Business is booming in the international PR industry. Alex Black looks at the fortunes of 12 big agencies.

Jon Higgins, CEO, EMEA, Ketchum
Jon Higgins, CEO, EMEA, Ketchum
When PRWeek published its Top 150 UK consultancies report and sector rankings earlier in the year, the mood of the country’s PR industry appeared to be overwhelmingly positive.

But what about the global picture? PRWeek approached a cross-section of agency heads to gauge the mood in international boardrooms. To ensure a broad perspective, the report cards on the following pages are from a mixture of global and European agency bosses.

Every single group described 2006 as an excellent year, with double-digit growth, office openings and acquisitions underpinning confidence. Never before has the global PR industry been presented with such an opportunity to seize serious chunks of the revenues traditionally reserved for adland.

The rise of user-generated content and online social networking has brought the value of meaningful third-party endorsement back into sharp relief. Word-of-mouth no longer spreads gradually among localised groups. The speed of the web means a message can be globally seeded within hours, and those with the ability to work across continents are reaping rewards.

Even the current weakness of the dollar is failing to put a significant dent in the big groups’ fortunes. Although many bosses admit the PR accounts of US firms are being carefully managed to account for the weak dollar, all point out that currency fluctuations are simply part of the game when running an international agency.

Besides, they argue, the buoyancy of European currencies means their businesses on the Continent are booming. Could this be why senior agency figures are reported to be spending more time than usual in their London HQs?

The two main headaches of an international agency boss in 2007 are perennial staples: evaluation and personnel.

While an ‘airtight’ ROI formula may ultimately prove impossible, as PR aligns itself ever closer to the core of ­clients’ businesses (Com­mu­nications Directors Survey, PRWeek, 20 July), agencies are being allowed deeper access to clients’ businesses than ever before. With monitoring firms falling over themselves to bring ever more intricate evaluation techniques to market, PR is able to convince even the most sceptical company board that it offers far more than just editorial column inches.

The big agency groups are now able to offer generous benefits packages and career development prog­rammes. Undeniably, firms with the resources to draw quality recruits are doing so at a madding pace – and this has to be good for the industry in the long run.

Scroll down to read the report cards from 12 key figures in international agency PR.


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