Arun Sudhaman

Working the angles around media, comms and marketing.

Grayling is the world’s third biggest independent PR firm?

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Lots of coverage of Huntsworth’s decision to merge its 26 PR brands down to four. Grayling will undoubtedly benefit the most, becoming at a stroke an agency worth £70 million. The group’s company announcement, though, says that makes Grayling a ‘worldwide top three independent brand’. But is that really true?

Let’s parse the statement. Worldwide top three? With global revenues of £70m after adding in Trimedia and Mmd, that is a definite no. So it appears to hinge on this concept of being ‘independent’.

The two biggest independent PR agencies in the world are generally accepted to be Edelman and Waggener Edstrom, in that order. They are independent because they are privately owned. But Grayling is owned by Huntsworth, which is publicly listed in the UK. So that hardly counts as independence.

Perhaps, then, they are talking about independence from advertising and marketing services. Huntsworth is, more or less, a ‘pure’ PR play. So, as far as I know, are Edelman and Waggener Edstrom. By the same token, the likes of Hill & Knowlton and Fleishman-Hillard sit in holding groups that also feature ad agencies and media buyers and all of those types.

If that is the rationale for being ‘independent’ it seems a little odd. Why should it make any difference whether an agency’s parent company also owns ad agencies, or doesn’t? Presumably the thinking is that PR agencies can attract business via its relationships with sister ad agencies. That can and does happen, but it often seems to me to be more the exception than the norm. Perhaps, in this economic climate, the holding company solution becomes more attractive.

I’d be interested to hear more views on this. In any case, I’m not about to begrudge Lord Chadlington a little hyperbole after everything he’s accomplished in the PR world. With that in mind, perhaps the next question should be: is Huntsworth being packaged up for a sale?

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Written by Arun Sudhaman

August 29, 2009 at 6:16 pm

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