From the editor-in-chief: Even in 'interesting' times, stellar growth is possible

Thanks to three decades' experience gathering intelligence on the PR industry, an increasingly international reach, and deep relationships with key industry partners, PRWeek now offers truly comprehensive insight into what's going on in this sector, globally.

For May 2019, PRWeek has brought together global and local agency rankings data; the UK PR industry census; our Best Places to Work scheme; and several other research projects. This multi-layered report enables us to analyse the macro and micro trends in this industry, as well as the remuneration and lifestyles of the professionals that work in it.

So what overall picture does it paint? At a macro level, marketing and communications spend by big American organisations (for so long the fuel that drives this global sector) has picked up a little as the US economy has improved, and as political fears – on both sides of the Atlantic – have eased slightly.

It helps explain a five per cent growth in the spend going through agencies globally in 2018 compared with the previous year, up to $11.9bn. The US number was up slightly less, by four per cent to $5.6bn, but was growing twice as fast as the previous 12 months.

Interestingly, the UK continues to outperform most markets, with annualised spending growth exceeding nine per cent in 2018. We estimate that ‘newer’ markets such as APAC and the Middle East, despite some economic difficulties over the past couple of years, are still enjoying double-digit growth in earned media services.

Once again, higher growth can be seen in mid-sized specialist consultancies – particularly in healthcare, corporate and public affairs – than in the big networks such as Edelman, or those that are part of marcoms groups such as WPP, Omnicom, IPG and Publicis. Further consolidation is surely inevitable within these groups.

Of course it’s more difficult for a large firm to achieve high growth rates, but one does detect a preference from client organisations for more personalised, specialist advice, as bigger brands continue to invest their in-house comms talent and content production.

It will also explain why the latest UK PR Census shows a continuing decline in the salaries of agency staff and the struggle by many consultancies to find or hold on to talent.

We should not come to the conclusion that PR agencies are struggling overall, however. Many consultancies worldwide continue to see stellar growth rates and – as Best Places to Work shows – they are some of the most inspired and progressive employers on the planet.

Danny Rogers, editor-in-chief

More from the Top 150 UK Consultancies Report:

PRWeek UK Top 150 Consultancies 2019: Dawdling on diversity

PR's talent retention problem

Agencies reveal what tops the PR priority list for 2019

Return of the retainer?

Which agencies grew the fastest?

UK analysis, including which types of agencies fared best and which struggled

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