Holmes Report Selects Specialist Consultancies of the Year
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Holmes Report Selects Specialist Consultancies of the Year

Lots of familiar names among Specialist Consultancies of the Year, with awards for Frank PR (Consumer), College Hill (corporate), Hering Schuppener (Financial), Chandler Chicco (healthcare), Burson-Marsteller (public affairs) and Lewis (technology).

Paul Holmes

Consumer Consultancy of the Year: Frank


Big thinking, no-holds barred creativity and tons of talkability remain the hallmarks of Frank’s work. The Kit Kat Senses “Only Girls Aloud” campaign picked up best consumer PR campaign honours at October’s PR Week Awards and best integrated European marketing campaign at the SABREs. The firm’s business performance—what recession?—continues to impress. Revenues were up by more than 20 percent for the year that ended in August and Frank now has a team of close to 70 people generating more than £6 million in fees. New clients (and Frank wins pitches at an astonishing 70 percent rate) include Aviva, Alton Towers, Disney XD, Compare the Market.com (and its famous meerkat), Casio G-Shock, L’Oreal/Nutrisse, Foxy Bingo, Innocent, Timberland, the Department for Children Schools & Family, Drench, and Bounty. They join a roster that already included a host of big brands: Ocado, Persil, Doritos, Sure/Rexona, Sugar Puffs, npower, Slim.fast, Hovis, Alan Sugar, Kit Kat, BlackBerry, Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants, Activsion, Virgin Media, Cancer Research UK, Steve Madden, Loyd Grossman Sauces, Smarties, Footlocker, and more—client retention was close to 100 percent for the year.


Corporate Consultancy of the Year: College Hill


The global economic crisis notwithstanding, it has been another busy year at expansion-minded College Hill, with significant enhancements of its capabilities in digital—taking a stake in Tonic, a 40-person digital design and branding firm—and public affairs, expanding its U.K. team with an investment in boutique consulting firm Precise and property and planning specialist Green Issuesand then entering the EU market in the fall via a stake in Brussels-based Policy Action. Those moves mark a continuation of the aggressive growth strategy that began when College Hill founder and managing director Alex Sandberg named former Incepta chief executive Richard Nichols to the same role at his firm last year and has seen the firm grow from around £10 million in fee income three years ago to revenues of around £15 million today. Pure financial communications, once the lion’s share of the firm’s business, now accounts for about 25 percent, with public affairs and broad corporate communications work contributing a larger share. Just as important, about a quarter of the firm’s clients are now using multiple practices, and a growing number are drawing on College Hill services in other EMEA markets (in addition to Germany and Brussels, the firm has a long-established office in South Africa and about a third of its people are now based outside the U.K.)


Financial Consultancy of the Year: Hering Schuppener


Hering Schuppener has been our German Consultancy of the Year (in 2004), our Corporate Consultancy of the Year (2008), and our Best Continental Consultancy to Work For (twice), and its performance last year—during a tough time for the financial sector—means it can now add Financial Consultancy of the Year to its trophy collection. The firm ranks in the top four in Germany in terms of fee income (€25.65 million in 2008, up by about 15 percent) and number one among German firms in the mergers and acquisitions business according to mergermarket’s analysis of deals activity. While the past 12 months has seen a decline in the amount of M&A activity in Germany as it has elsewhere, Hering Schuppener can still legitimately claim to have been involved in almost every major restructuring, recapitalization, refinancing or financial crisis in Germany over the past 12 months. High-profile work includes support for Commerzbank during its takeover of Dresdner Bank, plus the Commerzbank refinancing; TUI’s sale of Hapag Lloyd; Continental's defence and later reverse takeover of Schaeffler; Arcandor's financial crisis and insolvency; the sale of Germany's Citibank to Credit Mutuelle; plus work for Deutsche Boerse (shareholder activism).


Healthcare Consultancy of the Year: Chandler Chicco


Gloom for the pharmaceutical industry has been good news for the public relations firms that focus on the sector: at least for those firms whose industry knowledge, strategic insight, and breadth of services puts them in a position to help clients navigate such a challenging landscape. Chandler Chicco stopped reporting its numbers after it was acquired by international healthcare communications company inVentiv Health, but the firm continued to grow in 2008, with fees up by an estimated 30 percent and headcount of about 100, and expected a double-digit fee income in 2009 too. And Europe now contributes about a third of the firm’s global revenues. The firm has evolved its offering, moving upstream, working at more senior levels within client organizations and managing more complex and challenging communications assignments. Its U.K. offering includes medical education company Litmus; BioSector 2, which focuses on the biotechnology and specialty pharma sectors; and now brandtectonics, a new unit led by Neil McGregor-Paterson which is focused on patient access. The firm is also expanding beyond its traditional pharma focus into consumer health, wellness and beauty with the launch of Allidura.


Public Affairs Consultancy of the Year: Burson-Marsteller


The Brussels office of Burson-Marsteller is the one almost all others in the European capital identify as the one to beat. Jeremy Galbraith, who took over as regional chief executive from Heidi Sinclair in mid-2007, turned the reins of the officer over to Robert Mack, who has continued to build the business and cement the firm’s reputation for thought leadership. In 2009, the firm launched a website to predict the EU election results, tracked and analyzed political discussions on Twitter, and published a definitive guide to the new European Parliament. And Burson-Marsteller continues to do much of its best work on high-stakes assignments in the public policy realms. It continues to work with Intel on corporate positioning, including paid and earned media; has been building an alliance of companies for a review of EU anti-trust policies; and supporting the European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control to raise awareness of the responsible use of antibiotics.



Technology Consultancy of the Year: Lewis PR


Five years ago, Chris Lewis announced two ambitious strategies: the first was his so-called “Six Continents” plan, which called for the U.K.-based technology powerhouse to double the number of offices it operated around the world; the second involved the roll out of the firm’s pioneering suite of digital services to establish Lewis as a market leader in new media solutions. Lewis had 21 offices when the international expansion plan was unveiled; today it has 39, having just completed the acquisition of Belgian technology public relations specialist Leads United. Even more impressively, more than 55 percent of Lewis clients are now served internationally. As for the digital media offer, Lewis has been in the forefront of the new media revolution, creating a host of blogs, providing online monitoring services, helping clients establish themselves in virtual worlds, and launching PR+, an offering that includes podcasting, viral marketing and webcasts. Revenues for the past 12 months were up by 10 percent to £18.5 million, and new clients include Asus, 3Com, Absolute Software, Avid, Kingston Technology, Sage, Saperion, Symantec and Tchibo, many of them for cross-border European campaigns, while the firm continues to work for technology leaders such as Avanade, BT, Citrix, Experian, Lexmark, Salesforce.com, Siemens PLM and Second Life. But perhaps the most significant move of the past 12 months was the appointment of Paul Charles, currently director of communications for Virgin Atlantic, to the new role of chief operating officer.



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