Executive Summary – World PR Report 2016

Article by Francis Ingham, Chief Executive of ICCO

The ICCO & PRWeek World PR Report is the definitive analysis of where the global PR and comms industry stands today; how it has been performing over the past year; and what it predicts will happen in the next few. Drawing on the breadth and depth of ICCO’s membership – 37 national associations, operating in 48 countries, and representing more than 2,500 agencies – it is a vital tool in understanding our industry.

What are the headlines?

Agency heads are optimistic. On a scale of 1-10, there is a global average of exactly 7. The most optimistic markets are the UK (8.1), and the Middle East (8.0); the least are Latin America (5.9), and Africa (6.0).

And they are expecting an increase in profitability, with a score of 6.2. Leading the pack is North America (7.2), followed by the UK at precisely 7. At the other end, we have Latin America again (5.2), and Western Europe (5.7).

Both of those findings deserve celebration, given the at times tempestuous and uncertain state of the world economy. What is driving this performance? I would highlight three factors, which we have seen for the past few years now, and which are remarkably constant region-by-region.

The first is chief executives taking corporate reputation seriously. Quite simply, the business community around the world is more aware than ever before of the fact that their most important asset is their reputation.

The second is that marketers are taking their spend away from other disciplines, and diverting it into more effective mediums of PR and comms. And the third is that clients are increasingly asking public relations firms to provide non-traditional services.

Those last two points amount to one incontrovertible trend – in an increasingly integrated marketing world, PR’s nimbleness, insight, and creativity is beating the competition.

What have been the main practice areas of growth?

Four stand out head and shoulders above the rest – digital comms; corporate reputation; marcomms; and public affairs. And when agency heads are asked to predict which sectors will drive growth over the coming years, they name exactly those four again.

Obviously, there are variations by region, reflecting different local priorities, and different levels of market maturity. But the message is clear – those areas have driven growth in the past, and are set to do so again in the future. Looked at by sector, we again see four key areas of growth now and in the future – technology; consumer; healthcare; and financial and professional services. And underpinning all of this behaviour is the crucial role PR and comms agencies now play in social media and community management, and in creating content across the whole range of media – areas where wise agencies are making significant investment. So far, so encouraging.

But what of the challenges faced by the industry?

It will come as no surprise that two perennial ones are right up there – meeting profit margins, and handling general economic conditions. The first is a symptom of PR’s inability to charge appropriately for the value it delivers – former ICCO chairman Richard Houghton’s regular lament that ‘Fridays are free’; the second is something over which we have no control.

The area where we certainly have the ability to make a difference is talent. In six of the nine world regions, it tops the bill as the key challenge. In fact, only in Asia does talent not rank in the top three. Although our industry continues to power ahead, its growth is being hindered by our failure to attract and then to retain the very best.

Within that challenge are two specific areas of concern: hiring senior staff, and attracting people from non-traditional background. The latter is of particular concern to ICCO. If agencies keep on recruiting the same type of person, with the same type of background, they are automatically excluding themselves from large parts of the market. The more varied teams are, the abler they are to deliver excellent services to the widest possible range of clients.

I would make two final observations: First, and it is a point made by several contributors from different regions, the industry has reached a happy place of maturity. Social media and content may be the biggest areas of growth, but there is still room for the older skills of PR and comms, such as media relations. And that place exists in established and developing markets.

There is, quite simply, a home for all branches of our profession.

Second, what a brilliant time to be in this industry. Even in difficult economic circumstances, PR and comms agencies are profitable, growing, and optimistic.

How would I sum up the future? Bright. And getting brighter.

Download a free copy of the ICCO & PRWeek World PR Report 2016 here


ICCO and PRWeek launch World PR Report 2016

The World PR Report 2016, published by ICCO and PRWeek, has today launched at the Global ICCO PR Summit in Oxford.

The report, presented by Francis Ingham, Chief Executive, ICCO, is the annual analysis of the international public relations industry. The report includes a breakdown of the top 100 global agencies, market analysis from regional leaders, and a report on agency growth, opportunity, investment plans, and talent challenges.

The report revealed that agency heads are optimistic – on a scale of 1-10, the global average for optimism is 7. The most optimistic markets are the UK (8.1) and the Middle East (8.0). The least are Latin America (5.9) and Africa (6).

When asked about their expectations of profitability, North America came in highest with a score of 7.2, followed by the UK at 7. Latin America came in lowest at 5.2.

Noted areas of growth include digital communications, corporate reputation, marketing communications, and public affairs. These growth areas vary by region, reflecting differing local priorities and differing levels of market maturity.

Commenting on the Report, Francis Ingham said: “The World PR Report is the definitive analysis of the global PR industry. It is only by understanding where we are and in what direction we are moving that we can continue to drive growth and invest in opportunities. We are thrilled to see that the industry is bright, and getting brighter.”

Danny Rogers, Editor-in-Chief, PRWeek, said: “We are very proud to present the World PR Report 2016; the best, and most contemporary, guide in existence to the PR industry across the globe. It has been produced by PRWeek, the pre-eminent source of news and analysis of the sector, and ICCO, the voice of PR consultancies around the world.

“As well as providing the definitive ranking of the world’s top 100 PR consultancies and further listings of local agencies, the World PR Report 2016 has asked this vast network of PR firms about the recent trends in their business, along with their forecasts for the year ahead. We look forward to the next year, and revisiting these rankings and indicators in a year’s time to gauge progress.”

Full analysis and commentary of each of the markets is available in the World PR Report, which will be published by PRWeek both online and in the magazine.

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 48 countries across the globe in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia. Collectively, these associations represent some 2,500 PR firms.

Oxford summit to focus on the PR consultancy of the future

The Global ICCO PR Summit takes place later this month (29 & 30 September) in Oxford, UK.

The event theme focuses on “creating the consultancy of the future”, with a particular emphasis on talent, inspiration and innovation. International industry leaders presenting at the event include Karen van Bergen, CEO, Omnicom Public Relations Group; Michelle Hutton, COO, Edelman Europe, Scott Kronick, President & CEO, Ogilvy PR Asia Pacific; Alex Aiken, Executive Director, Government Communications – UK Government; Ian Pearman, CEO, AMV BBDO; Pascal Beucler, Chief Strategy Officer, MSLGROUP; and Andres Wittermann, Executive Vice President EMEA & APAC, LEWIS.

The conference will also see the launch of the much anticipated World PR Report 2016 which has been produced by ICCO and PRWeek.

Registration details and the full line-up are available on the ICCO Summit website.

ICCO Chief Executive Francis Ingham said: “If you work in PR and communications, then you need to be in Oxford on September 29th and 30th. We’ll have some of the industry’s biggest names there, drawn from right around the world, giving their analysis of where we now, and where we will be in the future. The ICCO summit is the pinnacle of the PR and comms conference season – if you’re serious about your profession, you’ll be there.”

Content marketing platform Passle is the event’s headline sponsor, and will be running a panel session discussing what brands, including the personal brands of staff, say about  agencies.

Passle co-founder Tom Elgar said: “We are delighted to sponsor the ICCO global summit. As the voice of public relations consultancies around the world the ICCO summit is the ideal place for Passle to showcase its platform that enables busy experts to demonstrate their knowledge and experience online. By creating timely, authentic commentary on news and trends Passle makes it easy for PR experts provide industry-leading analysis for their clients, prospects, employees and stakeholders.”

Previously the summit has been held in cities including Milan, New Delhi and Paris, and is the major annual event of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO).

The event will take place at Macdonald Randolph Hotel, Oxford and will be co-chaired by David Gallagher of Omnicom, Nitin Mantri of Avian Media (India) and Andrey Barannikov, CEO, SPN Communications (Russia). It is also sponsored by Paprika, Capstone Hill Search, ePressPack, Conversis, Gorkana, Avian Media, Porter Novelli, 72 Point and OnePoll.

For more information on attendance and sponsorship, please contact Charlene Corrin, General Manager, ICCO:

World PR Report launches next month – preview

The World PR Report published by ICCO and PRWeek will be launched at the Global ICCO PR Summit in Oxford, United Kingdom on 29-30 September.

The report is the annual analysis of the international public relations industry including a breakdown of the top 100 global agencies, market analysis from regional leaders, and a report on agency growth and opportunity, investment plans and talent challenges.

Commenting on the talent challenges in the Asia Pacific market, Lynne Anne Davis, President – Asia Pacific at FleishmanHillard said:

“PR’s massive transformation as an integrated, socially-centric industry was enabled by the introduction of non-traditional roles and expertise from other industries. That must never stop in order to continuously innovate, expand influence and supple the rising demand for PR services – especially in Asia where local companies are aggressively disrupting categories, exporting brands abroad and creating new spaces.”

Colin Byrne, Weber Shandwick’s UK & EMEA CEO comments on strong growth in the market, but also the challenges ahead:

“Macro-economic issues include economic downturn in BRIC and other emerging markets, security and political issues, the uncertainties around the US election and, yes, Brexit and associated recession warnings, are challenges for us and our clients.”

Loretta Ahmed, Grayling’s CEO of Middle East Africa & Turkey analyses the developing markets of the Middle East and Africa:

“Less risk averse than many parts of the world, the Middle East is coming of age and it is good to see more and more world-class work emanating from the region and being recognised in global award schemes.”

“In Africa in particular, communications professionals are able to achieve CEO level client access at a far greater frequency than in other markets – while this comes with a far greater ability to influence decision-making it also creates the need for strategic communicators to feature heavily in the team mix – a challenge for agency heads looking to field local teams.”

Commenting on trends in the European PR industry, Pascal Beucler, Chief Strategy Officer at MSLGROUP said:

“Another trend we can see everywhere in Europe is the need for more integration, particularly for big, global clients: wasting energy, time and money because of having too many people from different networks/holdings around the table is really something they don’t want anymore. They say they want one team, as diverse as possible but belonging to the same P&L and led by one single, global manager. Such alignment allows better, faster, clearer decisions and action plans.”

Full analysis and commentary of each of the markets is available in the World PR Report, launched at the Summit, and subsequently published by PRWeek online and in hard copy.

Francis Ingham, Chief Executive of ICCO and Director General of PRCA UK & MENA will be presenting the findings at the Summit, and copies will be shared with attending delegates.


For more information on the Global ICCO PR Summit visit

World PR Report: Global PR Industry Remains Bullish On Growth

Research: Optimism & Attitudes

  • Global PR industry remains bullish on growth

  • Europe rebounds

  • Marketers continue to increase PR spend

Rankings: Top 10 | Top 250Fast Movers | Holding Groups/Networks
Analysis: Growth | Gender | CEO View

Public relations agency leaders from around the world remain generally bullish on the outlook for their business, with continuing optimism about the growth of the PR market in general and—to a slightly lesser extent—about their own agencies’ profitability.

The most significant shift saw less of a gap between the Americas and Asia (more optimistic in recent years) and Europe (where agency leaders have been inclined to pessimism).

Global optimism levels declined just a little from last year’s survey, with agency principals averaging a 7.62 (on a scale of one to 10) when asked whether they were optimistic about the future of public relations in their market (compared to 7.69 last year and 7.50 in 2013) and a 7.52 (down from 7.60) when asked whether they expected profits to increase this year.

12-OPTIMISMThe research—conducted by The Holmes Report and the International Communications Consultancies Organisation(ICCO) among nearly 500 PR agency principals as part of the World PR Report—found the gap between the Americas and Europe narrowing. Last year, North American agencies were considerably more optimistic than those in Western Europe (8.46 compared to 7.28) but this year optimism levels were more similar (7.89 for North America, 7.44 for Western Europe.

Once again, Latin America was the most optimistic region (7.90) and Eastern Europe the most pessimistic (7.16)—although again, the gap between the two narrowed significantly.

“For the past couple of years, Europe has lagged behind the rest of the world in part because of slower growth in the economy overall and in part because firms have not seen quite the same benefit from the social media revolution,” said Paul Holmes, founder and CEO of The Holmes Group. “But over the past 12 months, there has been an increase in optimism in Europe, in both the marketing and corporate communications realms.”

“Europe has undoubtedly been the most challenging region over the last few years. But from both this data, and what I see when visiting our European ICCO members, better times are definitely here, and growth and optimism are returning to European markets,” said David Gallagher, ICCO president and Ketchum EMEA CEO.

Globally, agencies are still broadly optimistic that marketers are increasing their spending on PR relative to other disciplines (6.05, down slightly from 6.19 the previous year). The biggest change was in Asia, which last year was most optimistic on this score (6.56) but this year was among the more pessimistic regions (5.76). North American agencies (6.33) remained the most optimistic about PR’s role in marketing.

Agencies are also optimistic about the willingness of clients to turn to PR for non-traditional services (a category that includes advertising, digital and social media support, and word-of-mouth marketing). Firms in the Americas and Asia (7.29) were most likely to report demand for such services, but Western European firms were significantly more optimistic on this score (6.95 compared to 6.65) than they were 12 months ago.

17- non-traditional-services
Similarly, Western European firms were increasingly more optimistic about their ability to meet clients’ digital needs (6.47).

On the corporate front, there is still a gap between the Anglo-Saxon markets and Asia—all of which report that CEOs in their regions take corporate reputation seriously—and other regions. North American agency principals are most likely (7.69) to say CEOs take reputation seriously, while agency heads in Eastern Europe are less convinced (6.88).

“One of the great opportunities for PR practitioners is to convince clients of the direct impact corporate reputation has on corporate success”, said Francis Ingham, ICCO chief executive and PRCA director general.

Agency leaders in Asia, meanwhile, were most likely to agree that companies in their region take corporate social responsibility seriously (7.41) compared to those in Eastern Europe (6.32), who see companies as least interested in CSR.


Read more via Holmes Report 

World PR Report 2015: Interpublic Agencies Make Top 10 Inroads (via Holmes Report)

Weber Shandwick narrows the gap on Edelman at the top of our global PR rankings, as the World PR Report gears up to launch.

World PR Report 2015: Interpublic Agencies Make Top 10 InroadsInterpublic PR agencies Weber Shandwick and Golin have made significant advances among the world’s ten largest public relations firms, according to the 2015 World PR Report.​
Top10_tableWeber Shandwick has narrowed the gap on Edelman at the top of the global PR agency rankings, growing almost 15% (on a reported basis, including the acquisition of Swedish PR firm Prime) to reach $800m in fee income. Edelman, by comparison, grew almost 9% to $812m.Golin, meanwhile, enters the top 10 for the first time in the agency’s history, jumping from 12th position last year after growing by more than 8% in 2014, to take ninth position ahead of Havas PR and Brunswick, which drops out of the top 10.Also of note was FleishmanHillard’s performance. The Omnicom Group firm returned to significant growth in 2014, improving fee income by 8.5% to crack the $600m barrier and consolidate its hold on third spot.

FleishmanHillard sister agency Ketchum also grew, by 4.5%, enough to see the latter PR firm overtake MSLGroup and land fourth position. MSLGroup declined almost 7%, thanks in part to a significant foreign exchange impact, because of the high proportion of revenues that it earns in euros.

Overall, we estimate that the top 10 global PR firms generated fee income of almost $4.8bn, a 5.4% increase on 2013. A fuller picture of global PR industry size will emerge next month, when the World PR Report unveils the annual ranking of the 250 biggest PR firms in the world, along with results of the definitive global survey of attitudes and trends among PR agencies, based on submissions from almost 400 PR firms from across the world.

The global rankings form part of the World PR Report, conducted in conjunction with Holmes Report and powered by Newlio.