AGENCY REPORT: The guide to public relations consultancies 1997 - Evidence of success/This year’s Report reveals that consultancy standards are rising fast across the board, as Kate Nicholas reports

Star ratings headed for the stratosphere in this year’s Agency Report.

Star ratings headed for the stratosphere in this year’s Agency

Report.



With no less than 15 five-star consultancies in the 1997 Agency Report,

compared to just four in 1996, PR Week’s quality survey indicates a

significant increase in inward investment and a corresponding rise in

client satisfaction.



In its second year, the 1997 Agency Report attracted a total of 40

entries, ranging in size from top ten consultancies such as Countrywide

Porter Novelli to medium size agencies such as Staniforth PR.



There were some dramatic improvements for agencies such as Charles

Barker and Staniforth, which moved from two-star to five-star status,

and Grayling and Lansons which notched up three stars in 1996 and five

stars this year.



Overall the survey indicates a very high standard of quality among some

of the UK’s main consultancies.



Those that scored the highest ratings should rightly feel proud of their

achievements. But even lower scoring agencies demonstrated a high

standard of quality. It is also important to remember that no matter how

exhaustive the research, it can only provide a snapshot of each agency.

This year’s Report is proof of the fact that client relationships,

business performance and investment are continually changing and

evolving as agencies seek to improve their offering and build on their

success in the market. There were 11 new entries, including healthcare

specialist Complete Pharma PR, McCann-Erickson PR and MacLaurin

Communications. Scope Communications which gained a two- star rating in

1996 re-emerged as Scope Ketchum, with a five star performance.



Particularly encouraging signs include the continued investment in

evaluation.



A majority of those agencies which contributed to this year’s Agency

Report made use of either comprehensive in-house evaluation systems or

used recognised external media analysts - and in many cases both.

Significantly, very few agencies fell back on the use of advertising

value equivalents, preferring to use volume and favourability, and, in

many cases, sophisticated media and issue analysis systems.



The Report also indicated a significant commitment to staff training at

all levels, incorporating not only basic PR skills but also covering

strategic planning and general business education.



Staffing matters emerged as one of the major issues for clients, with

many clients quoting stability of staff at a senior level as one of the

most important issues for them in terms of their relationships with

their agencies.



But the single most important issue for clients to emerge from this

survey is the confidentiality of the client/agency relationship, closely

followed by the need for real business acumen among consultants. This,

is in part a reflection of the increasing confidence into which

consultancies are being taken by their clients at the very highest

level.



Other agency management issues which clients feel will have a

significant impact on consultancy service and client satisfaction are

the ability to provide in-depth evaluation and to offer strategic

communications advice.



Surprisingly, the strength of the agency brand, comes much further down

the clients’ list of priorities. The message is that in the increasingly

complex field of PR, it is not the size of the agency that matters or

its relative strength of its ’personality’ or brand - it is results; the

ability to deliver quality business consultancy and to evaluate the

outcome in a language that the board understands, that will win the day.



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