LONDON — Edelman is still on top as the most admired PR agency among leading in-house communications and brand marketing leaders, according to PRovoke Media’s Influence 100 research for 2021.

The findings were part of the latest tranche of research , looking at who the Influence 100 viewed as the world leaders who were the best and worst communicators; the brands who had managed their reputations best and worst over the past year; the most admired agencies; and – new for 2021 – the biggest challenges ahead for the agency world. 

Edelman was, as last year, in the top spot after being temporarily knocked off by Weber Shandwick in 2019 after a six-year straight run of being the most frequently-cited public relations agency when our Influence 100 were asked which firm they most admired.

Coming in joint second place with equal mentions were Weber Shandwick, Finsbury Glover Hering, Brunswick and Ketchum, and other agencies with repeat mentions included APCO Worldwide and Zeno.

There were also namechecks for other agencies of all sizes around the world, including Adfactors, Farner, Faktor3, Hope&Glory, Headland, H+K Strategies, Freuds, Red Havas, Sling & Stone, Peppercomm, Sard Verbinnen, Group SJR and Hallvarsson + Halvarsson.

This year, for the first time, as well as asking our Influence 100 which agencies they admire, we asked them to think about the future of agencies, and the biggest changes they see for PR agencies, from their in-house perspective. There was much response based on PR agency models, size, and integration and range of services: see the full range of comments here.

We asked our influencers to name the companies they think have best managed their brand communications and corporate reputation over the past year. One name was head and shoulders above the rest: Pfizer, which was not only first to market with a Covid vaccine but which has smartly navigated a misinformation minefield.

Another vaccine producer, Moderna, also made it onto the list, and there were multiple mentions for Microsoft and Nike (both perennial names on the list), as well as Tata Group. There were also namechecks for Hyatt, AirBnB, Novo Nordisk, Disney, VW, CVS Health, the England football team (under the leadership of Gareth Southgate), Clorox, Heineken, Twitter, Unilever, Walmart, Patagonia, Delta, Lego and HP.

We also asked which company has managed its reputation least effectively over the past year and the result was again unequivocal: sadly for Facebook, for the second year running around half of those who responded named the social media network. There were also repeat mentions for the pharma companies with some of the biggest challenges around Covid vaccine communications, AstraZeneca and J&J, plus – at the other end of the corporate size spectrum – controversial British brewery BrewDog.

Other mentions on the worst reputation management list included Boeing, Huawei, Vedanta, FIFA, Arcadia Group, Cathay Pacific, Wetherspoons, Greensill, Salesforce, Fox, Shell and Apple.

There was a shorter list of nominees for best communicator among world leaders this year, but for the third year running – well ahead of anyone else in terms of mentions – the top spot went to New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who continued to impress with clear communications around the pandemic.

Coming up just behind Ardern on the best communicator list was a new arrival: US president Joe Biden, something of a breath of fresh communications air after the Trump years, whatever your politics. Not surprisingly, the best communicator list also featured other leaders who have handled the pandemic well, including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Italy’s prime minister Mario Draghi. There were also mentions for Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, who remained dignified in her communications throughout the mess of Brexit.

On the list of the worst communicators among the world’s leaders, former US president Donald Trump yet again stole the show, although he was only a couple of mentions ahead of UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, another leader who has had something of a disastrous pandemic in terms of communications and practically every other metric, as well as constantly changing the goalposts around Brexit.

See the full list and profiles of the Influence 100 here, plus three other waves of insights into their demographics, their budgets, and future challenges and diversity