2016 Healthcare PR Agencies of the Year, North America 2015 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2016 North America Healthcare 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.

Healthcare Agency of the Year

Spectrum (Independent)

Spectrum has remarkably navigated a series of changes initiated in 2014 — a restructuring from  a cross-functional model to one with distinct practice areas and a leadership change as founder John Seng began a transition to being emeritus, meanwhile while Jonathan Wilson ascended as president.

Even so, the 20-year-old firm emerged with revenues up 56% to nearly $15m in 2015 with 65 employees across its offices in Washington DC, New York (opened in 2015) and Atlanta (opened in 2015). New clients AbbVie, Tesaro, Zafgen and Genocea join an existing roster with Astellas, Covidien/Medtronic, Roche Diagnostics,  St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Acura Pharmaceuticals, among others.

The firm points to its “One Spectrum” ideology for its enduring success. For instance, Spectrum operates as one firm across all offices, sharing teams and resources, with a single P&L. It also looks to have expertise across the divergent worlds of trendy, consumer brands and high science pharmaceutical products, bringing a unique mix of scientific rigor and contemporary smarts to its work. — AaS


Finalists

Amendola Communications (Independent)

Launched in 2004 in Scottsdale, AZ, Amendola is proof of the continuing demand for boutique-sized firms that are fully immersed in the healthcare sector. In this case, Jodi Amendola has built an agency that focuses exclusively on healthcare and health IT, with 18 staff based across a national network that also includes a presence in Chicago; San Francisco; Salt Lake City; Austin; South Dakota; Michigan; and, North Carolina.

In particular, Amendola’s approach to healthcare content has helped the firm distinguish itself from the traditional media relations model. That mentality has seen the firm revamp its operational model, towards a more specialist-oriented offering, bringing in content and media relations talent to support an account manager who focuses solely on the client relationship. Growth of 51% last year suggests that Amendola’s approach is bearing fruit, with new clients including Aprima, Collibrium, HGS, SCIO Health Analytics, Sunquest, Wanda, and Zipongo joining a roster that already features Aptus Health, Bernoulli, Availity, ClearData, Health Catalyst, Sentrian, Skygen USA, Recondo and West Healthcare.

The senior team remains lead by Jodi Amendola, who is supported by strategist Jan Schulman, VP Todd Stein and MD Tim Boivin. There were also notable hires last year in the content and media relations space, reflecting the firm’s move to a cross-functional model. And the work bears out this approach, particularly Amendola’s work for Health Catalyst’s Late-Binding enterprise data warehouse and analytics platform, which involved positioning the client’s leadership team as visionary resources in the healthcare industry. That campaign owned much to the company’s content development approach, also illustrated by the firm’s knowledge centre — which has become a useful industry resource for many healthcare specialists, and is followed by a significant number of healthcare journalists who use it for background information and story ideas.

Accordingly, Amendola is deploying knowledge centre programs for several clients who want to make their website a go-to resource within their market niche. For Phytel, for example, Amendola positioned the company as the industry leader in population health management, delivering more than 50 pieces of high-value content — helping Phytel build a strong reputation in the market, which ultimately led to the company’s acquisition by IBM. A similar thought leadership approach was utilised for Physicians Interactive’s launch of the Omnio mHealth clinical information application for healthcare professionals. — AS

Chandler Chicco Agency (inVentiv Health)
Chandler Chicco celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015, an opportunity to reflect on an impressive two decades of leadership in healthcare PR—the firm grew from five to 300 people before its acquisition by inVentiv Health—and to lay the foundations to compete in a more challenging and complex future. An “employer of choice” before the term became fashionable, CCA rolled out a number of employee initiatives last year—Passion Grants, a new sabbatical policy, an expanded inter-office exchange policy—while encouraging greater creativity within the agency through a program called Fresh IDEAS (Ideation Development, External Inspiration, Actively Sharing).

With the healthcare communications landscape shifting beyond pharmaceutical marketing, the firm also expanded its capabilities in areas such as advocacy (publishing research into what patient groups want from pharma companies), change management, science communications (embedding scientific experts into every program), and patient engagement. The payoff was apparent in the second half of the year, when CCA picked up $7 million in new business over a six-month period from a client list that includes Mylan, Novartis, NVS-Genentech, BioMarin, Celgene and Biogen.

Award-winning work includes the CIU & You unbranded awareness campaign on behalf of Genentech and Novartis, supporting the needs of people with chronic idiopathic urticarial and a program marking 10 years of Naglazyme, Biomarin’s enzyme replacement therapy for one of the rarest conditions in the world, mucopolysaccharidosis type VI. — AS

GCI Health (WPP/Cohn & Wolfe Group)

One of the tangible consequences of GCI’s decision to put the “patient at the center” of everything it does is an inexorable expansion of its work into venues where consumers are actually looking for healthcare information, which means greater use of digital and social channels, using paid, owned and shared alongside more traditional earned media. Working to raise awareness of Tecfidera (from Biogen) as a treatment option for relapsing multiple sclerosis, GCI Health partnered with Self magazine, style expert and talk show host Jeannie Mal, and select bloggers to drive engagement and web traffic. Using targeted media outreach, grassroots efforts, culturally-relevant spokespeople and patient resources, meanwhile, the firm helped Merck reach black and Hispanic communities at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and raise awareness of America’s Diabetes Challenge.

While many client assignments remain confidential, GCI now works for eight of the nation’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies, while also broadening its client base to include biotech, medical devices, payer/provider, association and health technology clients, growing by an impressive 23 percent.

The leadership team—CEO Wendy Lund, North American president Kristin Cahill, president of scientific communication Jill Dosik—has been together for six years now and is building a culture that challenges employees to think differently about healthcare communications while providing a nurturing, collegial environment. — PH

TogoRun (Omnicom/FleishmanHillard)

Since its launch in 2012—emerging from the ashes of CPR Worldwide, previously acquired by FleishmanHillard—Omnicom’s TogoRun has quietly and confidently emerged as one of the best of a new generation of healthcare specialist firms. With two major clients at start-up—Lilly and Philips—CEO Gloria Janata quickly recognized the need to diversify, and over the past three years the firm has added about 30 clients: 2015 saw the addition of Accumen (a blood management consulting agency), CareCentrix (paid and earned media), the Digestive Health Physicians Association, Flexion (executive visibility, positioning and influencer outreach), the Italian Trade Commission (introducing healthcare startups to the US market), Lexicon Pharmaceuticals, Merck (CSR), the National Hemophilia Foundation and the Obesity Society.

Those clients join a roster that includes the original two, Allergan, Bayer, Novo Nordisk, Valeant and more, and showcase the broadening of the firm’s capabilities—corporate reputation, CSR, executive leadership, as well as public affairs through an expanding Washington, DC, office. They also helped the firm to 16% growth in 2015, ending the year with fee income of around $14 million. Meanwhile the firm—named for the 1925 Nome Serum Run, when a dog called Togo helped head off a diphtheria epidemic—continues to focus on its work environment and talent, with impressive inter-office cooperation and a culture of volunteerism. — PH