Global Rankings 2010: Methodology
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
News and insights from the global PR industry

Global Rankings 2010: Methodology

Quantifying the public relations business remains a daunting undertaking, in part because of the fragmented nature of the industry

Holmes Report

Quantifying the public relations business remains a daunting undertaking, in part because of the fragmented nature of the industry—rankings forms were sent this year to more than 2,400 public relations firms from around the world, of which approximately 300 responded—and in part because the vast majority of the world’s largest firms remain either unwilling or unable to participate.

The way in which the majority of large communications holding companies have chosen to interpret Sarbanes-Oxley regulations makes it almost impossible to secure accurate and verifiable information about the size and performance of their individual operating units. So what we have here is a best guess, informed by both publicly-available data and our own industry knowledge and insight.

In truth, there is nothing in Sarbanes-Oxley that prevents the release of information. Indeed, some publicly-traded communications companies do continue to provide information about individual public relations brands. For the very largest companies, such as WPP, Omnicom, and Interpublic, the issue appears to be one of cost—the expense associated with ensuring the accuracy of published numbers—rather than legal prohibition.

Needless to say, none of the Sarbanes-Oxley restricted holding companies or their PR firms co-operated in the creation of this ranking, and so The Holmes Report was compelled to rely on several sources to compile a ranking that it believes to be broadly accurate. Among the information sources on which we drew:
• Publicly-available information (including the last official ranking to pre-date Sarbanes-Oxley, for 2001 fee income, and some information available from the firms themselves related to headcount);
• Information that has entered the public domain despite the best efforts of the companies (specifically, information from former employees relating to headcount in specific offices, supplemented in some cases by directories of agency employees, as well as widely known revenue-per-employee targets); and
• The judgment of The Holmes Report, which covers the field in the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacificcan draw on information about clients moves, office openings and new hires to form a broad picture of the industry.

Another obstacle involved data from firms in emerging markets, where definitions of public relations are sometimes imprecise and where firms were not always willing or able to secure verification from a trusted third party (equivalent to a certified public accountant in America). In several instances, The Holmes Report made its own efforts to verify the broad accuracy of information provided, and where it could do so with confidence, the firms involved are included in this report.

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