Despite the acquisition of most major public relations firms by publicly traded holding companies and despite the prediction that independent, midsize firms could not continue to prosper as their larger competitors expanded globally, the PR business remains highly entrepreneurial. A talented practitioner with specific expertise and a bold vision can still create and lead his or her own firm, and compete successfully with larger, more global agencies. Few individuals demonstrate that possibility better than Bob Chandler.
Chandler—along with his longtime partner Gianfranco Chicco—left Burson-Marsteller 15 years ago to form the Chandler Chicco Agency. Over a decade and a half he built the firm into the world’s leading healthcare public relations firm, and one of its most successful independent PR firms, before selling to inventive Health in July of 2007. Today, it employs more than 300 people spread across offices in London, Los Angeles, Washington and Paris, and has expanded to become the Chandler Chicco Companies, with a number of specialist subsidiaries supplementing its core healthcare PR expertise.
But the foundation of its success is a maverick management philosophy the recognized the opportunity for a firm built on strong values and a people-first approach to compete in a marketplace that had come to be dominated by big, bureaucratic agencies that had all begun to look alike. From its launch, Chandler Chicco stood out, distinguished by everything from its office space (no walls) to its organizational structure (no titles), from its generous perks to a genuine best teams approach that meant a junior employee with the right expertise could lead a team on which Chandler himself served.
It was an approach that helped Chandler Chicco establish itself as a destination workplace, and become a fixture on our Best Agencies to Work For list, attracting bright, talented young people interested in doing great work without concern for hierarchy.
And while Chandler kept the firm focused on healthcare, he also expanded its portfolio of services—there are units focused on the biopharma space, on healthcare advertising, research and evaluation, public policy, and more recently market access, consumer health, and digital and social media—and its geographic reach. Chandler Chicco is the largest healthcare firm in the U.K., and has built a network of affiliates that help it deliver genuinely global programming.
Chandler has been responsible for some of the most significant healthcare communications campaigns of recent years, on behalf of pharmaceutical manufacturers, institutional providers, medical technology firms and the biotechnology industry, and has consulted on a wide range of crises, corporate reputation-building exercises and campaigns for new and existing products. He has experience in most drug categories working with clients in all of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies in addition to companies such as Coca Cola and Unilever.
Prior to launching Chandler Chicco, he was executive vice-president and co-managing director of Burson-Marsteller’s healthcare practice and also was the president of the agency’s Biotech Group. On the client side, he was vice president and assistant administrator for marketing and public affairs at the Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn from 1976 to 1982, responsible for the hospital’s departments of marketing, planning, public affairs, financial development and church relations. He also served in a major general hospital near Detroit as director of community relations.
Earlier in his career, Bob was actively involved with the New York chapter of the American Heart Association and served on the State Budget Committee of the United Way of Michigan. He has formed an ongoing relationship with Ohio University, his alma mater, which includes a research grant to evaluate the impact of public relations campaigns.