PR LEAGUE TABLES: Crisis expertise proves its worth - When a crisis looms it may be time to call on the expertise of a PR team that has developed the skills to cope

It’s one of the tenets of public relations that they are the people with know-how to cope with a crisis. They can prepare action plans in anticipation of trouble, and identify what messages to communicate to what audiences.

It’s one of the tenets of public relations that they are the people

with know-how to cope with a crisis. They can prepare action plans in

anticipation of trouble, and identify what messages to communicate to

what audiences.

Heading this table again, as it has done most years since we began these

surveys, is Countrywide Porter Novelli. It’s one of the few agencies to

have made a sales point of its crisis management skills.

’We invested in the development of a product or service, which we call

Reflex,’ says Countrywide managing director Paul Miller. It’s more

outward reaching than anything previously available in the


’The fruits of that investment continue to accrue. It gives us an entry

point to a company, often at a time when the client’s need is


’The other important aspect of it is that it gives us access to senior

management. Too often the contact is below senior management level. But

in crisis management, you can work one-to-one with the chief


That’s not to say that other agencies don’t take crisis management


Most of the big agencies have executives who, in an emergency, can be

drafted in to work with the account’s team. Hill & Knowlton has

appointed several PR experts whose task is to identify best practice

around the globe.

Calculating the fees

Plans can be prepared in anticipation of a crisis, but almost by

definition one cannot be sure when it will happen. This is the reason

why a number of PR agencies have difficulty identifying how much of

their income is derived from this source. In many cases, managing a

crisis is covered by the monthly retainer - though fees go up if it

turns into a major conflagration.

Agencies in this year’s survey have identified pounds 16.9m worth of

fees for crisis work. Few get more than 10% of their income from it, and

for many it’s less than 5%. Biss Lancaster, with 15%, is an exception

this year.

Chairman Graham Lancaster says: ’It tends to wag around. We do a lot of

work for the travel industry, including the Federation of Tourist

Operators, that involves crisis management.’

Crisis management has a bearing, of course, on corporate reputation,

which is one of the PR industry’s big talking points. ’Like most people,

we think corporate reputation offers the strongest growth potential for

our industry,’ Lancaster adds.

On top of all that, agencies and their clients are beginning to

appreciate the potential for crisis represented by the internet (see

page 60).


Rank   Agency                                Total income         Crisis

                                            1998 (pounds)     management


1      Countrywide Porter Novelli              17,913,000      3,403,000

2      Biss Lancaster                           7,244,000      1,159,000

3      Shandwick International                 25,843,000      1,034,000

4      Hill & Knowlton (UK)                    23,295,000        932,000

5      Text 100                                 7,729,000        773,000

6      Grayling Group                           8,091,000        728,000

7      Fishburn Hedges                          4,991,000        699,000

8      Government Policy Consultants            6,402,000        640,000

9      Ketchum (incl. Life)                     9,608,000        480,000

10     The Shire Hall Group                     4,222,000        422,000

11     Beattie Media                            4,120,000        412,000

12     Nexus Choat                              3,724,000        372,000

13     GCI/APCO (incl. Focus Comms.)            7,422,000        371,000

14     The Communications Group                 3,421,000        342,000

15     College Hill                             5,656,000        339,000


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