PRWeek analysed PRCA fee bandings from 2016 to 2019 and found that annual increases in membership fees are not distributed equally.
Smaller agency fee bands have increased marginally over the past four years, although agencies that make less revenue proportionally pay higher membership fees in relation to annual revenue.
Most of the large and mid-sized agencies are PRCA members, but there are a few high-profile exceptions, whose leaders question the value proposition of membership.
PRCA members are charged according to how much annual revenue they make, with more than 100 fee bands.
Agency membership fees depend on whether they increase or decrease revenue in a year.
The PRCA also increases fees for most bands each year. In many cases, this is well above inflation, with the highest fee hike being 51 per cent in four years for agencies earning between £9.5m and £10m (see infographic).
Since 2016, the 60 largest agencies in the PRWeek UK Top 150 Consultancies table have been in fee bands that have increased by at least 20 per cent over four years.
In November last year, PRWeek reported that the PRCA increased turnover by 12 per cent to £3.86m, and added 183 new corporate members in its most recent fiscal year.
The PRCA’s 2019 annual report shows income grew 19 per cent, from £2.89m in FY2016 to £3.44m in the 2018 fiscal year.
Income from membership and training makes up the bulk of revenue growth for this period, while staff costs and other overheads are the biggest costs for the PRCA, which is a not-for-profit organisation.
A PRCA spokesperson told PRWeek the income it receives from members is reinvested in the industry.
“We use member fees to fund initiatives such as our apprenticeships programme, our schools outreach programme, and our campaigns addressing mental health and the gender pay gap. We also spend a considerable amount with PRWeek in promoting these activities,” the spokesperson said.
Last year, the PRCA ran 260 events, with the majority of them free for members to attend.
“Organising and delivering events on this scale requires considerable resource,” the spokesperson added. “We have doubled the size of our events team in the last five years and employ a full-time groups manager to oversee the delivery of group activities. We are the only professional body in our field to do this. We also employ eight regional and national coordinators who ensure PRCA members receive an excellent service, regardless of their geographic location.”
The PRCA also said that since the expulsion of Bell Pottinger, the number of complaints the trade body receives and investigates has risen, adding “significant costs”.
“It is important that fees are considered in this context. In 12 years, we have transformed ourselves from a niche trade association into the world’s largest PR body,” the spokesperson said. “We are confident that we deliver exceptional value for members, and our continued growth proves our value to the industry.”