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Companies, brands, and celebrities need to maintain a positive public image. Public relations firms use their expertise to keep their clients in a good light, stepping in and handling any bad press that may arise.
Of the ten largest PR Firms, half are headquartered in New York City; the other half have an office located in or around NYC. Surprisingly, almost all of the firms are based in the US or have a US headquarters. Only 2 out of 10 do not have a headquarters in the United States.
10 Largest Public Relations Firms
Edelman. New York City, New York & Chicago, Illinois
2019 Fee Income: $892M
2018-2019 Growth Rate: .4%
Number of Employees: 6000+
Edelman is the world’s largest public relations firm. Founded in Chicago by Daniel Edelman in 1952, the company is currently run by his son, Richard Edelman. This is still an independent family-run company — an impressive feat for a company this size.
The New York office was opened in 1960 and serves as a secondary headquarters for the company. They currently have over 60 offices spread out over the United States, Canada, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, and Africa.
Labeled a global communications firm, their goal is to “promote and protect their brands and reputations.” Edelman’s client list includes Advil, Dove Men’s, eBay, Samsung, Ikea, AstraZeneca, Nissan, and Asics.
They claim expertise in sectors such as aerospace and defense, consumer packaged goods, education, food and beverage, telecommunications, and more.
Weber Shandwick. New York City, New York
2019 Fee Income: $865M
2018-2019 Growth Rate: 3%
Number of Employees: 4800+
Weber Shandwick was formed in 2001 when the Weber Group, Shandwick International, and BSMG merged. They currently have over 70 offices on six continents boasting a global presence with a reach that extends from local causes to multinational brands.
They have expertise in B2B marketing, brand marketing, change management, and more. With the launch of the proprietary social media simulator, Firebell, in 2010, they seem to focus a lot of attention on crisis management.
This award-winning software provides real-time simulation to give clients hands-on experience dealing with online attacks on their brands. Phone cameras and social media make it easy for one small slip-up to become a serious PR nightmare. Response matters and that is what Firebell, and Weber Shandwick, by extension, seem to stress.
The Weber Shandwick client list includes major brands like Aldi, Amazon, Nestle, Verizon, and Chevrolet.
Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW). New York City, New York
2019 Fee Income: $740M
2018-2019 Growth Rate: 2.4%
Number of Employees: 4000+
Like Weber Shandwick, Burson Cohn & Wolfe (often referred to as BCW) was formed after a merger. The WPP Group merged Burson-Marsteller with Cohn & Wolfe in 2018. The two companies were ranked 6th and 12th respectively in terms of fee income in 2017. Post-merger, they have become the third-largest public relations firm in the world.
With offices in 42 countries, BCW serves companies like Tom’s of Maine, Sharpie, Hotels.com, European Commission, and NYC DOT. They won several awards in 2020, including PRovoke’s Global Creative Index 2020 and their Global Agency of the Year.
They boast expertise in brand solutions, corporate, crisis, health, and more. They have deep industry experience in the manufacturing, food and beverage, hemp and cannabis, travel and hospitality, entertainment, and energy industries.
FleishmanHillard. St. Louis, Missouri
2019 Fee Income: $605M
2018-2019 Growth Rate: 0%
Number of Employees: 4000+
Formerly Fleishman-Hillard, this public relations firm was founded in 1946 by Alfred Fleishman and Robert Hillard. It wasn’t rebranded as FleishmanHillard until 2013. It is currently owned by the Omnicom Group after being acquired in 1997.
Until the 1970s, this was a small regional company. In the ’70s and ’80s, they expanded and spread both nationally and internationally. They currently have over 50 offices across four continents. Current clients include AT&T, Chase, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Lowe’s, Advance Auto Parts, and Johnson & Johnson.
They serve many sectors, including lifestyle and sports, financial and professional services, technology, and public and government industries. Their expertise lies in B2B, brand marketing, creative and planning, and crisis management, among others.
Ketchum. New York City, New York
2019 Fee Income: $535M
2018-2019 Growth Rate: -1.8%
Number of Employees: 2500
Ketchum was founded in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1923 by George Ketchum. It was originally an advertising company; they didn’t add public relations to their portfolio until 1934.
This company has gone by many names over its nearly 50 years of operation — Ketchum and McLeod (1923), Ketchum, McLeod & Grove (1924), Ketchum Communications Inc. (1981) — before finally settling on simply Ketchum.
The public relations branch of then Ketchum Communications Inc. relocated from Pittsburgh to New York City in 1982. It has remained there ever since. Serving sectors such as food, financial and professional services, public sector and government, retail, and health, they have a diverse client list.
Current clients include Maytag, Wendy’s, and MasterCard. They provide expertise in analytics, B2B, digital strategy, entertainment, and more.
The company was acquired by Omnicom Group in 1996. In 2017, Barri Rafferty took over as president and CEO. She became the first woman to lead a top 5 PR firm. Her reign was not long, though, as she stepped down in 2020.
MSL. Paris, France
2019 Fee Income: $450M
2018-2019 Growth Rate: 0%
Number of Employees: 3000
MSL was awarded the SABRE 2020 Consumer Agency of the Year by PRovoke Media. MSL group does things differently than the many other public relations firms included on this list. Instead of a global CEO, they have appointed CEOs in each county they serve. This prioritizes local insight.
They currently have 100 offices spread over 40 countries (that’s 40 CEOs) and have a client list that includes brands like Pampers, Vicks, Invisalign, Campbell’s, and Smuckers.
While they are one of the only firms on this list without a US-based headquarters, they have multiple offices within the United States: Boston, NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, LA, and more.
They provide services to clients in brand development, community management, crisis management, influencer marketing, and media training. They are currently under the umbrella of the Publicis Groupe.
Hill+Knowles Strategies. New York City, New York
2019 Fee Income: $360M
2018-2019 Growth Rate: -10%
Number of Employees: 2500
Founded in Ohio in 1927 by John W. Hill, Hill+Knowles Strategies built their empire by serving the Steel industry. In fact, Otis Steel Company was one of their very first clients. Union Trust Company was the other original client.
When Union Trust Company was impacted by the Great Depression and shut down in 1933, Hill hired Don Knowlton. Knowlton was the former director of advertising and publicity at Union Trust Company.
In 1934, Hill moved to New York City while Knowlton stayed behind in Cleveland. Hill+Knowles Strategies currently has 80 offices spread across more than 40 countries. Their client list includes brands like Ford, Gillette, SPARK Foundation, Reebok Canada, Shell, and Activision.
They boast expertise in sectors such as consumer packaged goods, energy and industrials, financial and professional services, food and drink, and more. Their current claim to fame is their COVID-19 response. They employ I-ACT consultants to provide COVID-19 intelligence and advice to clients.
Ogilvy. New York City, New York
2019 Fee Income: $345M
2018-2019 Growth Rate: -2.8%
Number of Employees: 18,000
Ogilvy is the product of two companies. The first was founded in 1850 by Edmund Mather as a London advertising agency. The second was an American-based extension founded in 1948 by David Ogilvy.
Their US office was located on Madison Avenue in Manhattan — the same Madison Avenue that Mad Men was based on. In fact, there is some belief that the show is loosely based on Ogilvy, Benson & Mather in the 1960s.
The public relations department was not opened until 1980. Ogilvy currently has over 130 offices in more than 80 countries. Their client list includes Burger King, Dove, Cadbury, LEGO, Hellmann’s, Dole, Samsung, Volvo, Instagram, Pizza Hut, and Adidas. They were behind the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty in the early 2000s.
Ogilvy is now part of the WPP Group and provides services in B2B marketing, community relations, corporate communications, social media, and more.
BlueFocus. Beijing, China & Mountain View, California
2019 Fee Income: $329M
2018-2019 Growth Rate: -2.2%
Number of Employees: 5000+
In 1996, Oscar Zhao founded BlueFocus in Beijing, China. Zhao is still serving as the company’s CEO and is continuing to expand his reach. Since 1996 BlueFocus has acquired several companies outside of China. They currently have more than 100 offices in over ten countries.
BlueFocus became the first publicly traded Chinese PR firm when it went public in 2010. While their global headquarters is located in Beijing, they also opened a US headquarters in Silicon Valley in 2015. They boast over 5000 employees, more than 1500 of those are employed outside of China.
Clients include Canon, P&G, PepsiCo, Audi, Bentley, Volkswagen, and Lenovo.
Brunswick. London, England
2019 Fee Income: $324M
2018-2019 Growth Rate: 15.7%
Number of Employees: 1000+
Brunswick Group was founded by Alan Parker in 1987. While they have expertise in sectors like consumer industries, arts, and energy and resources, their main expertise is in financial communications and critical issues. They are one of the top financial communications agencies in the United Kingdom.
They currently have 23 offices in 14 countries, with US offices located in Dallas, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington DC. Their US offices are known to have expertise in mergers and acquisitions, particularly their New York office.
Founder Alan Parker was knighted in 2014 for services to business, charitable giving, and philanthropy. Sir Alan Parker is still Chairman of Brunswick Group and is known to actively participate, acting as a senior consultant on many of their accounts.
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