The PROPEL 100 – The Most Influential PR Agency Professionals In The World 2021
At Propel, we take a different approach to PR Software for our clients. We want to be the PR Management software that our clients actually love to use, not that they’re made to use by their boss! And in exactly the same way, we wanted to take a different approach to searching for and identifying people who have real influence within the PR agency landscape.
Influence can exert itself in a variety of ways, and someone who can be influential within one group or community may not be influential in others. And just because someone has a lot of followers, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are influential on that audience, or that their audience is necessarily relevant to their day job.
So, in putting together our list of the top 100 most influential PR agency professionals across the world, we sought the opinions of a wide variety of people to ensure that we captured as broad a group of PR agency talent as possible.
We devised a methodology that - we hope! - provides some new names and different faces alongside those that you may be more familiar with. And then we put our industry-leading algorithms to work to get to the people within PR agencies that have real influence. And we made every effort to ensure we were trying to expand the list of people we were considering for this shortlist.Propel has searched the PR landscape far and wide to gather a comprehensive list of the top 100 PR agency influencers and execs. From creating original content to engaging with hundreds of accounts on a daily basis, these influencers have carved the way for their fellow PR professionals by posting frequently on the topic, or building up their audience within the PR community. And there may well be the odd cat meme in the mix too...
First off, sorry in-house PR folk, we didn’t include you in our analysis this time! But don’t worry, there’s always a future list that you may be able to make. Instead, we focused on those working within PR agencies only. We wanted to look specifically at those looking to make a name both for themselves, and for the agencies they’re working for.
To find the most influential people on Twitter, we wanted to create a methodology which took account of more factors than just the overall size of their following, but also used insight from experts in the sector to ensure we included a diverse set of influential people.
We sought out the views of some friends of Propel, to help us ensure that we had the right approach to finding influencers from the agency space. Azeem Ahmad, digital marketing expert and host of the Azeem Digital Asks Podcast was one such opinion we sought out. Azeem advised, “It should be about the quality of the content, not the number of followers. The number of followers is arbitrary, as someone can build an audience tweeting about a wider range of subjects. Engagement is a key thing to look at, from people in the know."
We sought the perspectives of professionals on both sides of the pond, too! We spoke to Candice Nicole, CEO of Candice Nicole Public Relations. She said that “what makes someone influential in my opinion, is that person is someone others feel they can trust." Clearly, this was something that we needed to factor into our approach - and develop a way that we can find those that have built trust communities of followers online. She also noted the importance for our search in finding “that person who is someone that brings a new perspective” to discussion about PR and communications online.
Of course, we started by searching for people who tweet about PR regularly or have "PR" referenced in their Twitter biographies. We focused on personal accounts of experienced people from the PR sector who are genuinely influential in PR and communications globally, with a focus on the US and UK.
Julian Obubo, Brand strategy expert and Partner at Manifest suggested that we also think about the interplay between influence on social media, and influence IRL. He said, “Influence can come in 'bursts.' You need to consider how you can find people who have off-line influence, or speakers who speak at specific times, or on specific issues, and have an engaged audience in that way.”
So, once we built our "long shortlist," we applied the following criteria:
- Audience - Size of the audience and the size of the audience that they have within the PR industry (where people have expressed they work in the PR industry within their bio).
- Relevance - Number of times that they tweet on the subject matter.
- Engagement - Average engagement rate per post (in terms of likes, RTs, Quote RTs etc).
We thought through some of the pitfalls of each of these metrics too, and didn’t focus on one specifically. As Advita Patel, Founder of CommsRebel and the support network A Leader Like Me advised, “It's important to look beyond people who might try and "game" reach or audiences with "pods" on Twitter or LinkedIn. Engagement can even be gamed, so you need to think beyond just engagement too."
And we didn’t stop there. Once we developed our short-list we took it to a number of experts that we’d spoken to during this process, to get their perspectives on the list, and ensure that we’d left no digital stone unturned!
Following discussions with a number of the people whose opinions we sought on this list, we decided not to apply a ranking or hierarchy to the list, either. Advita Patel, one of numerous voices who made similar comments, said, “When you rank a list, you are helping to reinforce privilege that people might otherwise have benefitted from. By removing ranking, you recognise that all people have an impact and a value, and all have influence in the communities that they work in or represent. By removing a rank, you are approaching this task by seeing all people as equal.”
So we’re doing just that.
Is our list perfect? No. But no shortlist of 100 people from an industry so large is going to represent every voice from every every community.
But we do believe in the benefits of diversity and inclusion for the industry, as do our panel of advisors who we worked on this list with. “As someone who is differently-abled and needs to wear leg braces to help me walk, I have a strong appreciation for diversity and inclusion. That runs into the DNA of Propel and is why current and former team members represent LGBTQ, female/male/other, Jewish/Muslim/Christian/other, religious/atheist, young/old, abled/disabled, and varied ethnic and racial communities,” said Propel Co-Founder and CEO Zach Cutler. “That appreciation is also why we made our best efforts to make the Propel100 list diverse and inclusive.”
Insights from our list
What does it take to be a PR Influencer?
Our top PR influencers had an average of 14,107 followers. There was quite a range, with a few having less than 1,000 followers and others with well over 100,000. Bill Stoller had the highest number of followers with a whopping 192,400.
Are these influencers only gaining followers by following tons of accounts themselves? It doesn’t seem that way. The average ratio of followers to following was about 5 to 1.
The average number of years on Twitter was 11.75 for those on our list. Meaning, most joined around May of 2009. These insights prove that it does take time to gain some traction, as the influencer newest to Twitter, Ciara Brooks, joined in 2016. Armand David, on the other hand, was the only influencer to join the same year Twitter was founded in 2006.
Number of Tweets
Unsurprisingly, the 100 most influential PR agency pros are quite active on social media, having sent over 3 million tweets in total. The average number of tweets for each person was just over 30,000. Ronke Lawal led the way by sending over 252,000 tweets during her 12 years on Twitter.
A few didn’t include their locations, but for those that did - 38 accounts were located in North America, with the rest mainly in the UK and a few scattered across Europe.
A bio is the first thing people see when opening a Twitter profile and can oftentimes make-or-break a potential follower. The go-to usually includes an industry, personal hobbies, and a touch of humor. Of our 100 influencer bios, 70 included the word “PR," 13 included “comms," and 10 included “marketing.”
If you didn’t appear in the list below, and you think you have a strong case to be considered next time we run our analysis, we want to hear from you. And if you were included in the list below, congratulations! You’re helping to make the PR industry a more vibrant, exciting, inclusive and interesting place. Just stop it with the Bernie Sanders memes now though, yeah?
In full disclosure, a few of the influencers who made the list according to the methodology and algorithms we used, happen to be advisors or customers of Propel..