The O’Dwyer Co. published its annual rankings of PR firms today, listing a record 182 firms that substantiated 2007 fee income and employment totals. They also provide client lists. This ranking has 42 more firms than the 2006 version. Those additions are a victory for transparency and openness, traits that are sorely needed in the PR business. The hope is that more firms will join in `09, pushing the total rankings number to well over the 200 mark.
The rankings are good for the PR business. They provide a certain heft and credibility to a profession that works mostly in the shadows, while the client enjoys the media spotlight. Or, in other cases, the client pays for PR to avoid the harsh media glare.
The current list shows solid fee income gains for `07. A tip of the cap goes to Edelman as the No. 1 firm—by far — registered a healthy 22.2 percent gain to $395M. Edelman, in fact, is head and shoulders ahead of the pact. Its $139M foreign fees top the overall number of No. 2 Waggener Edstrom, which had $106M in largely Microsoft total fees.
Four newcomers joined the Top 50. WeissComm Partners clocked in at No. 16 and registered the biggest income gain among the Top 100 firms. The San Francisco-based healthcare company enjoyed a heady 77 percent growth increase to $13M.
Tech firms Bite Communications, a unit of PR holding company Next Fifteen, had $16M in fees while Shift Communications earned $10.6M in fees. High-stakes PR/crisis shop Levick Strategic Communications ($8.5M) was the other newcomer to the Top 50.
On the down side, Elliott Sloane decided to opt-out of the rankings this year. His was the only Top 50 firm to decline to provide `07 numbers The New York-headquartered Sloane Communications financial shop was No. 26 last year at $8.7M. Here’s an invite to Elliot to rejoin the rankings in `09.
That same invitation is extended to shops owned by ad/PR combines WPP Group (Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller, GCI Group), Interpublic (Weber Shandwick, MWW Group, GolinHarris), Omnicom (Fleishman-Hillard, Ketchum, Porter Novelli) and Publicis Groupe (Manning Selvage & Lee, Publicis Consultants PR). Those holding companies, again this year, give Sarbanes-Oxley as the reason for skipping the ranking.
This blogger hopes the situation is different next year. It would be good if one of the mega-firms could emerge from the woodwork to give Richard Edelman competition for the title of King of PR.
Many of the CEOs of PR firms owned by the holding companies have told this blogger they are itching to knock Edelman off his perch, but have been rebuffed by their corporate masters.