PR LEAGUE TABLES: Why trade PRs are hooked on the net - The growth of net technology has made business-to-business PR not only more efficient, but also more attractive to many clients

Business-to-business PR presents an interesting paradox. It commands the biggest share of the industry, but is also the least glamorous part.

Business-to-business PR presents an interesting paradox. It

commands the biggest share of the industry, but is also the least

glamorous part.



But for many consumer products and services, targeting the retail trade

is at least as important as talking to the public. And the internet is

growing in influence in this arena.



The main table in this article (see right) shows the top 50 agencies in

terms of targeting business-to-business audiences. This is across all

industries, including high-tech and healthcare, and various consumer

sectors, which are covered in more depth in other articles.



We also include a table of the top 40 agencies serving ’other industry’

- a catch-all term covering everything from office furniture to

chemicals - and one of the top 15 specialising in professional services

(see page 56).



The business audience and professional services are very much the

territory of Fishburn Hedges. Founded in 1991, and a subsidiary of

Omnicom, it is one of the fastest growing big agencies in this year’s

table. The agency’s focus is on corporate communications, and

business-to-business is obviously an important part of that.



The company was founded in the belief that a growing interest in the

importance of corporate reputation, evident in the US at the beginning

of the 90s, would develop here.



’We have built some niche services, such as a corporate ethics practice

specialising in issues such as corporate governance and

whistle-blowing,’ says chief executive Neil Hedges. ’Even if it is never

going to be a huge revenue earner, it positions us as being a little

different to others in the corporate arena.



’I think the fact that we understand the business market is also pretty

important, and has been attractive to dotcom companies targeting large

and small businesses.’





Internet potential



Business-to-business has also been important over the years to

Countrywide Porter Novelli and its strength is growing with the

development of the internet. Neil Backwith, managing director points to

the fact that many companies are more excited about the

business-to-business aspects of the net than they are about it as a

means of talking to consumers.



So far, he believes, industry has only scraped the surface in

understanding the potential of the net. ’Almost every new business

presentation we make includes aspects related to the net that would not

have been there a year ago,’ Backwith points out. ’For example, we’ll

talk about establishing an extranet for us to communicate with clients

and, if need be, the media.



’It is a highly efficient way of doing business, saving time, rarely

making mistakes, and giving you a record. And that is just us in

communication with our clients. Expand that to the business-to-business

world, and you can see the impact it can have.’



Just how it is affecting some of the smaller specialists is reflected in

the experience of Wyatt International, a Birmingham-based agency whose

clients include 3M and Cincinnati Machine.



Wyatt’s head of PR, Adrian Linden, says that a lot of buzz terms such as

e-business and e-engineering lack precise definition. ’We are working

with our clients to define what these words mean in their marketplace

and to their customers,’ he says. ’For some, it might be a matter of

progress-chasing on the web site; for others, it can be a means of

exchanging data.



We help clients develop different tools to suit their needs. I wouldn’t

say the internet dominates everything, but it is now an issue for all

our clients, irrespective of sector.



Similar points are made by Barrett Dixon Bell, a specialist agency in

the business-to-business arena, but with a particular focus on

international campaigns, using its team of multi-lingual marketers at

its Altrincham office.



Current projects include the development of a web site and intranet for

a food ingredients supplier which wants to service all its European

customers and distributors through one web site, whatever their

language.



The company has invested heavily in IT systems and staff training, says

managing director Susanne Bell, and technologies such as copy and

graphic file transfer, and web site ’press rooms’ are providing a better

service as well as reduced costs in many cases.





Overcoming time zones



E-mail is proving a boon for such an international operation, she adds.

It overcomes time-zone problems in communicating with clients in the US

or the Pacific rim, as well as the Eastern European countries, where

telephone services can be poor.



Charlton Communications claims to have begun to specialise in the

internet as long ago as 1995, which effectively makes it a veteran in

this incredibly fast-moving sector. It formally launched a new media

division last year to provide clients with online PR support.



Intriguingly, although it described itself as predominantly (60%)

business-to-business in its response to our survey, managing director

Mike Rowe believes the balance is moving more to 50% consumer, 50%

business-to-business.



That’s not by deliberate choice so much as the way the market is moving

for it - and dotcoms are part of the explanation.



The agency emerges this year in third place among the fastest growing

smaller agencies. Rowe says Charlton has been working with a lot of

dotcom companies which like its matrix of expertise in consumer,

business-to-business and the internet.And while some of them have been

business-to-business projects, or have straddled the business and

consumer markets, the greater number have been aimed at the general

public.



Ranked tenth in the top 50 business audience table, Camargue is probably

the largest PR company specialising exclusively in the

business-to-business sector. It is, incidentally, the agency which is

working on the current Sunday Telegraph/Barclays Bank e-commerce

achievement awards.



Overall, it ranks as a medium-sized player. Managing director Andrew

Litchfield says he has had a number of takeover approaches. However,

these have tended to be from entrepreneurs trying to string three or

four agencies together with the aim of floating them, rather than from

the big international networks - ’and that’s never appealed to me’.



In any case, he argues, the benefit of being medium-sized is that there

are a lot of clients which don’t want to work with multinational,

multidiscipline agencies and would feel swamped by them. There are more

clients, too, who understand what PR is, and what it costs. ’It feels

like a more mature market,’ says Litchfield. ’We’re not exhausting

ourselves telling people why PR costs what it does.’



But at the same time as being valued for being middle-sized, the agency

is expected to be able to provide web sites, and to advise on

e-commerce, which is something of a fast moving target.





Stretching skills



Skills are being stretched in other ways, too. Although Camargue also

works for security printer De la Rue, and the UK’s biggest market

research company, Taylor Nelson Sofres, its greatest area of

specialisation is the property market.



Here, says Litchfield, a new PR sector has developed very quickly, with

the emergence of firms acting as outsourced property managers for the

government and a growing number of blue-chip clients.



Similarly, the agency is used to dealing with planning authorities on

behalf of retail clients. A major account win last year, however, was

Thameslink 2000, a plan to improve rail links between Sussex and

Norfolk.



Camargue now finds itself working on a rather different scale with a

consortium of local authorities which favour the scheme, against the

Corporation of London and individual objectors.



PR for the professional services - accountants, lawyers, management

consultants - has been talked about for a long time, following the

easing of regulations that restricted what they could say to publicise

their services.



For some years, however, it seemed to be no more than talk. Comments

from those who tried to get involved suggested that the senior partners

in many of the big practices knew little about marketing, were prone to

interfere, and gave neither respect nor authority to their in-house

marketers.



Sensing that the situation is changing, we have produced a table this

year of PR agencies specialising in professional services. There is

clearly evidence that sizeable sums are now being spent in this

area.



Eulogy! is interesting in this context, as the professional services in

which it specialises are primarily marketing services. Its clients

include SP and DM agency Marketing Store Worldwide, PR agency

August.One, field marketing agency EMS, and the Direct Marketing

Association.



Marketing service agencies have a bit of a reputation for being quick to

hire and fire their PR consultants. But joint managing director Sheena

Horgan says Eulogy’s client retention has been excellent. ’They’re

buying us as part of their marketing team, and they realise things take

time. Having said that, there is no use just talking theoretically

without producing any results,’ she says.



Grandfield’s presence in the professional services table, at number

nine, has been helped by its acquisition of John Newton & Partners, says

managing director Nick Boakes. Clients include Arthur Andersen and

Business Excellence.



He says that both clients and agencies have been on a learning curve

over the past decade. The professional services now have a better idea

of what they want from suppliers, and the agencies have more people who

understand the sector and are better placed to give good advice.



Neil Hedges, of Fishburn Hedges, which has clients in law, accountancy

and actuarial practices, agrees. ’The professional services are now

pretty astute and demanding buyers of PR services,’ he says. ’I’m a

strong believer in the idea that a good service provider is even better

when driven by a good client.’



TOP 50 BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS AGENCIES

Rank  Agency                        Income 1999      Business-to-

                                       (pounds)          business

                                                         (pounds)

1     Countrywide Porter Novelli     19,019,000        12,553,000

2     Hill & Knowlton (UK)           25,707,000         8,175,000

3     Fishburn Hedges                 7,803,000         5,462,000

4     Shandwick International        25,924,000         5,444,000

5     Biss Lancaster                  9,688,000         5,135,000

6     Brodeur Worldwide               5,225,000         4,703,000

7     BSMG Worldwide (UK)             9,821,000         4,321,000

8     Key Communications              6,061,000         3,637,000

9     The Shire Hall Group            5,903,000         3,542,000

10    Camargue                        3,511,000         3,511,000

11    Weber PR Worldwide              9,887,000         3,460,000

12    August.One/Text 100             7,525,000         3,386,000

13    Edelman Public Relations        9,001,000         3,240,000

14    Citigate Dewe Rogerson         30,027,000         3,003,000

15    Ogilvy PR Worldwide             4,880,000         2,977,000

16    Firefly                         5,652,000         2,939,000

17    College Hill                    7,457,000         2,908,000

18    Harvard Public Relations        4,596,000         2,895,000

19    Cohn & Wolfe                    6,309,000         2,713,000

20    Lewis Communications            2,691,000         2,691,000

21    Grayling Group                  8,794,000         2,462,000

22    GCI/APCO                       12,111,000         2,422,000

23    Fleishman-Hillard               3,607,000         2,381,000

24    Holmes & Marchant Group         3,831,000         2,260,000

25    The Argyll Consultancies        2,423,000         2,108,000

26    Grant Butler Coomber Group      2,879,000         1,843,000

27    The Red Consultancy             4,016,000         1,807,000

28    Noiseworks                      1,804,000         1,804,000

29    DPA Corporate Communications    1,972,000         1,775,000

30    ICAS PR                         2,491,000         1,744,000

31    Manning Selvage & Lee           4,317,000         1,727,000

32    Richmond Towers                 4,310,000         1,724,000

33    QBO - The Quentin Bell

      Organisation                    3,778,000         1,700,000

34    AD Communications               1,601,000         1,601,000

35    Banner Public Relations         1,782,000         1,515,000

36    Profile Public Relations        1,809,000         1,447,000

37    Golley Slater PR                2,150,000         1,398,000

38    The MacLaurin Group             3,873,000         1,356,000

39    Roger Staton Associates         1,341,000         1,341,000

40    Harrison Cowley                 5,402,000         1,296,000

41    Companycare Communications      1,825,000         1,278,000

42    Portfolio Communications        1,465,000         1,260,000

43    Berkeley PR International       1,386,000         1,178,000

44    Oast Communications             1,137,000         1,137,000

45    Strategic Alliance

      International                   1,507,000         1,055,000

46    Warman & Bannister              1,032,000         1,032,000

47    Bite Communications             2,383,000         1,001,000

48    Consolidated Communications     3,877,000           969,000

49    Marketforce Communications      1,007,000           957,000

50    Brahm Public Relations          2,108,000           949,000



OTHER INDUSTRY - TOP 40

Rank  Agency                        Income 1999             Other

                                       (pounds)          industry

                                                         (pounds)

1     Countrywide Porter Novelli     19,019,000         6,276,000

2     Shandwick International        25,924,000         2,852,000

3     Camargue                        3,511,000         2,809,000

4     Hill & Knowlton (UK)           25,707,000         2,237,000

5     Key Communications              6,061,000         2,182,000

6     Biss Lancaster                  9,688,000         2,131,000

7     Weber PR Worldwide              9,887,000         1,780,000

8     BSMG Worldwide (UK)             9,821,000         1,768,000

9     College Hill                    7,457,000         1,491,000

10    Golley Slater PR                2,150,000         1,097,000

11    Grayling Group                  8,794,000         1,090,000

12    The Communication Group         3,761,000         1,053,000

13    GCI/APCO                       12,111,000           969,000

14    Gordon Bruce Associates           889,000           889,000

15    Quay West Communications        1,097,000           878,000

16    Barclay Stratton                2,677,000           750,000

17    Barkers Public Relations        2,209,000           707,000

18    Grandfield                      2,090,000           690,000

19    The Red Consultancy             4,016,000           643,000

20    Ogilvy PR Worldwide             4,880,000           634,000

21    Communique Public Relations     2,090,000           627,000

22    Fishburn Hedges                 7,803,000           624,000

23    Lexis Public Relations          3,580,000           609,000

24    TTA Public Relations              735,000           559,000

25    Edelman Public Relations        9,001,000           540,000

26    Barrett Dixon Bell                541,000           530,000

27    Brahm Public Relations          2,108,000           527,000

28    Kestrel Worldcom                  732,000           439,000

29    Wyatt International               780,000           429,000

30    Roger Staton Associates         1,341,000           402,000

31    Kinross & Render                1,174,000           399,000

32    Ridgemount PR                     385,000           385,000

33    Harrison Cowley                 5,402,000           378,000

34    Ruder Finn (UK)                 1,790,000           340,000

35    ICAS PR                         2,491,000           324,000

36    Beattie Media                   5,900,000           295,000

37    Cohn & Wolfe                    6,309,000           252,000

38    Le Fevre Communications         1,905,000           248,000

39    The Euro PR Group (previously

      EMC Euro)                       1,190,000           238,000

40    David Clarke Associates           445,000           236,000



PROFESSIONAL SERVICES - TOP 15

Rank  Agency                        Income 1999      Professional

                                       (pounds)          services

                                                         (pounds)

1     GCI/APCO                       12,111,000         1,211,000

2     Fishburn Hedges                 7,803,000         1,170,000

3     Countrywide Porter Novelli     19,019,000         1,141,000

4     August.One/Text 100             7,525,000           753,000

5     Jonathan Street                   657,000           657,000

6     Key Communications              6,061,000           606,000

7     Eulogy!                           801,000           601,000

8     Biss Lancaster                  9,688,000           581,000

9     Grandfield                      2,090,000           543,000

10    Harrison Cowley                 5,402,000           540,000

11    Shandwick International        25,924,000           518,000

12    Ogilvy PR Worldwide             4,880,000           488,000

13    Marketforce Communications      1,007,000           453,000

14    Cohn & Wolfe                    6,309,000           442,000

15    Manning Selvage & Lee           4,317,000           432,000



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