PR industry stands up well to analysis

US GDP grew just 1.7% in calendar year 2011, hitting a high of 3% in Q4, but PR agencies bucked this trend and posted another set of impressive results for the communications services industry.

US GDP grew just 1.7% in calendar year 2011, hitting a high of 3% in Q4, but PR agencies bucked this trend and posted another set of impressive results for the communications services industry.
 
This year's Agency Business Report places more than 200 firms under the microscope and is the definitive review of the agency sector, with much more online at www.prweekus.com/abr2012.
 
The top 50 reporting firms – mainly in the $10 million-plus range – grew 10% on average in the US, with 8% more staff. The top 160 firms to submit in both 2010 and 2011 grew 7.8%.
 
The second- and third-largest independents, Waggener Edstrom and APCO, had flat years, but fourth-ranked WCG posted a third year of exponential growth, 36%, 38%, and 25% in 2011. Capstrat, CJP, M Booth, Text 100, Levick, Mitchell, Imre, and ICR also stood out with 20%-plus organic growth.
 
Once again, the holding companies' reliance on Sarbanes-Oxley to hold back data means there are anomalies among the figures. For example, Omnicom firms Fleishman-Hillard and Ketchum reported stellar performances – “best year in history” for the former and “double-digit” growth for the latter. Porter Novelli reported top- and bottom-line growth and smaller sibling Cone posted “double-digit increases.”
 
So how can Omnicom report just 1.9% organic and 6% overall growth in its PR division? Either its PR shops are economical with the truth or stray elements are lumped in the PR numbers to make other divisions – such as advertising – look better.
 
Until holding companies open up, conclusions are hard to draw. Either way, PR is set for more consolidation and aggressive growth into emerging markets as networks chase scale and reach.
 
And, ultimately, this comprehensive overview suggests there is another great year in store for the PR industry.
 
Steve Barrett, editor-in-chief, PRWeek

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