To see how the world’s largest PR agencies stack up on the social media front we have once again looked at the comparative performance of 25 global PR networks in the new Holmes Report rankings, measuring the effectiveness of each network’s primary social media presence.

As well as the rankings here on the Holmes Report website, agencies can drill into the results by social network – and compare themselves head-to-head with focal competitors – using the interactive Global PR Network Social Scorecard at

As last year, Sociagility’s PRINT methodology has been used.

Winners and losers

PRINT is an objective and quantitative measure so takes no account of the strategies (or lack thereof) which underlie  agency performances, However, it is clear that some agencies at least have got the message about walking the talk and are now very active indeed. Others are less so and one or two seem to have forgotten what they knew.

Year on year comparisons are not precise because this year the number of agencies included in this analysis is up to 25 from 23 in 2011. However, Edelman – for some time an industry leader in social media – leads the pack convincingly for the second year. Congratulations are due also to Ogilvy Public Relations for a consistent performance, moving from 3rd to 2nd, year-on year. Euro RSCG rises three places to take 3rd position this year. The Hoffman Agency, already in the top ten last year, moves up four places to fifth. (This is a great performance given its relatively small size but, as last year, its success may be down to using its owned social media channels for client activity, not just for the Hoffman brand).

But previous form is not a reliable guide to this year’s rankings. MSLGroup for example has leapt a scoreboard–beating twelve places to take sixth spot. And Grayling has moved up seven places to make ninth. LEWIS PR also moved up four places to eighth.

Elsewhere the picture is not so rosy. Last year’s top ten player Hill + Knowlton Strategies* has dropped a whopping ten places, tech corporate Waggener Edstrom nine places, and Cohn & Wolfe and Porter Novelli six and five places respectively.

Comparative Reality

It should be noted that, while it is completely quantitative, the PRINT methodology provides relative rather than absolute indicators of performance. So rising and falling scores and rankings all occur within the context of the comparison set – in this case the 25 firms deemed global networks by the Holmes Report.

Unlike social media measurement based on some theoretical ‘perfect’ score, this approach reflects reality. In real life there are no absolute social media performance scores for brands: it’s a just a matter of whether one brand is better than its competitors.

This, we believe, is the reality for all ‘professional ‘social media practitioners and the key to determining whether social media activity is actually delivering a real return on investment. And a real, relevant measure of ROI is key to the development of good branded social media practice.

Status versus Potential

As an addition to the overall PRINT Index ranking, this year measures of Status and Potential have been added. These combine the attributes that contribute to each agency’s PRINT Index score into two dimensions that reflect overall strength (Status) and the degree of engagement by and with the brand (Potential).

The Status rankings show the advantages of the big battalions: well-known, lots of touch-points, marketing effort/spend and legacy. Potential tells a different story, though, and suggests areas in which smaller networks can compete, through direct, authentic and transparent engagement. Thus agencies like Hoffman and Lewis PR can score well overall while lacking the mass of the big global networks.

Again, this also reflects the real world or at least the real social media world. It’s not always size that matters, after all.

Tony Burgess-Webb is an advisor at Sociagility.

* Disclosure: the author was partly responsible for the then Hill & Knowlton brand’s global social media performance prior to the merger with Public Strategies in early 2011.