Rank Nonsense

October 8, 2008

Agency rankings are worthless.  Indulge me a moment on my soapbox.

I received an email yesterday morning from a well-meaning researcher at the Business Journal,  asking us to update our agency profile and revenue numbers for possible inclusion in the ranking of Twin Cities Top 25 Public Relations Agencies.

“How do you define public relations?” I asked.

“We don’t have any hard and fast definitions of PR for this list,” she wrote back. “It is basically self-defined and general consenus defined. Sorry we can’t be more clear.”

Therein lies the problem with these agency rankings. There is no general consensus. Fact is, the rise of the Internet has fundamentally changed the agency landscape, and the once thin line between what’s PR and advertising has been blurred.

That’s why we’re suddenly seeing traditional PR firms competing against traditional ad agencies, usually on non-traditional ground.  For that reason, it no longer makes sense to rank them separately. We, and others in the market, risk our integrated and non-traditional positioning by lumping our revenue into undefined, traditional boxes for the benefit of inclusion in these sorts of rankings.  We wish it weren’t so, because we’ve certainly seen value in being included in these rankings in the past.

Twin Cities Business Monthly and the Business Journal need to get with the times.  Their rankings are deeply flawed and outdated measures of what’s happening in the agency and marketing worlds.  My solution? Combine the advertising and PR agency rankings into one. Let the agencies include a brief descriptor of range of services (media relations, social media marketing, copywriting, brand strategy, etc.).

Such a list would take a lot of the guesswork out for integrated shops, like ours, that blend traditional and non-traditional marketing approaches. It would also give marketers a better snapshot of the Twin Cities agency landscape, allowing those drawing up shortlists from such a resource to get a more accurate sense of relative size and scope, for whatever that’s worth.  It’s not a perfect solution,  but certainly a big improvement, IMHO.

Weigh in, agency and marketing types. What do you think of agency rankings, and do you have other suggestions for how they can be improved?