LEADER: Top 150 continues to be a challenge

Once again PRWeek's Top 150 PR Consultancies table - published last week - has prompted interesting debate within the industry.

Since 2002, the report - a mainstay of the sector for many years - has been a huge challenge, because some of the biggest agencies have felt unable to enter following the introduction of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act on corporate compliance in the US.

PRWeek remains keen to show the true picture of this growing consultancy sector in the UK. To this end, in 2006 we put together a panel of experts to develop a formula to estimate annual fee income of some estab­lished agency brands that cannot enter. Following posi­tive feedback last year, we repeated the formula for 2007.

Put simply, the estimates are based on the most recent Companies House figures entered by these agencies, and then adjusted according to the best available headcount figures and average growth by sector. The inherent problem with averages is that some estimates will be closer than others, but anec­dotally we have mostly been close to the mark.

A further challenge is that a subset of these agencies - including Cohn & Wolfe and Burson-Marsteller - do not actually enter any Companies House figures, forcing us to apply a general multiplier figure to them. And following industry feedback, we decided to restate this particular multiplier this week.

In a nutshell, we live and learn. But PRWeek - along with the PRCA and respected chartered account firm Willott Kingston Smith - remains committed to the overall approach and formula. Prior to the compilation of the 2008 table, the original panel of experts will recon­vene to fine-tune the formula. In the meantime, we would be keen to hear any suggestions - in full confi­dentiality, of course - on how to meet the challenge.

Eventually, we hope that a piece of legis­lation initially intended to improve corporate trans­parency will be interpreted as such, allowing all UK PR agen­cies to once again declare their true performances.

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