LONDON--WPP, the holding group that owns PR firms Burson-Marsteller, Hill + Knowlton Strategies, Ogilvy PR and Cohn & Wolfe, has reported a 4.6 percent organic rise in PR revenues in 2011.

That result took earnings from its PR and public affairs businesses to £885m, up from £844m in 2010.

In particular, WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell singled out Ogilvy PR, Cohn & Wolfe and German firm Hering Schuppener for doing “particularly well.”

Operating margin in the unit rose marginally to 16.1 percent. However, PR growth lagged advertising and media investment, which rose by 7.4 percent.

The group’s branding, identity, healthcare and specialist comms unit also submitted a stronger performance, growing by 6.9 percent. In healthcare, Sorrell pointed to good returns from Ogilvy CommonHealth and Sudler & Hennessey.

Public relations did outperform WPP’s consumer insight business, which only grew by 0.8 percent.

Overall, revenues at the holding group increased by 5.3 percent on a like-for-like basis to break the £10bn barrier, with reported profit up 18.5 percent to £1.008bn.

“The group’s twenty sixth year, was a record year on virtually whatever measure you care to name,” said Sorrell. “This record performance was achieved in difficult circumstances, particularly in the second half of the year.”

The group is forecasting growth of around four percent in 2012, underpinned by such events as the UEFA Football Championships, the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, and the US Presidential Elections.

So far this year, growth is in line with that expectation, with Sorrell noting a strong performance from public relations and public affairs in January of this year.