SAN FRANCISCO—Independent agency network PROI Worldwide has expanded its partnership with W2O Group to include technology PR in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

The move comes after PROI firms grew 17% in 2014 to reach a combined fee income of $615m, according to the World PR Report. W2O, meanwhile, grew 10% to $83m, making it the world's 23rd largest PR firm.

"Technology is a key sector for our global agencies," said PROI global chairman Andreas Fischer Appelt, who also leads FischerAppelt. "W2O will assist us in further developing our global reach, positioning and strength."

While W2O's began life as a healthcare agency, much of its recent growth has been driven by a focus on technology. "Healthcare is our foundation and ignited our
relationship with PROI, but technology is a key business pillar that will also drive future growth of W2O Group," said W2O chairman and CEO Jim Weiss.

The PROI network already includes numerous local market heavyweights, including Germany's FischerAppelt, India's Adfactors, SPRG Asia, Australasia's SenateSHJ, Brazil's Imagem Corporativa, Interel in Europe and US firms G&S and Finn Partners.

The World PR Report ranks PROI Worldwide’s 75 agencies as 5th in the world by net fee income, larger than holding groups Publicis, Huntsworth and Havas. PROI’s combined 2014 net fee income dwarfs Worldcom, its nearest competitor, which reported an increase in fees of 2.6% to US$288m.

"Clients recognize our competitive edge and positioning in the local market," said Fischer Appelt. "Rather than dealing with a centrally owned multi-national, they like working with local agency owners who understand their market and who are directly aligned with the agency's bottom line. As a result clients receive top level management attention and are well served and this is reflected in our growth."

While the value of independent PR networks versus single brand multinational agencies has been discussed at length, PROI clearly benefits from the heightened growth among independent PR firms, which were up 8.7% in 2014, compared to 3.5% growth from publicly-held PR agencies.

"Our existing influential and leading edge independent agencies attract other high growth independent agencies which also tend to be the most dynamic agencies in their market and this is reflected in our 2014 growth rate," added Fischer Appelt.