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Editorial by Paul Holmes
The first signs of an economic recovery meant that revenue increases in the US public relations business continued to outpace Europe—where the major markets are still suffering from government austerity and corporate caution—and demonstrate that there is still plenty of room for growth in a business that continues to expand the breadth and depth of its service offering to meet the challenges of a new communications era.
In terms of breadth, it is clear that many public relations firms continue to expand into digital and social media. PR firms have demonstrated the ability to compete with other marketing and communications services firms in the content creation and curation arena, offering a wide range of channel-neutral solutions across paid, owned and shared media as well as the earned space in which PR agencies have traditionally dominated. And more and more firms are expanding their capabilities in data and analytics, using third-party services and their own custom tools to offer better research, planning and metrics.
In terms of depth, the best firms in the consumer space have moved far beyond product publicity to offer genuine insight into customer wants and needs, and to deliver brand-building campaigns that a few years ago were the province of either ad agencies or specialist brand consultancies. In the corporate arena, meanwhile, the high-end strategic consulting firms have demonstrated that they are more than capable of competing with management consultancies and law firms in areas such as change management and public affairs, and of holding down a seat at the same table as financial and legal advisors.
As a result, industry growth last year was close to 10 percent, with independent firms leading the way—many of those featured in this review grew by double-digits or better, and are on track for similarly impressive performance in 2014.
There is no doubt that the communications landscape is more challenging than ever. But equally, there is no doubt that the best and the brightest PR firms are rising to that challenge.