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Six Signs that PR Agency Business is Improving

Post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney

Last month the Council of Public Relations Firms reported results of its fourth quarter member survey in which 80 percent of firms reported 2010 revenues that exceeded 2009 numbers and two-thirds of firms reported double-digit revenue growth in 2010. Nearly 60 percent of respondents expected PR budgets to be higher in 2011.

In addition to that report, here are six signs that PR agency business is improving:

New business channels are delivering

According to the Council of PR Firms, “New business pipelines seem to be opening wider. A full 56.4% of firms reported that new business prospects were stronger than a year ago, with the vast majority firms (76.4%) citing social media as one of the strongest expected growth areas. Other areas where firms were expecting the most new business growth included consumer marketing (listed by 58.2% of firms), issues and crisis management (30.9%), and corporate communication (27.3%).”

More agencies are looking for senior talent

In times of uncertainty PR agencies are not likely to bring on senior talent. During the lowest points of the recession there were mostly entry-level and intern (some non-paid positions) available, but hiring has rebounded and the interest in mid- and senior-level talent is an indicator that agencies are optimistic again.

PR is an asset in today’s trust-deficit world

Corporate reputation can change rapidly and businesses appreciate and turn to trusted counselors. Says Ad Age, “following several major PR cries last year — think BP oil spill and J&J recall — marketers are all too aware of the need for communications professionals and their agencies.” Experienced agencies can help with reputation management and also help navigate the new rules of communication which require more transparency and more rapid communications, include multiple stakeholders and more government involvement and require mapping a course through a more disperse media landscape.

The technology industry continues to thrive

The technology industry did not suffer nearly as much as it did in the last recession in 2001. In fact, internal marketing budgets at tech firms are growing. Forrester Research reports that “marketing agencies and services firms stand to be the big winners as tech marketers plan significant increases in external agency spend in 2011. As technology marketing budgets grow an overall 8% in 2011, use of external agencies is also set to grow by 40% or more in some areas. External services firms should prepare to capitalize on this additional demand for their services.”

Growth in response to market demand

A recession can be a great time to shop if you have the funds, and many agencies saw it as an opportunity to grab market-share through acquisition. There was a flurry of acquisition activity in the third quarter. In addition a number of smaller, individualized firms are popping up, indicating the market is demanding more, rather than less, PR.

Evolution of media creates opportunities for clients

The shrinkage of authority media creates opportunities for clients to serve as publishers. PR agencies are working to convince clients of the possibilities that exist online – for promoting discussion and delivering content – and that web sites can and should go beyond being just media kits. Traditionally this role was handled by digital agencies but more and more PR practitioners are getting in the game.  According to Ad Age, “As social and two-way conversation-themed strategies advance, the role of the PR industry will continue to grow within the marketing mix. According to many within the industry, this past year saw many marketers realize the conversation game lies directly in the wheelhouse of the PR industry. Digital revenue, which drove a huge number of bottom lines into the black for PR shops, will continue to do so in 2011.”

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on You can find her at Learn more about Alison Kenney.


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