2017 Public Affairs Agencies of the Year, North America 2015 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2017 North America Public Affairs Agencies of the Year

Our 2017 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 2017 North American SABRE Awards, taking place at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York on May 2.


Finalists

APCO (Independent)

APCO has been growing its corporate and financial (and even, to a less extent, consumer) capabilities in recent years, so the leadership is sometimes frustrated when publications like this one continue to pigeonhole the firm as a leader in public affairs—but that is more a reflection of the way in which public affairs has expanded than the notion that APCO has been standing still.

Nothing could be further from the truth. APCO’s public affairs expertise includes the obvious (with the inauguration of a new president, areas such as trade policy and climate change have come to the fore) but also areas such as purpose and the challenge of corporate leadership that is both responsive and responsible, and nation branding, which has political and economic development implications. And APCO has long been a leader in applying the latest technology—digital and social—to public affairs, with its new Telescope offer applying the techniques of influencer marketing to the policy environment.

Revenues topped $120 million in 2016 (though growth was once again modest), with new business from the likes of Consumer Reports, Exelon and its Pepco Holdings subsidiary, The Partnership for a Healthier America’s Fruit & Veggies campaign, McCormick, the Nuclear Energy Institute, and the Embassy for Switzerland, while the firm continues to work with IKEA, Mars, Microsoft, Office Depot, PepsiCo, Welltower and the Better Medicare Alliance.

And no other firm has as many Washington, DC, veterans on its team, with new additions in 2016 including Dan Scandling (former chief of staff and communications director for two senior members of Congress) and Kelly Stepno (a former senior associate at Booz Allen Hamilton). — PH

Davies (Independent)

Over three decades Davies has impressively perfected a model that reliably builds consensus for controversial, complex projects that face opposition. The approach translates client narratives into stories intended to motivate support and calm opposition by reframing the debate with an eye towards winning approvals and quickly putting out fires.

While revenues dipped slightly in 2016 to $11m, the caliber of the work was as strong as it has ever been — despite a challenging media environment dominated by the presidential election and ultimately President Trump. Moreover, the firm has been forced to shift its focus amid market volatilities from real-estate to energy. As an example of its energy work, for Texas LNG, Davies worked to ward off public opposition for a new project by emphasizing its minimal impact and the benefits to the community. As a result the project recently secured four major supply deals in Southeast Asia and is close to receiving final approval with vocal majority support. Meanwhile for E.ON Twin Forks, the firm worked against anti-wind opponents and online anti-wind science that was taking a toll on public perception to gain approval to build 139 wind turbines in Macon County.

CEO John Davies has led the firm for 30 years with SVPs Joshua Boisvert, Taylor Canfield and Robb Rice — who have built a culture that is consistently recognized on the Holmes Report’s Best Agencies to Work For Survey. Key Clients include: KGHM, Tesoro, Ascot USA, Essroc, Hines, Texas LNG, Gerdau, SoCal Gas, Wespac, Walmart, with new wins E.ON, CalPine, Jordan Cove, Veresen, Toll Brothers, Sun Coast, Heidelberg Cement, Beta Offshore. — AaS 

Global Strategy Group (Independent)

Election years tend to be particularly good for New York-based Global Strategy Group, which has a rich heritage in the world of polling and campaign management and continues to supplement its corporate and public policy work with those activities. But underlying growth in the core public affairs and reputation management business was solid in 2016, with new assignments from the liked of Americans for Responsible Solutions (a grassroots gun control group), Bloomberg Philanthropies, CVS Health, the League of Conservation Voters, PhRMA, Skanska and more.

The firm continues to play a leadership role in some of the vital issues of the day. It has been working on gender equity issues (the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100x25 campaign for women’s leadership); environmental concerns (for NextGen Climate, the Sierra Club, and more); immigration reforms (for FWD.us) and reproductive rights (Planned Parenthood). And GSG client The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform played a major role in informing Mayor Bill DeBlasio commitment to closing Rikers Island. The firm also handled crisis and issues work for CVS Health, football association CONCACAF, Pershing Square, General Motors, and commercial drone company JDI Group.

The firm’s thought leadership on the role of business in political discourse is also looking more and more relevant in the new political environment, in which companies are either choosing or being forced to join political debates around gay rights, immigration and host of other hot-button issues.— PH

Saxum (Independent)

In January 2016, oil was $31.68 per barrel compared to just two years earlier when oil was $94.62 per barrel. This coincided with Saxum’s recently opened office in the energy-dependent Houston market. Instead of backing away from energy, Saxum took a risk and doubled down.

The gamble paid off. Revenues are up nearly 9% to $6.4m with clients that include Anheuser-Busch, American Petroleum Institute, US Cellular, Williams Companies, Enable Midstream, George Kaiser Family Foundation, Hobby Lobby, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, GE Oil & Gas (new), Laredo Petroleum (new), Plains All American Pipeline (new) and the Oklahoma Lottery Commission (new), among others.

Saxum’s work with the two major energy trade associations, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) helped to position the energy industry as an environmentally conscious, job creator. The agency’s work with API on its Vote4Energy.org’s 50 States of Energy showcased the importance of energy from state to state. INGAA’s America’s Energy Link told the story about safety and reliability of pipelines to move natural gas. Spectrum also worked with Canary, an oilfield services company, to develop, create and implement the “Talk Crude” campaign which (successfully) sought to lift the decades-old crude export ban.

CEO Renzi Stone has also built a culture committed to seeking diversity and giving back to the community. Every year Saxum provides pro bono work to qualifying nonprofits and in 2016 surpassed $1 million in service grants since 2009. The firm has offices in Oklahoma and Texas. — AaS 

Singer Associates (Independent)

We’ll say it again — when it comes to high-stakes public battles in Northern California, Sam Singer’s firm is very likely to be involved on one side of the aisle. This isn’t any less true from last year (Singer shows up as a Public Affairs contender with respectable frequency).

The firm’s revenues are up 13% to $5.4m with a client roster that has remained remarkably consistent with big names like Chevron Corporate; Chevron Richmond Refinery; Children’s Hospital Oakland; Stanford Health Care; Stanford University; City of San Bruno; Monsanto; Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office; and UBS Wealth Management signing on for multi-year assignments. Meanwhile, new client wins in 2016 include Alaska Airlines, Beverly Hills Hilton, LA County Parks, SF LGBT Pride, Outside Lands Music Festival, SHARP Healthcare, Total Wine and More, Yes on Measure AA, Holy Names University and the City of Pacifica.

Last year, Singer expanded its long-running (and award-winning) corporate-sponsored community-based newspaper/news site, The Richmond Standard for Chevron. The online publication has garnered significant media coverage nationally and internationally as a groundbreaking community journalism concept and as a corporate news delivery service. According to Singer, resident surveys rate the site as more informative and reliable than sites from traditional news media in the city.

Increasingly, Singer develops websites for clients to temporarily address issues away from their main branded site. The sites are intended to be a central clearing house for media, community members, employees and others, and a way to control and share messages. Singer designed wireframes and built 16 of these websites in 2016, including: www.RevitalizeVallco.com for Sand Hill Property Company for their new development next to the Apple campuses in Silicon Valley; and www.StanfordAnthemFacts.com, for Stanford Health Care’s contract negotiations with insurance company Anthem.

Sam Singer continues to head the organization with a growing leadership bench that includes Adam Alberti and Jason Barnett. Last year, Singer also created its own internet news service, SingerMedia, that gives clients daily news bulletins, blog postings, video clips and information vital to their businesses.  — AaS