Technology, consumer tech and consumer public relations
Bite’s roots are in technology public relations, having been spun out of Text 100 a decade ago primarily to allow parent company Next Fifteen to pitch for the coveted Apple Computer account (which would have been a conflict for Text). For most of its first decade in existence, it was true to those roots, picking up blue chip clients such as BT and Toshiba (both clients for eight years), Logitech (seven years), Iomega and McAfee (six years) and Sun Microsystems (four) and adding a deep high-tech capability in the U.S. through its acquisition of the PR operations of Silicon Valley powerhouse Applied Communications (now operating as Bite).
But recent years have seen a concerted effort to expand the firm’s focus. Over the past couple of years, it has added new clients such as Samsung (for corporate work), Cornwall Pure Business, DHL, Deutsche Post and The Gallup Organization. Its consumer group has picked up clients such as Carling, London Underground and Tiger Beer. At the same time, the firm has expanded its service portfolio. Always well known for its media relations expertise, it has added a strategic services team that offers speakers bureau, event management, analyst relations, influencer relations, brand strategy and messaging, media training, word-of-mouth marketing, copywriting and design—and is one of the firm’s fastest growing teams in terms of both staff and revenues. More recently, Bite has been offering executive communications expertise; event consultancy; and a strong suite of digital services.
Recent management changes underscore the shift in focus. After chief executive and co-founder Clive Armitage relocated to San Francisco to work with general manager Burghardt Tenderich, the firm brought in Barry Leggetter—former chief executive of Porter Novelli and Fleishman-Hillard in the U.K.—as its first group chairman. Leggetter has broad corporate and consumer communications background and a wealth of management experience, but he’s no one’s idea of a hardcore tech guy. Of course, he’s surrounded by agency veterans—Bite holds on to its people as impressively as it holds on to accounts—including Rachel Bachmann, promoted to consumer and strategic services practice leader following the departure of Sheryl Seitz to a senior in-house position at client Applied; and Paul Mackender, recently promoted to business-to-business practice leader. Key additions in the past 12 months include Annette Ryszkowska, associate director in the B2B practice and Anne Grant, group financial controller.
After a tough year in 2003, the past 18 months have seen a nice resurgence in Bite’s European revenues up 15 percent to around £5.4 million. Major new business wins including Samsung for both corporate and consumer PR, BT Group’s technology office, The Gallup Organization, CPP, Star, Sonos and Yahoo!, as well as assignments from Audible.com, Glu, QAS, and Vidus. And in the U.S., Bite beat out a trio of larger competitors to pick up a $6.5 million contract with Sun Microsystems, handling analyst and public relations for the U.S.
The launch of Apple’s first European retail store in London in November of 2004 was one of the highlights of the firm’s work over the past 12 months. PR was the only marketing discipline to support the opening, but Bite was able to attract massive crowds—1,000 people camped out overnight on one of the coldest nights of the year—and secure coverage on BBC’s News at 10 and in major media including the Financial Times, The Guardian, and the Daily Express. Demonstrating its expertise outside the tech arena, meanwhile, the firm helped London Underground communicate several initiatives, including art exhibitions in the tunnels of Gloucester Road station and publicizing the tube’s popularity as a film location, generating coverage of ITV London News, BBC London New2s, and in The Metro newspaper.
“Bite really is a different type of PR agency – unlike any that I’ve ever worked with before,” says Danielle Atkins, inward investment manager for Cornwall Pure Business. “Sure, it has strong relationships with the media and delivers solid media relations but I would expect that from any PR agency. Bite sets itself apart with its ability to combine hard-hitting, strategic consultancy with highly-creative, yet realistic, ideas and actually make them happen by using the exactly the right mix of communications services to achieve the desired response with our target audience.”
The London office acts as a hub for continental European programming, with accounts led by the European Services team, and local execution delegated to a select number of preferred agencies in major continental markets. The firm’s Swedish office, meanwhile, is led by Marta Karlqvist and acts as a hub for the Baltic region. But Armitage has ambitions expansion plans and would like to see eight to 10 offices around the world by the end of the decade.