - not

to mention time - to produce results than ever before.

Of course, regardless of whether a client is completely committed to its

PR agency, some say that reputation often winds up being the bottom line

in terms of who gets the business. The survey also debunked this myth,

with reputation ranking only 13th in the list of criteria that are

’extremely important’ to clients searching for a firm.

While the factors that topped the list - quality of account team, meets

deadlines/keeps promises and client service - were fairly predictable,

some of the factors that ranked low on the list were more


Agencies regularly babble about how important ’being global’ is, yet

’international capabilities’ ranked 21st on the list of selection

criteria, with a mere 12% of respondents deeming it extremely important.

And only 9% consider Internet capabilities extremely important in

choosing an agency - that was ranked 23rd on the list, actually down 1%

from 1998.

While reputation may not be an important factor to clients searching for

an agency, the ’quality reputation of PR firms’ rankings proved as

galvanizing as ever.

Of the ’major’ PR firms (defined as those rated ’outstanding’ or ’very

good’ by more than 100 respondents familiar with the agency), four

specialty firms cracked the top 10: hi-tech pros Copithorne & Bellows

(ranked 2nd, with 65% ranking its performance as very good or better),

Cunningham (7th, 53%); public affairs specialists Powell Tate (6th, 54%)

and APCO Associates (10th, 51%). GCI Group (13th) showed the greatest

improvement, with a 12% increase since 1998.

In the rankings of smaller firms (defined as those mentioned by between

25 and 100 respondents), Cairns & Associates topped the list, with an

impressive 80% ranking its performance very good or better. The agency

was trailed closely by BSMG-owned The Tierney Group (79%) and Paine &

Associates (75%). Several firms - Gibbs & Soell, Ryan-McGinn, Boxenbaum

Grates and Price-McNab - experienced double-digit drops.

Then again, maybe the entire Harris will be met with a collective ’so

what?’ from the PR industry. After all, only 4% of respondents ranked

’scores highly in industry survey’ as an important factor in their

agency search criteria.

Quality reputation of PR firms

Question: Indicate your perception of the overall quality of the

agencies you are familiar with


                                      1999   1998   Change

1   Fleishman-Hillard                  65%    59%       6%

2   Copithorne & Bellows               65%    n/a      n/a

3   Burson-Marsteller                  61%    56%       5%

4   Ketchum                            60%    59%       1%

5   Golin/Harris                       55%    54%       1%

6   Powell Tate                        54%    n/a      n/a

7   Cunningham                         53%    n/a      n/a

8   Edelman                            52%    54%      -2%

9   Porter Novelli                     52%    52%       0%

10  APCO Associates                    51%    51%       0%

NOTE: Data from non-clients of each PR firm. Data shown is the

percentage of those familiar with each PR firm who rated it as

’Outstanding’ or ’Very Good’ Source: Thomas L. Harris/Impulse Research


                                      1999   1998   Change

1   Cairns & Associates                80%    n/a      n/a

2   The Tierney Group                  79%    65%      14%

3   Paine & Associates                 75%    51%      24%

4   Chandler Chicco Agency             69%    n/a      n/a

5   Kekst & Company                    68%    69%      -1%

6   The Hawthorne Group                60%    n/a      n/a

7   Padilla Spear Beardsley            56%    48%       8%

8   Patrice Tanaka & Co.               54%    55%      -1%

9   The Jefferson Group                54%    n/a      n/a

10  Waggener Edstrom                   52%    n/a      n/a

Top 10 PR firm selection criteria

Question: Rate the importance of these factors in selecting a new PR

firm (Extremely; Very; Somewhat; Not Very; Not Applicable)

                                      1999   1998   Change

1   Quality of my account team         69%    60%       9%

2   Meets deadlines, keeps promises    68%    62%       7%

3   Client service                     60%    58%       2%

4   Quality of writing                 52%    43%       8%

5   Strategic counsel                  47%    43%       5%

6   Creativity                         46%    46%       0%

7   Media placement                    44%    42%       2%

8   Chemistry                          40%    45%      -5%

9   Knowledge of my industry           39%    44%      -5%

10  Quality of management              35%    38%      -3%

NOTE: Adds to more than 100% due to multiple answers. Data shown is the

percentage of ’Extremely Important’ ratings for each item

Source: Thomas L. Harris/Impulse Research

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