Generalist PR consultancy, with technology heritage and growing public sector business
When Band & Brown was asked to drive publicity for the BT Phone Book, it came up with an idea that not only captured the media’s imagination but also reinforced the brand’s proposition. Members of the public were invited to live inside a Perspex box, armed only with a telephone, a phone book, and a limited budget. Then the public, often in partnership with participating radio stations, called to issue various challenges. The campaign won an award from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, was named Mall Promotion of the Year, and was a finalist in the Brand Experience Awards. It also solidified B&B’s reputation for strategy and creativity.
Founded in 1991 by QBO veterans Nick Band and Gill Brown, B&B enjoyed heady growth during the 90s, in part on the back of the tech boom, growing to about 90 people and a place among the top 10 independents in the U.K. before its acquisition in August of 2004 by Canadian communications holding company Cossette. But if the consultancy’s tech work was among its most eye-catching, it was always more than a niche player. It draws its private sector clients from a wide range of industries, including personal finance, professional services, consumer tech and FMCG, and it offers an equally broad range of services, from crisis management to public affairs and from analyst relations to multi-channel consumer PR programmes, while much of its recent growth has come from the public sector.
Brown and Band are joined at the helm of the company by head of strategic planning Fiona Longhurst, and an executive committee that includes deputy managing director David Vindel, finance director Brian Couzens and Lisa Quinn, Paul Lucas, and Valerie Weisenreder. Staff retention is a point of pride, and 60 percent of the firm’s account directors have been with B&B for five years.
Revenues were up about 11 percent last year, a respectable performance given the continued softness in the IT sector. The firm added Direct Line and ING Direct to its financial services roster and FMCG and retail clients including Cornish pasty specialist Ginsters and supermarket Somerfield. But the biggest gains have come from the public sector: B&B has been on the Central Office of Information roster for two years and recently began work with the Customs & Excise to explain the dangers of counterfeit tobacco, and on a profile-raising campaign for the Royal Navy. It was also retained by the Teacher Training Agency to help attract more high-caliber candidates in maths, science, modern languages, and music.
Band & Brown is “clearly passionate about helping us get it right,” says Gina Fusco, marketing director for ING Direct, who adds that everyone “puts in 110 percent.” But some of the firm’s most compelling testimonials come from the media. “What counts is the personal touch, and Band & Brown are always really friendly and co-operative,” says Geoff Maynard of The Express. “Working with Band & Brown is an absolute treat,” says The Guardian education writer John Crace. “The stories they pitch are always strong and creative and they never fail to impress me with their speedy delivery.” “Absolutely brilliant,” adds Helen Kristic, producer of Today with Des and Mel.
Other major developments include an investment in evaluation systems that measure impact as well as column inches, and the launch of a new unit, Brando, that specializes in experiential marketing—events, promotions, stunts, and more—and is led by board director Paul Lucas and associate director Mandy Sharp. Through the Cossette acquisition, Band & Brown now has sister firms in the U.S. (PainePR) and Canada (Optimum Public Relations) and also offers international reach through its own Bandwidth network of PR agencies in Europe, Asia and North America.