PR LEAGUE TABLES: Top 50 business-to-business - Our tables show that the business-to-business sector accounts for a surprisingly big chunk of the PR market, reflecting how seriously business clients take the profession

Communicating with clients’ trade customers and suppliers represents a huge chunk of the PR industry. What is easily overlooked is that, in addition to those industries which have no contact with the public, and therefore only use business-to-business PR, most consumer marketers also need to keep their trade contacts informed.

Communicating with clients’ trade customers and suppliers

represents a huge chunk of the PR industry. What is easily overlooked is

that, in addition to those industries which have no contact with the

public, and therefore only use business-to-business PR, most consumer

marketers also need to keep their trade contacts informed.

Our survey suggests that as much as 45% of all PR work is classed as

business-to-business. The total income declared by the 127 participants

in this year’s league table amounts to pounds 312m, of which pounds

140.7m is directed toward a business-to-business audience. This compares

with pounds 95.3m aimed at consumers.

What’s also true is that business clients take PR very seriously. The

specialist advertising and marketing agency CHJS does an annual survey

of business-to-business marketing budgets. Last year’s study (Marketing,

May 1 1997) put PR third behind promotional literature and trade press

advertising in terms of share of spend, but rated it top, in the opinion

of clients, for return on investment.

There are two tables with this article. The first ranks PR consultancies

by the income they get from targeting the business audience - including

professionals, as shown by Medical Action Communications in second


The second reflects the client base in ’other industry’, a bit of a

catch-all title which includes non-consumer areas, such as engineering

and chemicals.

A minor point is that our questionnaire also asked agencies to identify

income from the motor industry (which obviously can be either trade or

consumer PR). This proved to be a relatively small sector, probably

because the car companies run such powerful in-house PR departments.

Only five consultancies reported an income from this area of more than

pounds 250,000: Hill & Knowlton on pounds 750,000, followed by Key

Communications, Countrywide, Harrison Cowley and GCI. For this reason,

and so as not to be unfair to these agencies, ’motor’ has been placed

back in the ’other industry’ totals.

Small fry

Inevitably, the big three generalists - Shandwick, Hill & Knowlton and

Countrywide - are high in both tables, but analysing the industry in

this way does give a chance to shine to some of the smaller

business-to-business specialists who get all, or a very high proportion,

of their income from business-to-business. These include Camargue, ICAS,

Ogilvy and The Mistral Group.

It should be noted that many of the consultancies specialising in IT and

healthcare feature in the business-to-business audience table -

naturally enough, since much of their effort is directed at trade or

professional people. More information about these sectors will be found

on pages 55 and 56.

Camargue, with clients including ICI, Tarmac, GEC and market research

consultancy NOP, enjoyed an increase in income of almost 40% last year.

Managing director Andrew Litchfield believes the marketplace is growing

rapidly, helped not just by buoyant economic conditions but by clients

diverting more above-the-line money into PR.

Like Sara Render of Kinross & Render, however, he wonders how long the

good times will last.

’We are definitely beneficiaries of the latest boom, but with a weather

eye on the economy as a whole we are now focusing on consolidation and

the maintenance of quality and service standards,’ he says.

’Last year, we thought 1998 would bring a significant slowdown in demand

for business services. Despite the fact that business has continued to

surge, we are exercising caution in our business planning. A service

sector downturn is still very much on the cards.’

Paul Miller, managing director of Countrywide Porter Novelli, which

traditionally has been strong in the chemicals sector, believes it is

inevitable that activity will go off the boil sooner or later, although

he hopes it will be a correction rather than a recession.

But he also points out that PR weathered the last recession much better

than other areas, such as advertising and design, and he believes PR

agencies are better managed now than was the case at the beginning of

the 90s.

From the top

Others suggest reasons for demand holding up. For instance, Nigel

Kennedy, managing director of Grayling, says that the fact the Labour

government has arrived with a new and very active agenda has stimulated

a growing need in the business community for a combined PR and public

affairs service.

And Jonathan Hemus, deputy managing director of The Reputation Managers

in Milton Keynes, claims that many business-to-business clients are now

making a priority of corporate brand building and reputation management

(do we detect an axe being ground there?).

This, Hemus adds, is a trend which has been evident among the bigger

consumer brands for some time. It is a positive step in the sense that

it makes a more strategic use of PR expertise than the simple promotion

of products or services in isolation. Countywide’s Miller suggests that

business-to-business clients are now taking a more holistic view of

communications, addressing wider audiences through a broader range of


The strategy theme is also picked up by Ken Deeks, a director of The

Argyll Consultancies, primarily a business-to-business high-tech

specialist firm. ’Companies have cottoned on to the fact that public

relations can make a huge difference, and can create a competitive

advantage,’ he claims.

As a result, it has become a main board issue, a core function rather

than something on the margin.

And one reason it is being taken more seriously, he believes, is that at

last PR is beginning to act like a serious profession. ’Only two years

ago, a survey revealed that something like 80% of all companies using PR

evaluated it by gut feel, and gut feel alone. Something had to change,

and it is a relief to see that more and more PR companies are taking

evaluation seriously at last.’

Balance that against a comment from Trevor Morris, managing director of

QBO - The Quentin Bell Organisation. This is an agency that splits 50/50

between consumer and business-to-business.

Fast turnover

’The most worrying industry trend is the very high turnover in client

contacts,’ says Morris. ’At the selfish level, the concern is that a new

marketing or corporate relations director will hold a pitch in order to

show who is boss, and keep himself or herself amused.

’But more worrying is the tendency to short-termism that this induces.

Often it is the consultancy that offers the greatest level of

consistency in the organisation.’ Strategically-minded clients?

Finally, if clients are to be criticised, so too are PR consultants.

Eulogy! is a young consultancy which specialises in

business-to-business, and in particular, marketing services. Too small

yet to feature in these specialist tables, it was nevertheless the

fastest-growing agency last year.

Never shy to express an opinion, Eulogy! founding partner Adrian Brady

has this message for clients concerned about the quality of their PR

support: ’We pride ourselves on recruiting intelligent marketers from

all disciplines, including, of course, PR, who have the marketing nous

to know how to understand a brand and communicate its key messages.

’So I suggest a simple litmus test. Every PR person should be, first and

foremost, a marketer. If you are not convinced that your agency fits

this description, don’t work with them.’


Rk  Agency                                Income, 1997     Bus-to-bus

                                                pounds         pounds

1   Countrywide Porter Novelli              17,039,000     10,223,000

2   Medical Action Communications            6,530,000      6,530,000

3   Hill & Knowlton                         18,753,000      5,626,000

4   Shandwick UK                            23,861,000      4,772,000

5   Text 100                                 6,182,000      4,766,000

6   Weber Public Relations Worldwide        10,417,000      4,063,000

7   Citigate                                11,433,000      4,002,000

8   Dewe Rogerson                            9,797,000      3,723,000

9   Scope Ketchum Communications             5,129,000      3,488,000

10  Brodeur A Plus                           3,708,000      3,300,000

11  Harvard Public Relations                 4,314,000      3,236,000

12  The Argyll Consultancies                 2,717,000      2,717,000

13  Firefly Communications                   3,310,000      2,681,000

14  The Shire Hall Group                     4,167,000      2,500,000

15  Edelman Public Relations Worldwide       7,127,000      2,423,000

16  Camargue                                 2,189,000      2,189,000

17  The Grayling Group                       6,941,000      2,152,000

18  Fishburn Hedges                          4,560,000      2,098,000

19  Key Communications                       3,763,000      2,070,000

20  Charles Barker BSMG                      6,841,000      2,052,000

21  Holmes & Marchant Group                  3,520,000      2,042,000

22  The Ansdell Group                        3,224,000      1,838,000

23  ICAS PR                                  2,104,000      1,830,000

24  The Reputation Managers                  1,810,000      1,810,000

25  Fusion Communications                    1,577,000      1,577,000

26  Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide        1,742,000      1,568,000

27  Biss Lancaster                           6,355,000      1,525,000

28  QBO - The Quentin Bell Organisation      3,030,000      1,515,000

29  AD Communications                        1,497,000      1,497,000

30  Manning Selvage & Lee                    3,738,000      1,495,000

31  Richmond Towers                          3,980,000      1,393,000

32  Fleishman-Hillard UK                     2,233,000      1,384,000

33  Cohn & Wolfe                             4,188,000      1,382,000

34  The Mistral Group                        1,639,000      1,311,000

35  GCI Group London                         4,854,000      1,262,000

36  Noiseworks                               1,565,000      1,252,000

37  Grant Butler Coomber                     1,581,000      1,170,000

38  Keene Communications                     1,466,000      1,158,000

39  DPA Corporate Communications             1,216,000      1,155,000

40  Profile Public Relations                 1,201,000      1,105,000

41  Strategic Alliance International         1,349,000      1,079,000

42  Consolidated Communications              2,596,000      1,038,000

43  Harrison Cowley                          3,801,000        988,000

44  Insight Marketing & Communications       1,400,000        980,000

45  Lexis Public Relations                   2,253,000        946,000

46  Roger Staton Associates                    937,000        937,000

47  Landmark Corporate Communications          936,000        936,000

48  De Facto Consultants                       919,000        919,000

49  The Red Consultancy                      2,412,000        892,000

50  Golley Slater PR                         1,779,000        890,000


Rk  Agency                                Income, 1997 Other industry

                                                pounds         pounds

1   Shandwick UK                            23,861,000      6,681,000

2   Countrywide Porter Novelli              17,039,000      5,118,000

3   Weber Public Relations Worldwide        10,417,000      2,188,000

4   College Hill Associates                  4,322,000      1,902,000

5   Camargue                                 2,189,000      1,861,000

6   Hill & Knowlton                         18,753,000      1,500,000

7   GCI Group London                         4,854,000      1,456,000

8   Key Communications                       3,763,000      1,392,000

9   The Mistral Group                        1,639,000      1,295,000

10  The Grayling Group                       6,941,000      1,215,000

11= Biss Lancaster                           6,355,000      1,144,000

11= Citigate                                11,433,000      1,144,000

13  The Ansdell Group                        3,224,000      1,096,000

14  Harrison Cowley                          3,801,000      1,064,000

15  Quay West Communications                   989,000        989,000

16  Dewe Rogerson                            9,797,000        980,000

17  ICAS PR                                  2,104,000        884,000

18  Fishburn Hedges                          4,560,000        866,000

19  Barkers PR (Birmingham and Scotland)     1,997,000        865,000

20  Edelman Public Relations Worldwide       7,127,000        855,000

21  Focus Communications Group               1,524,000        853,000

22  The Reputation Managers                  1,810,000        815,000

23  BRAHM Public Relations                   2,000,000        700,000

24  Scope Ketchum Communications             5,129,000        615,000

25  Golley Slater PR                         1,779,000        587,000

26  The Leedex Group                         1,830,000        567,000

27  De Facto Consultants                       919,000        505,000

28= Market Force Communications                755,000        491,000

28= Fleishman-Hillard UK                     2,233,000        491,000

30  Edson Evers & Associates                   698,000        454,000


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