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