Small PR Agencies of the Year, North America | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2015 North America Small PR Agencies of the Year

Our 2015 North America PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 150 submissions and 50 face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across the US and Canada.

Analysis of each of the Finalists for each category can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here. Winners will be announced on May 5 at the SABRE Awards in New York, where winners will also receive their trophies.

Small Agency of the Year — M Booth

In the four years since its acquisition by Next Fifteen, Margi Booth’s firm has continued the growth trajectory it had enjoyed in the preceding years, doubling in size over that period while going through a significant transition that included the appointment of Ketchum veteran Dale Bornstein as CEO.

After a strong first year under new leadership, the firm now has more than 100 people in five offices (Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, and San Francisco in addition to its New York headquarters), fees of around $18 million, and strength in consumer marketing (food, travel, and wines and spirits) and corporate—and digital, including planning and analytics capabilities unusual for a firm its size under the leadership of Bonnie Ulman and Jeff Bodzewski.

New business came from Autodesk, Beyond Meat, Carnival Cruise Line, Cutty Sark, Intel, Jägermeister, Kelley Blue Book, Leica, Lutron Electronics, Noosa Yoghurt, St. Ives, and Twitter, while the firm expanded its Google business (expanding an initial assignment as social media AOR for Google at Work to include social for Google for Education, Google Science Fair, Android for Work, and Chrome for Work); growing the American Express rosterto include Amex Global Network Business, Amex Global Corporate Payments, and Amex Global Merchant Services; and picking up more corporate work for Mercedes Benz.

Creative work includes the long-term work for American Express, including the brand’s iconic Small Business Saturday initiative; content creation—30 or 40 pieces every day—for Google; influencer outreach to leading bartenders for Campari; and a campaign to “get America ready for re-engineered meat” for Beyond Meat.

The firm is also becoming a magnet for talent, thanks to a work environment that earned it a Best Agency to Work For trophy this year. It has added to its leadership team, bringing in Adrianna Bevilaqua from DeVries as chief creative officer and industry veteran Mark Malinowski in a new role as director of partner innovation.—PH


LaunchSquad (Independent)

LaunchSquad is another tech firm that cut its teeth on startups but has since grown to — not only attract powerhouse brands — but also becoming one of the earliest technology firms to rethink how it produced and delivered content.

This constant evolution has rewarded LaunchSquad with consistent double-digit growth. In 2014, revenue was up 21% to $14.4m — its fifth year with 20%+ growth. The clients: Acquia, Coursera, D-Wave, Facebook, I Heart Radio, Stubhub, Munchery and TIBCO, among others. Many technology firms have emulated the Original9 content studio that LaunchSquad created in 2012 with former journalist Jeffrey Davis as editorial director. As a testament to the quality of the work produced, the studio has been hired by the New York Times — and other media properties — to develop native content for sponsors.

The work coming out of LaunchSquad has consistently shown the firm to be one that’s committed to smart thinking and solid results. For instance, after two botched launches MoviePass called LaunchSquad in to set things straight. LaunchSquad fine-tuned the company’s narrative, provided tough media training to CEO Stacy Spikes and creditably showed MediaPass to be a disruptor while also repairing its damaged reputation within the theater industry. Since then, MoviePass has announced a new partnership with AMC that resulted in 70% increase in subscribers over a four week period. Another client Jet had taken the membership model of to reimagine online shopping with a platform that gives customers the lowest prices anywhere online. LaunchSquad signed on while the startup was still in stealth — building speculation and intrigue around the startup. When Jet was ready to go live, it did so with a Businessweek cover story. Shortly thereafter Jet raised $140m and a slew of top-tier media followed. — AaS 


Peppercomm’s restlessness is reflected in its evolution over the past 20 years into a full service strategic communications firm with a broad range of expertise, particularly in financial services, consumer, professional services and industrial/B2B, across offices in New York, San Francisco, London and Boulder.

The firm’s revenues in 2014 reached almost $19m, an impressive 13% uptick on the year before, generated by 106 employees. A slew of new business included Aeropostale, Citrin Cooperman, New York Hedge Fund Roundtable, Rabobank and Wilmington Trust, joining a client list that features EY, Mini, Northeast University, Pershing, Sharp and Wells Fargo.

The firm remains led by co-founders Steve Cody and Ed Moed, supported by partner and president Ted Birkhahn. Key staff additions in 2014 included creative director Matt Lester from McCann Worldgroup and executive marketing strategy director Scott Gober from Thomson Reuters — both hires reflected the firm’s focus on bringing in non-traditional talent and thinking.

Peppercomm’s thought leadership activity also remained a notch above many of its rivals. In addition to Cody’s RepMan blog and RepChatter podcast, the firm last year launched an interesting partnership with the Economist Group to survey B2B marketers and their audiences regarding brand content strategy and perceptions. That focus on insight has helped Peppercomm’s work stand out. It’s Hedge Fund social media study was covered extensively across industry media, while its campaign activity for Steelcase and Sculley Brothers also caught the eye. — AS

RF Binder

While growth was modest — around 2.7% — 2014 was a highly satisfactory year for RF Binder, which ended the year with fees of close to $13m. There were important new assignments — the firm has carved out a niche focused on complex, high-profile issues — for clients such as Hearst Corporation, Imax, SeedInvest and Snackwells, which join a roster that includes blue-chip brands Baskin Robbins, Capital One, Cargill, CVSHealth, Dunkiní Brands, Johnson & Johnson, Legal & General, Loews, NYUís Stern school, and Planet Fitness.

The work continues to stand out, with five SABRE Award nominations, including executive communications work for Ameriprise and Stern and impressive media relations work for Dunkiní, with a focus on the companyís Rainforest Alliance partnership. The firm also provided support for much-lauded CSR work at CVS. Focused on digital from its inception in 2014, RF Binder expanded those capabilities in 2014 with new hires including chief creative officer David Weinstock (formerly of MSL) and chief digital officer Chris Gee (who joined from Teneo) and new products focused on e-leadership and Brand @dvocacy — which mobilizes digital brand advocates.— PH


Sparkpr has come far from its early days when its tagline was “igniting Internet startups.” Today — 16 years later — Sparkpr’s clients include big names like DuPont, Symantec, Visa and Walmart but the firm still manages to attract the companies of tomorrow: Kuaidi, Machine Zone and Planet Labs. Clients come to Sparkpr now because they are either creating or leveraging technology as a competitive advantage in their respective markets. 

In 2014, Sparkpr saw remarkable 44% growth, ending the year at $16.4m and 65 people. Within the technology sector, Sparkpr has grown ‘sub-sectors’ — consumer tech, health tech, food tech, digital entertainment tech — all anchored in Spark’s core expertise.

While Spark has been known for its sharp influencer relations skills, with the acquisition of Aaron Mann’s Socialarc in 2014, the agency now has the deep digital resources to roll out solid new offerings. Among these is Conversational Whitespace an acceleration methodology that uses originally crafted narratives and patterned language to help clients become category leaders.

Leaders Donna Burke and Alan Soucy have ensured the quality of the firm’s work remains top-notch while it also maintains profitability and healthy prospects. Among its most standout work was for Dropcam that faced a market perception that its technology was dated. Spark positioned Dropcam as a hot, hardware startup through layers of influencer outreach that resulted in Dropcam’s largest day of sales and website traffic. The efforts worked towards Google/Nest ultimately buying Dropcam last year. — AaS