Weber Shandwick #1 Despite Sharp Decline in Fees
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Weber Shandwick #1 Despite Sharp Decline in Fees

Weber Shandwick Worldwide is the largest public relations firm in the world, despite seeing its global public relations fees decline by more than 15 percent—or $80 million—last year.

Paul Holmes

NEW YORK, April 22—Weber Shandwick Worldwide is the largest public relations firm in the world, despite seeing its global public relations fees decline by more than 15 percent—or $80 million—last year.
 
The firm, created in mid 2001 by the merger of Weber Shandwick and BSMG Worldwide, was ranked number one globally, with revenues for the year of $426.5 million, ahead of Fleishman-Hillard, which grew slightly less than 2 percent to $345 million, and Hill & Knowlton, which was up 7 percent to $325 million.
 
H&K and Ketchum were two of only four firms on the Council’s list to record positive growth in what was clearly a difficult year. The other two were Ketchum, which reported the best growth for the year at better than 10 percent, and high-tech specialist Waggener Edstrom, which reported growth of better than 3 percent. (Holding companies Incepta and Euro RSCG also recorded positive growth, as did GCI-APCO, but it is unclear from the Council’s rankings exactly which individual PR firms within these entities were responsible for the growth.
 
Despite the declines suffered by most major firms, the Council chose to paint a positive picture of industry performance. While 2001 worldwide industry revenues were $4.3 billion, down 2.7 percent from 2000, they are still up 19.5 percent over 1999. Meanwhile, U.S. revenues for the industry were $2.9 billion, down 7 percent from 2000. But in a “quick survey” of Council member firms conducted within the past week, 55 percent achieved first quarter 2002 forecast; and 45 percent anticipate growth for 2002.
 
Says Council president Kathy Cripps, “2000 was a phenomenal year for the public relations industry, with U.S. revenues up a record-shattering 33 percent over 1999, capping a 250 percent increase in revenues over ten years, and spectacular growth rates in most industry sectors. Then came 2001, and with it the bursting of the technology bubble, the recession, and September 11. In the ensuing shock and confusion, marketing plans were put on hold, budgets cut and contraction replaced a decade of expansion.
 
“However, the industry fared significantly better than some had been predicting in the closing months of 2001.”
 
Globally, the worst declines were posted by technology specialist Brodeur Worldwide (16.86 percent); Weber Shandwick (15.94 percent); Golin/Harris (15.89 percent); Burson-Marsteller (14.73 percent); and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide (13.87 percent).
 
In almost every case, domestic revenue declines were heavier, with only Ketchum, Text 100, Hill & Knowlton and Fleishman-Hillard reporting positive growth. Weber Shandwick, down more than 20 percent, clung on to first place with $283 million in domestic revenues, ahead of Fleishman ($263 million) and Hill & Knowlton ($190 million).
 
15 LARGEST PR FIRMS BY WORLDWIDE REVENUES
1
Weber Shandwick Worldwide
$426,572,018
2
Fleishman-Hillard
$345,098,241
3
Hill and Knowlton
$325,119,000
4
Burson Marsteller
$259,112,000
5
Edelman Public Relations Worldwide
$223,708,535
6
Ketchum
$185,221,000
7
Porter Novelli
$179,294,000
8
Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
$145,949,285
9
Manning, Selvage & Lee
$116,019,465
10
Golin/Harris International
$113,247,644
11
Ruder Finn Group
$80,348,000
12
Brodeur Worldwide
$70,001,900
13
Waggener Edstrom
$59,890,800
14
Cohn & Wolfe
$57,779,000
16
Rowland Communications Worldwide
$42,666,000
 
15 LARGEST PR FIRMS BY U.S. REVENUES
1
Weber Shandwick Worldwide
$283,084,398
2
Fleishman-Hillard
$263,345,095
3
Hill and Knowlton
$190,931,000
4
Ketchum
$161,425,000
5
Burson Marsteller
$152,385,810
6
Edelman Public Relations Worldwide
$150,417,000
7
Porter Novelli
$116,764,000
8
Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
$94,904,500
9
Golin/Harris International
$81,897,283
10
Manning, Selvage & Lee
$79,926,519
11
Ruder Finn Group
$69,890,000
12
Waggener Edstrom
$57,237,800
13
Brodeur Worldwide
$39,601,900
14
Cohn & Wolfe
$33,785,000
15
Rowland Communications Worldwide
$20,437,000
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