From the editor-in-chief: PR has rarely looked this good a place to invest or work

Having developed further its scope and depth this year, PRWeek's Agency Business Report (ABR) is easily the most comprehensive report on the PR industry, both in the UK and worldwide.

Published this week, it incorporates the Top 150 UK PR Consultancies and the Global Agency Business Report. The ABR as a whole examines hundreds of PR consultancies – in Europe, the US and Asia – from a quantitative and qualitative perspective.

PR emerges as a global business that now employs hundreds of thousands of professionals, and that is grabbing an ever-growing share of corporate budgets as organisations put increasing value on their reputation and comms prowess.

In the UK the revenue of the Top 150 consultancies alone exceeds £1bn in annual revenues. PR firms here need to be turning over £1m before they even enter this elite group. And this doesn’t even include the hundreds (thousands?) of specialist agencies that are quietly thriving around Britain.

The UK market continues to be a dynamic mix of the big global networks (Edelman, Weber Shandwick, Cohn & Wolfe), which are growing their London operations steadily; well established British-based independents (Freuds, Bell Pottinger, M&C Saatchi), which are successfully exporting their offerings; and numerous entrepreneurial boutique agencies (W, Citypress, Pegasus) – many of which are now based outside London – and which absolutely define Britain’s leadership of the PR industry in creativity and innovation.

Throughout all the ABR’s rankings and analysis, a few central themes emerge this year. While PR’s heartland of corporate reputation management remains solid, and still growing in many parts of the world, there are hotter areas of growth in healthcare comms and in content-led marketing comms.

Interestingly these two disciplines are creating rich opportunities for the big networks and the boutiques alike. The networks that have used their scale and investment capital to innovate in these areas, have enjoyed significant growth. While the smaller agencies have proven themselves exceptionally nimble and creative, picking up exciting projects for brands who may use the larger agency names for more established comms programmes.

One note of caution is that growth in 2015 was slower than in 2014. Partly this is due to the difficulty of improving on what was a very strong previous year. Beyond this however, there are two underlying trends that could challenge consultancies in 2016. The first is that the economy, benign for the past five years, may be slowing overall. Concerns over Brexit and a lack of manufacturing and export-led growth (as opposed to consumer spending and housing equity release) have introduced chill winds into corporate boardooms. Second, from a structural point of view, the aforementioned growth drivers of PR are of increasing interest to many other industries including management consultancies, ad agencies and media owners – all of which are claiming new forms of comms-led marketing as their own.

But overall, it is an encouraging picture as we enter the summer of 2016. Rarely has ‘PR’ – ill-defined as it is – looked as good a business to invest in, or indeed work in, as it does today.

Danny Rogers is the editor-in-chief of PRWeek UK

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