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When it comes to high-stakes corporate communications counsel, there’s the establishment—a handful of white-shoe firms that tend to dominate the M&A rankings—and then there’s Sloane & Company, a challenger brand that’s a little brasher and a little bolder.
Over the past two and a half decades, Elliot Sloane has made a virtue out of a necessity by representing underdogs, and occasionally big dogs who want their bite to match their bark, building an $11 million business with a team of about 20 and a reputation in broader corporate and financial communications, crisis and issues management, and public affairs rather than focusing on high-profile transactions.
That’s not to say Sloane can’t handle major deals—it has become a leader in the activist investor space, often supporting hedge funds and others in campaigns targeting Hess, EMC, Compuware, Juniper Networks, and others.
Other highlights last year included representing bond investors during the bankruptcy of Detroit, supporting New York Life's investment management business and its acquisitions; handling regulatory issues for the likes of Exelon; supporting Tribune Media as it emerged from bankruptcy and began trading as a new public company; providing PR expertise to Michael Steinberg during the ongoing litigation around his insider trading case. Clients include athenahealth, Cablevision, Charles Schwab, Exelon, Liberty Media, Starz, Walgreens, and Viacom, with new business—fueling double-digit growth in 2014—from Elliott Management, charter school company Success Academy, Altisource, and Sandell Capital Management.
And while several firms in this space run the risk of being labeled one-man bands, Sloane has invested in the next generation, with a leadership team that includes managing directors Darren Brandt (a media and investor relations who previously worked at Morgen-Walke); Whit Clay (formerly with Edelman Financial); Boston-based John Hartz; Joshua Hochberg (formerly founding partner of Vistance Group); and Dan Zacchei (formerly of Ruder Finn).—PH
For more than six decades, Farner has built connections across all sections of business and society in Switzerland—and beyond—and earned its status as the market leader, both in terms of size and stature.
With more than 80 people and fees of €16.2 million, the firm is the largest in its market—almost twice the size of its closest competitors—and continued its growth in 2014, with fees up by a healthy 15%. It works with established clients UBS, Allianz, Adobe, Xerox, Barilla, Heineken, Nestlé, Novartis Pfizer, Aldi, Monsanto, and the Birgit Nilsson Prize, with new business last year from Holcim-Lafarge, Mobiliar, LG, Axpo, Swisselectric, and Elektrolux.
Burson-Marsteller veteran Roman Geiser took over as CEO in 2012, but his predecessor Christian Koenig remains in the chairman role and with the support of fellow partners Daniel Heller, Jacqueline Moeri, Michel Grinder, and Urs Knapp, the transition has been seamless.
Historically best known for its work in the corporate and financial realm, the firm has progressed in areas both expected (the increasing use of data and analytics) and more surprising (social media and community management, visual storytelling) with the addition of chief creative officer Philipp Skrabal last year.
The firm’s work for the Birgit Nilsson Prize 2014 is a finalist in this year’s SABRE competition, as are a diabetes education campaign for Roche and economic development efforts on behalf of the Canton of Fribourg.
In addition to its own offices (Zurich, Berne, Lausanne, Geneva and Lugano) Farner is the exclusive affiliate of FleishmanHillard in the Swiss market, and also partners with Porter Novelli and Brussels-based public affairs firm Interel, crisis communications firm Regester Larkin, and financial communications network GFC/Net.—PH
ROI Communications (US/Independent)
There are indications that employee engagement is finally emerging as an area of growth for the public relations industry, a reflection of the importance of attracting and retaining talent and of the power of employees to undermine brands or act as their most influential advocates in the social media age. California-based ROI Communications is well placed to take advantage, a specialist firm with 80 employees focused almost exclusively on internal communications, generating fee income in excess of $13m (up by about 36% in 2014).
ROI focuses on employee engagement, change management, executive communications—and a newer competency in visual storytelling—and produces an annual ROI Communication Benchmark, based on a survey of 100 Fortune 500 companies and quantifying the business impact of employee communications. The firm’s first client was Hewlett-Packard—ROI supported the acquisition and integration of Compaq and has worked with tech giant through four CEO transitions and numerous other changes. Other notable clients include The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Apple, Walmart, PepsiCo, Chevron, and Comcast, with new additions in 2014 including Toyota, Baker Hughes, Cemex, Citrix, eBay, McKesson, Nvidia, Twitter, and VM Ware.
Interesting work includes the One Toyota transformation initiative, a multi-year employee communication and culture change program as Toyota merges three North American businesses into one new location, and new global communication strategy and message platform for Cemex, designed to galvanize leaders, drive employee engagement and strengthen understanding and support for the company strategy, values and culture. —PH
SenateSHJ (Australia/New Zealand, Independent)
One of the top five independents in Australia and New Zealand—it has offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington—SenateSHJ has a team of close to 60 generation revenue of close to NZ$10 million, with a focus on the high-stakes, high-value sector of the market: reputation management, crisis and issues, change communications, and public affairs. But the past couple of years have seen an expansion of the firm’s social and digital capabilities, including the launch of a specialist video production unit, Kamber. The firm acquired New Zealand-based PR Partners, and added new partners Craig Badings, an expert in thought leadership and executive coaching and Matt Foran, former head of external affairs at Australia Post, and consulting partner David McCarthy, former head of Edelman’s Melbourne office.
New business came from Beijing Capital Group, Inland Revenue, and Waste Management in New Zealand and Hanes Group in Australia, joining a roster that includes Astra Zeneca, BP Oil, Bayer, Google, Novartis, Origin Energy, Statoil, and Woolworths. Interesting work included helping BP win the Energy Retailer of the Year award for second year running; corporate social responsibility work on My Cancer, My Voice; and award-winning community relations outreach for the Australian Medicines Industry.—PH
Seven Hills (UK/Independent)
Last year’s Corporate Consultancy of the Year continues to expand and evolve, building on its focus on the entrepreneurial economy—a positioning that saw Seven Hills through its first four years—to serve a wider variety of growth companies, taking a campaigning approach, communicating mission and purpose for companies with momentum. It’s an approach that has helped the firm built a portfolio of companies, CEOs, and destinations (a particular focus since Seven Hills’ inception) that includes the likes of Ovo Energy, Ella’s Kitchen, Cobra beer, Jessops, 118118 Money, Virgin Media, Evernote, RBS, Coutts, the International Festival for Business, Liverpool Vision and more.
Growth last year was around 33%, and Seven Hills ended the year with fee income of around £3.2m. The firm is also getting plaudits for its work, such as the “Feel Loved Again” campaign for Ovo, positioning the brand as an alternative to the “big six” energy providers, challenging the status quo and encouraging people to “break-up” with their current energy supplier on Valentine’s Day. For Simply Business, an insurance broker, Seven Hills devised a media campaign centered on the High Street Tracker, an annual temperature check of High Street traders. Next up for founders Michael Hayman and Nick Giles: a new book on the topic of Mission, featuring interviews with CEOs from innovative companies around the world, from airbnb to Whole Foods.— PH
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