Innovation is taking place in almost every area of the public relations agency business

Public relations industry leaders explore future of agencies in #FuturePRoof project backed by ICCO and the PRCA


Progressive public relations agencies are rapidly modernising. They are embracing new skills in data, research and paid media, and are investing in creative teams. Profits are healthy in well-managed businesses, and the market overall is growing according to both the PRCA and ICCO. Innovation is everywhere in practice from freelancers through to the largest agencies.

However one area in which there remains surprisingly little innovation is around billing models. The dominant structure continues to be fees charged by the hour, albeit on retainer or project basis.

These are the headline findings of this #FuturePRoof project on the future of the public relations agency, backed by ICCO and the PRCA.

Seventeen agency leaders contributed to the #FuturePRoof project sharing insights into how they are innovating in response to client demand and media change. The three-month project led by Stephen Waddington, Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Sarah Hall, Editor of #FuturePRoof and Managing Director of Sarah Hall Consulting, reached its conclusion today with the publication of a white paper.  The white paper called Exploring the Public Relations Agency is available free as a download. It consists of 15 essays exploring different areas of agency innovation.

“The project set out with a bold and simple ambition: to characterise a cross section of agencies that make up the modern public relations business. The result is a must read for anyone working in the public relations agency business,” said Stephen Waddington MPRCA, Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum.

“Every manager of a public relations business should be continually looking to innovate and this paper showcases some true pioneers who are looking to break with tradition and find new ways of working that are better suited to the industry today,” said Sarah Hall MPRCA, Managing Director, SHC, and Editor of #FuturePRoof. “Many have shared fairly commercially sensitive data in the spirit of collaboration and I’m grateful for this, their time and expertise.”

Francis Ingham MPRCA, Director General, PRCA, said: “While it is gratifying to see that the PR consultancy world is making huge leaps forward in embracing new skills, we clearly have a lot of work to do to find appropriate business models to sell our impressive offering to clients. That is why it is so important that all consultancy owners and directors pay close attention to the FuturePRoof white paper, which gives a clear indication of how we need to evolve.”


The project identified eight significant areas of change in the agency business.


1. Public relations is outsmarting rival disciplines through innovation. It is helping clients build better organisations. Therein lies its future, and huge value.

Drivers of innovation

2. Clients, shareholders and staff are the three drivers pushing agency-owners to build better businesses. That can only be a good thing.


3. There’s a chasm emerging between the business model of traditional agencies, and the demands of modern clients. Smart agencies are building businesses in this space.

4. Agencies are limited only by their skills and ambition. Small agencies are able to compete with large thanks to communications and travel.

Billing models

5. Agencies are simple businesses that are well understood by clients. Innovative business models threaten clarity and risk confusion.

6. Better measurement systems are fundamental to business model innovation. It remains a work in progress for agencies.

Service innovation

7. Core services within a modern agency include storytelling, creative and content, as well as paid, earned and shared media, as they shift from traditional media and publicity based services.


8. A shift to 24/7 working and the cost of infrastructure are two big issues that need to be tackled by public relations agencies.

The agency leaders that contributed to the project are: Ruth Allchurch, Cirkle; George Blizzard, The PR Network; Colin Cather, Bottle; Alison Clarke, Alison Clarke Communications; Julius Duncan, Remarkable Content; David Gallagher, Ketchum; Jim Hawker, Threepipe; Sarah Hall, Sarah Hall Consulting; Nicky Imrie, The PR Network; Francis Ingham, PRCA and ICCO; Dieter Lloyd, PamLloyd PR; Pam Lloyd, PamLloyd PR; Ella Minty, Reputation Management Consultant; Alex Myers, Manifest; Laura Richards, Northstar Ventures; Stephen Waddington, Ketchum; and Renee Wilson, PR Council.


About #FuturePRoof

#FuturePRoof is a crowdsourced book and community curated by Sarah Hall with the bold ambition of asserting the value of public relations.

The aim of the book is to kick start the biggest conversation ever about the future of public relations and underline its role as a management discipline driving business success.

Featuring a foreword from Ketchum’s chief engagement officer Stephen Waddington, the 33 chapter book covers a wide range of topics affecting the managers of communications teams and agencies.

Chapters describe emerging areas of practice such as PR’s move towards paid, workflow mapping and freelance business models, as well as more traditional topics such as measurement and evaluation, ethics and stakeholder management.

Since publication, the PRCA and ICCO are now working with Sarah, Stephen and the #FuturePRoof community on policy development.

If you’d like to know more or get involved, visit

follow  @WeArePRoofed on Twitter and join the #FuturePRoof Facebook group.

#FuturePRoof is available to purchase as a hard copy or as a free download HERE.

About PRCA

Who we are: Founded in 1969, the PRCA is a UK-based PR membership body, operating in 45 countries around the world. We represent in excess of 20,000 people across the whole range of the PR industry. The PRCA promotes all aspects of public relations and internal communications work, helping teams and individuals maximise the value they deliver to clients and organisations.

What we do: The Association exists to raise standards in PR and communications, providing members with industry data, facilitating the sharing of communications best practice and creating networking opportunities.

How we do it and make a difference: All PRCA members are bound by a professional charter and codes of conduct, and benefit from exceptional training. The Association also works for the greater benefit of the industry, sharing best practice and lobbying on the industry’s behalf e.g. fighting the NLA’s digital licence.

Who we represent: The PRCA currently has more than 350 agency members; over 250 in-house communications teams from multinationals, charities and leading public sector organisations; and thousands of individual members

About ICCO
The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) is the voice of public relations consultancies around the world. The ICCO membership comprises national trade associations in 33 countries across the globe in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia. Collectively, these associations represent some 2,500 PR firms.