Downturn has mixed impact on agencies

The economic downturn has hit some public affairs agencies much harder than others, according to the latest register from the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC).

Bigg: downturn winner
Bigg: downturn winner

The register, published this week, details agency client lists between 1 December 2008 and February 2009. It is the first register to emerge since the downturn began to take its toll on the PR industry.

The register shows Quintus Public Affairs has been among the hardest hit, with the number of fee-paying clients falling from 51 in the previous register to 39 in the new one. Chris Guyver’s agency recently made a number of redundancies (PRWeek, 6 March).

Several other agencies have registered smaller drops in client numbers. Weber Shandwick saw a fall from 96 to 91 clients in the latest register, while APCO has seen a fall from 40 to 37.

Connect Public Affairs ­recently won significant clients, including the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, but has seen its overall client numbers dip slightly – from 59 to 57.

But other agencies app­ear to have fared better in the current climate. Edelman’s lobbying arm, headed by public affairs MD Alex Bigg, saw a rise from 39 to 44 clients and Fleishman-Hillard has inc­reased public affairs client numbers from 47 to 50.

However, APPC chair Robbie MacDuff warned that the number of clients on the register did not necessarily indicate the health of an agency. ‘What the register does not tell you is whether the clients are retainers or project-based,’ he said.

Those not on the register include Bell Pottinger, Luther Pendragon and DLA Piper.

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