World Report: Global PR Industry Up 7% In 2014

Definitive picture of global PR industry emerges today, as the Holmes Report and ICCO launch the 2015 World PR Report.

The global PR industry grew by 7% in 2014, with currency volatility helping to soften another positive year for PR firms around the world, according to the 2015 World PR Report.

The 2015 World PR Report, produced by the Holmes Report and ICCO, again provides the clearest picture available of the global PR industry, based on submissions from more than 400 PR firms across the world.

The research reveals that, for the first time, the Top 250 PR firms in the world cracked the $10m barrier in terms of fee income last year, reporting $10.4bn compared to $9.7bn in 2013.

Accounting for the numerous firms that reported outside of the Global 250, along with the vast number of smaller firms that do not provide revenue figures, the Holmes Report now estimates the size of the global PR agency industry at $13.5bn, up from $12.5bn in 2013.

Full analysis and rankings can be found at our World PR Report section.
Rankings: Top 10 | Top 250 | Holding Groups/Networks
Analysis: Growth | Gender

Global Top 250 Growth

A growth rate of 7% may indicate a slower year for the industry after it improved by 11% in 2013, but much of this decrease can be explained by currency volatility, as the Global 250 is calculated in US$.

So, while US firms are unaffected (and retain a good growth rate), firms reporting in GBP and Euros firms drag the overall growth rate down. Accordingly, this year we have added a ‘constant currency’ metric to accurately reflect growth for firms reporting in GBP and Euros.

This reveals that firms reporting in GBP grew by 5.5% in constant currency terms in 2014. Firms reporting in Euros grew by around 6.5%.  Growth for all PR firms reporting in USD growth was 7.4% while US PR firms (which account for around 50% of the global market) were up by 7.8%.

“This was a year in which exchange rates played havoc with some of the numbers,” said Holmes Report publisher/CEO Paul Holmes. “Because our list uses dollars, anyone reporting in euros or pounds took a significant hit, even if their underlying performance in constant currency terms was good.”

“Industry growth in the high single-digits is encouraging; it certainly suggests that public relations continues to grow faster than the overall economy, which is a healthy sign,” added Holmes. “Having said that, there is still a sense that PR could—and perhaps should—be doing better. The things PR does well—engagement and relationship-building—are more critical to successful marketing than ever, and PR is doing more: more social media, more content creation, more data and analytics. It ought to be growing more as a result.”

Public vs Independent

Maintaining a trend that has firmly taken hold since the onset of the recession in 2008, independently-held PR firms again comfortably outperformed their publicly-held peers. Publicly held firms grew 3.5% (in reported USD terms) to $5.7bn, while independent PR firms grew 8.7% to $4.7bn.

The PR operations of major holding groups were effectively flat, and now account for around 42% of the overall market, down from 45% last year.

“The growth of independent firms is impressive and beggars the question of whether we’ll see their value overtake publicly held firms,” said ICCO chief executive Francis Ingham. “It is intriguing to see that publicly-held firms account for around 42% of the overall market, down from 45% last year – this is perhaps a reflection of the fact that they may have been slightly hamstrung by profit targets to invest as freely in those all-important ‘non-traditional services’ as the independents.”

Holmes, meanwhile, described holding company agency growth as “anaemic”. “While exchange rates played a role here too—those firms with strong European operations fared poorly compared to those who have the bulk of their business in the US—it is clear that even after acquisitions are taken into consideration, the publicly held companies are losing market share to independents, particularly the dynamic midsize agencies.”

Holding Groups / Networks

Omnicom’s PR operations overtook WPP in 2014 for the first time, reporting $1.4bn in PR revenue — slightly ahead of the UK group’s $1.39bn. That performance owed much to currency volatility, with WPP’s operations impacted by the conversion of its international business into sterling. The holding group table also features DJE Holdings for the first time, reflecting the rise of the world’s largest PR firm Edelman, and sister agency Zeno.

Revenue per capita

This year’s World PR Report also finds another increase in revenue per capita for those firms reporting both fee income and headcount to an average of around $158,000, compared to $155,000 last year, and the highest it has ever been. Based on its research, the Holmes Report estimates that the global PR agency industry employs more than 85,000 people, up from 80,000 last year.

The World PR Report will continue over the coming weeks with analysis of the world’s fastest growing PR firms, along with its definitive research study into opportunities, challenges, trends and attitudes at PR firms around the world.