2016 Corporate/B2B PR Agencies of the Year, North America | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2016 North America Corporate/B2B Agencies of the Year

Our 2016 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 Agencies of the Year for every category can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Winners will be unveiled at the 2016 North American SABRE Awards, taking place at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York on May 3.

Corporate/B2B Agency of the Year: Peppercomm (Independent)

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 and London.

The firm’s revenues in 2015 reached almost $21m, an impressive 10% uptick on the year before, generated by 106 employees. New business included Darden Specialty Restaurants, Nestle Shield, Levl, Genpact, White Lodgings, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Mariner Holdings, Mitsubishi Capital and Harry & David, joining a client list that features EY, Mini, Oppenheimer, Saint-Gobain, Steelcase, Vonage, Wilbur-Ellis and Wilmington Trust.

The firm remains led by co-founders Steve Cody and Ed Moed, supported by partner and president Ted Birkhahn. Key staff additions in 2015 included media and content specialist Joe Checkler, previously of the Wall Street Journal and digital MD Mike Friedin, a former head of Accenture’s digital group.

Last year also saw Peppercomm step up its ability to help financial services clients overcome regulatory hurdles, by persuading companies from a relatively cautious sector to increase their visibility on industry topics. The firm remains a leader in the financial services and B2B sectors, and often takes a counter-intuitive approach to the space, last year producing research that demonstrated why marketers should use joy and humour to drive success.  

Indeed, Peppercomm’s thought leadership activity remains 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 SourceAmerica and Steelcase also caught the eye. — AS

Finalists

Burson-Marsteller (WPP)
While specialist firms continue to generate most of the buzz in the corporate space, Burson-Marsteller stands out among the giant global agencies for the breadth and depth of its senior-level counseling talent, from chief executive Don Baer and worldwide vice chairs Pat Ford and Karen Hughes to global media practice lead Gary Koops and US chief operating officer Nicole Cornish to newer additions like worldwide EVP Chris Foster (from Booz Allen), strategic advisor Christine Heenan (a Clinton White House veteran who also worked in public affairs at Harvard) and senior strategist Heidi Sinclar (returning to BM after roles with Weber Shandwick and the Gates Foundation).

Those individuals, and others, have worked on high-profile assignments ranging from Intel’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law to the crisis at the FIFA, and with clients such as Bank of America, FedEx and Ford on major corporate reputation initiatives. The firm is also producing some top-notch thought leadership, from its analysis of the ramifications of the on-demand economy to its Corporate Perception Indicator, while investing heavily in broadening its crisis communications and corporate purpose credentials. The latest initiative is the formation of a new “Advantage Women” group that will offer advice on closing the gender gap in organizational leadership and communicating corporate performance on gender gap issues. — PH


FTI Consulting

FTI Consulting climbed the mergermarket ranking of US advisors to mergers and acquisitions last year (up two places to fifth, handling 68 transactions) under the leadership of practice leader David Rhody, but the firm’s most dynamic growth came in its broader corporate advisory and advocacy business and in its energy sector.

The firm’s public affairs practice, which began life providing anti-trust support to the M&A work, now generates plenty of standalone business under the leadership of Jackson Dunn (a veteran of the Clinton White House), while the firm has added assignments in oil and gas, coal sectors, and from utilities, under the leadership of Brian Kennedy (a former aide to John Boehner).

The firm also continues to handle its share of high-profile corporate reputation work, crisis and litigation—all of which continue to benefit from closer integration with the parent company’s broader management consulting business—and to expand its digital and creative services offering, which is increasingly integrated into the FTI’s core businesses. Interesting assignments ranged from helping Haier overcome national security concerns regarding its US expansion to helping Mastercard with its global corporate work. — PH


LDWW
(Independent)
Founded in early 2013 by Weber Shandwick and Hill+Knowlton Strategies veterans Ken Luce and Jody Venturoni, LDWWgroup hit the ground running, thanks its founders deep roots and strong relationships in the Texas public relations community. Partner Mike Flanagan—another Weber and H+K alum—leads the firm’s St Petersburg office and its Carnival Corporation business. The firm promises clients—its focus on challenger brands—an integrated approach, greater senior management involvement, and a more responsive working relationship, and is one of the few startups capable of combining marketing and corporate communications with public affairs and senior-level strategic counsel. All of this also includes a decidedly multinational bent — the firm’s work has included assignments in the US, China, the Dominican Republic, Europe and Yemen.

In just three years, LDWW has grown to almost $6.5 million in fee income, up 40% last year. Interesting work has included some sensitive cross-border crisis counsel, which saw the firm win a Silver Anvil, and Best in Show, for its crisis recovery work on behalf of cruise line Carnival. The firm has also handled issues management for Bell Helicopter, along with the 2015 TransOceanic crisis in Yemen, and picked up SABRE Award nominations for its  Carnival work; for its “Boycott Black Thursday” campaign for retailer GameStop; and for its wellness campaign on behalf of Omni Hotels.

Much of LDWW’s success must come down to a senior team of partners that are based in Dallas, New York, Kansas City and Tampa — in addition to Luce, Venturoni, and Flanagan are Chris Cradduck and Ken Maxwell. Key clients now include Bell Helicopter Select, Big 12 Athletic Conference, Carnival Corp, Earth Day Texas, Fathom, Gamestop, Meadows Mental Health Institute, Omni Hotels, and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.  And LDWW’s boutique approach ensures that it is genuinely media-neutral, producing content that ranges from TV ads to online and digital platforms. — AS


Sloane & Company
(MDC Partners)
With a team of about 20, Sloane & Company is considerably smaller than most of the established competitors in the high-stakes corporate and financial space, but with fees in excess of $12 million, the firm’s revenue-per-head compares favorably to any of those with which it competes, and its expertise in investor activism (representing both activists and their corporate targets) and financial restructurings (representing the creditors involved in the Puerto Rico bankruptcy following its involvement with Detroit creditors two years ago) is unparalleled.

Other high-profile work last year included supporting Elliott Management, the most active activist investor of 2015, and in the M&A arena Lightyear Capital's acquisition of AIG's broker dealer business and Huntington’s acquisition of First Merrit. The firm also works with New York Life, Cablevision, athenahealth, TiVo and Walgreens, with new additions in 2015 including Sachem Head Asset Management, the Turf Coalition, and CUNA Mutual. The firm has also been preparing the next generation of leadership to take the reins, with managing directors Darren Brandt (leading the firm’s healthcare business), Whit Clay (head of the media/entertainment practice), Dan Zacchei (activism/restructuring lead) John Hartz (financial services), and Josh Hochberg (investor relations) providing plenty of depth. — PH