The numbers have now been whittled down to category shortlists, from which judges pick winners.
From the 11 campaign categories, 49 agencies have been shortlisted.
Consumer PR - which has this year been split into two awards - has again seen the most entrants, with more than 80 hopefuls.
Last year, 70 agencies competed for the award, which was won by Lexis PR.
Weber Shandwick and Lansons Communications have been shortlisted three times each, while a further four firms have been shortlisted twice: Cohn & Wolfe, Countrywide Porter Novelli, Fishburn Hedges and Hill & Knowlton.
Local government involvement has increased, with East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Brighton & Hove City Council, Westminster Council and Derbyshire County Council making the shortlists.
'This is a good regional spread with only one London- based local authority.
Last year, no local authorities were shortlisted for an award,' said IPR assistant director Ann Mealor.
New categories for the 2002 awards include consumer relationships; arts, sports, leisure and tourism; planning, research and evaluation; integrated campaigns; international PR and independent consultant.