SUPPLEMENT: PUBLIC RELATIONS; PR in boardroom coup

With reports of 40% increases in turnover and acceptance at boardroom level, this year’s top 40 shows PR companies storming towards the millennium, all guns blazing

With reports of 40% increases in turnover and acceptance at boardroom

level, this year’s top 40 shows PR companies storming towards the

millennium, all guns blazing



There can be little argument that in the run-up to the millennium, one

of the hottest business issues is that of corporate reputation.



When there is little else to help a company differentiate itself from

the competition, its corporate brand becomes the source of competitive

edge.



And that means PR has increasingly become a board-level issue, believes

Graham Lancaster, of Biss Lancaster.



‘Whether it is corporate advertising, relationship management with

customers, or partnership sourcing with suppliers and subcontractors,

all these are now being seen by the chief executive officer as a

holistic thing. That means PR is getting back to where it always should

have been, board level.’



Shandwick replaces Dewe at the head of the corporate PR table. But firms

such as Countrywide (ICI, BT), Hill and Knowlton (GE Capital, Bank of

New York), Biss Lancaster (RAC, Tetley), Charles Barker (IBM, British

Midland) and Burson-Marsteller (Littlewoods, General Electric), have all

seen corporate work make a strong contribution to turnover.



Alison Canning, chief executive officer at Burson-Marsteller, thinks

the recession has changed the value/price equation: ‘It has benefited

smaller agencies with lower overheads, but people will pay if they get

good value.



‘Our decision to focus on different areas of specialisation has allowed

us to differentiate. We think we are now very competitive in consumer

and corporate, for instance.’



She echoes Graham Lancaster’s view: ‘Throughout my career I have always

sensed that PR is undervalued. Now, you just get a sense that it is

coming into its own, with CEOs beginning to talk about the corporate

brand in a committed way.’



Interestingly, Canning has also been responsible for changing B-M’s own

corporate branding by calling the firm’s activities ‘perception

management’ rather than PR. This desire to get away from PR’s generally

negative image has caused a bit of a stir.



As Countrywide Communications chairman Peter Hehir points out: ‘We have

been using the phrase ‘the management of reputation’ for the last eight

years. But as long as ‘PR’ figures on the client’s budget we will

continue to be in the PR business.’



At Text 100, corporate work for clients like EDS and Rank Xerox

contributed to an overall rise of a third in 1995 to pounds 7.4m.

International group marketing director Andy West believes ‘PR is taken

more seriously as a profession today and has become more sophisticated.

As a result it has to abide by professional rules and conduct. It has

become a process-driven, model-oriented discipline, yet there is still

plenty of room for creativity.’



He reckons clients want a mix of true strategic consultancy and an

understanding of all media.



‘Technology companies have grown into truly global brands, having

targeted niche audiences in the past,’ he says. ‘That means they are

looking for more than a good media relations consultant. They want

fully-rounded PR consultants who are able to enter new markets with

local and regional knowledge and contacts, while understanding the needs

of a global operator.’



Daniel J Edelman had a much improved performance in 1995 compared with

1994, adding Westcountry Development Corporation to its stable of

corporate clients, which includes Commercial Union and British Alcan.



In Scotland, Beattie Media, with well over half its business coming from

corporate work, is positively bullish. Says Gordon Beattie: ‘The PR

business in Scotland is booming. This year our turnover will increase by

at least 40%.’ His difficulty, in what is becoming a common complaint

throughout the industry, is recruiting quality staff, he says.



About a quarter of Ketchum PR’s turnover of pounds 1.3m comes from

corporate activity for the likes of Federal Express and Duracell.

Flexibility and accountability are what count, says managing director

Jim Horsley: ‘Best team capability, or being able to offer the right mix

of, say, corporate and consumer skills, or multiple-country, multiple-

market knowledge, is essential, even if it means moving people around

the world to give the client what they want, when they want it.’



However, without effective measurement, public relations will always be

a poor cousin to other areas of marketing, he argues. ‘Our industry has

the measurement tools. But it must build them into its offer. Marketers

buy measurement.’



------------------------------------------------------------------------

Top 40 corporate PR

------------------------------------------------------------------------

   Consultancy                    Turnover 1995       Corporate PR

                                     (pounds)           (pounds)

 1 Shandwick UK                     36,843,000          7,369,000

 2 Dewe Rogerson                    13,157,000          4,473,000

 3 Countrywide Communications       21,263,000          3,615,000

 4 Burson-Marsteller                15,657,000          3,288,000

 5 Citigate                          9,774,000          3,030,000

 6 Hill and Knowlton                20,025,000          3,004,000

 7 Biss Lancaster                   10,447,000          2,716,000

 8 Charles Barker                    7,510,000          2,492,000

 9 Scope Communications Group        4,662,000          2,098,000

10 Text 100 Group                    7,405,000          1,852,000

11 GCI Group London                  6,872,000          1,581,000

12 Fishburn Hedges                   3,593,000          1,437,000

13 Ludgate Group                     9,362,000          1,404,000

14 Fleishman-Hillard                 3,656,000          1,243,000

15 Cohn & Wolfe                      4,144,000          1,036,000

16 The Grayling Group                6,764,000            933,000

17 Daniel J. Edelman                 5,176,000            725,000

18 The Rowland Company               4,724,000            709,000

19 Beattie Media                     1,160,000            696,000

20 BRAHM Public Relations            1,475,000            664,000

21 Manning, Selvage & Lee            3,605,000            649,000

22 The Public Relations Business     3,190,000            638,000

23 College Hill Associates           4,196,000            629,000

24 Financial Dynamics               10,601,000            530,000

25 Richmond Towers                   4,975,000            498,000

26 Infopress                         1,934,000            464,000

27 Landmark Corporate Comms.           901,000            451,000

28 Stephanie Churchill PR            1,117,000            447,000

29 Golley Slater PR                  2,122,000            446,000

30 Leedex Group                      2,937,000            382,000

31 Focus Communications Group          805,000            378,000

32 The Mistral Group                 1,800,000            362,000

33 ICAS Public Relations             1,452,000            334,000

34 Communications Management           541,000            325,000

35 = Kestrel Communications          1,023,000            317,000

35 = Harrison Cowley                 3,962,000            317,000

37 JBP Associates                      989,000            316,000

38 The Red Consultancy                 777,000            295,000

39 = Ketchum Public Relations        1,311,000            288,000

39 = Westminster Comms. Group        2,396,000            288,000

------------------------------------------------------------------------



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