Growth for the Top US PR Firms – A Positive Sign

O’Dwyer’s 2009 list of the top US PR firms just came out, revealing modest gains for the top 10. According to this news, Edelman again led the pact and posted a reported 13 percent rise in fees for 2008. The rest of the top 10 PR moneymakers saw a respectable average of 10 percent increase in their fees from 2007. Edelman’s $449 million in fees led the pack, while one rival APCO (#3) posted a 15.3 percent improvement, bringing in a little over $112 million last year. In the worst year economically in decades, the strength of PR as a business is illustrated in even moderate gains by it big players.

We have been covering the giants of US PR with reviews of their online activity and ultimately online branding. The latest reports on earnings from these companies indicate a healthy environment for public relations, especially given the country’s economic woes. The other top ten earners are listed below with their respective growth and earnings for 2008.

  • Edelman – $449,231,193 the US’s biggest PR firm gained +13.1% over previous earnings
  • Waggener Edstrom – Still in the number 2 spot with §119,670,000 Up 12.4%
  • APCO Worldwide – Holding fast at number 3 with $112,400,000 Up 15.3%
  • Ruder Finn Group – With $96, 112,000 Up only 3% last year
  • Text 100 International – 2008 earnings of 63,000,000 Up 5% over the previous year
  • Qorvis Communications – Took in $34,919,065 Up 14.5%
  • Schwartz Communications – Took in $31,049,817 an increase of 1.8% over 2007
  • ICR – 2008 fees of $26,202,272 a decent increase over 2007 of 6%
  • Dan Klores Communications – With fees of $22,400,000 up 3.3% from 2007
  • Taylor – Rounds out the top 10 with $20,205,000 showing no improvement over 2007

Winners and Losers

Overall, the top PR firms seem at least stable as far as earnings are concerned. I expect these numbers must be weighed against inflation rate if they have not been already. Even so, compared to other business sectors, our profession seems to have fared rather well. Topping off this news, here are the top winners and losers from O’Dwyer’s 2009 list.

Roman/Peshoff appears to be a big winner with a whopping increase of 62.3% over 2007 earnings totaling $270,290,000. We will be covering this firms online presence next, as it appears they have at least a degree of Internet branding going on.

Catalyst Public Relations should be listed as a big winner because they jumped into the list as a new company. With $3,856,907, the company at least made an initial statement of presence. On top of this news, their website already looks better than many or the much larger firms. So, from out perspective, this may be a company to watch in the months to come.

Peritus Public Relations is was also a notable winner last year with an over 40% gain in fees over the previous year. I originally supposed that their “evident woes” were as a result of ties to the Bush administration, and all the while I wondered how such a nice Website and great awards could have come from a losing team? A big PR “ooops” goes to this writer, and an appropriate apology below. The firm has exhibited strong efforts on behalf of its marque clients even during this tough year, and has opened new offices in Indianapolis among others.

The notable “replacement” loser for this post is New West, which lost over 30% of their fee income for 2008. Another Kentucky public relations firm which has been in the top 100, New West is actually more a marketing and advertising outfit as far as I can tell, but in fairness to them losing one big client to the economy obviously can account for 30 percent or more for smaller firms. I have to note that their online presence, given my late focus on this, is not all if could be either.


PR profits and the outlook slowed for 2008, as did all major industry segments. Looking at the winners (however slight) in the list above, the overall outlook does not look so glum for our profession. We will be evaluation more PR websites and the trends in the industry this first quarter of 2009 as well. As far as this story is concerned, it is just good to see the big players coming out of the storm of 2008 ahead of the game, if even by a little.

Author’s note: Originally, I had mistated that Peritus Public Relations was down 12%, when in fact they were one of the most profitable compared to last year’s earnings. I apologize for the transposition of their positioning, and I have interjected them in the winner’s, and inserted the firm with the greatest decline. This just goes to show, anyone can make a PR Goofy – No One Is Imune!

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