One of the most intriguing newcomers on the European public relations scene, Full House started life on January 1, 2010, bringing together a team of senior counselors distinguished by its experience on the opposite side of the table from the traditional PR agency. Some team members were clients, holding senior corporate communications roles. Others had been on the receiving end of public relations pitches as journalists or politicians. Drawing on that expertise, and on experience that ranges across multiple sectors (including media, oil and energy, defense, healthcare, shipping and seafood), they set out to create a different kind of PR firm.
For one thing, First House eschews hierarchy. In a market dominated by firms that adopt a traditional pyramid structure—very few senior counselors supported by lots of young account executives—the new firm is a partnership of equals, with nine partners: Jan-Erik Larsen, a former state secretary in the office of the Prime Minister, and director of political communications; founder Bjorn Richard Johansen, who worked for the Prime Minister of Iceland during the country’s financial crisis; Kari Holm Hejna, previously head of her own consulting firm; chairman of the board Leif Monsen, a veteran of in-house roles with Storebrand insurance and Bergen Bank; Per Bjorkum, a former Reuters journalist and financial analyst who serves as director of financial communication; Ketil Lindseth, former state secretary in the Ministry of Health; Bjarne Hakon Hanssen, former Norwegian Minister of Health; Per Hoiby, former managing director of JKL in Oslo; and Tor Mikkel Wara, who ran his own consulting firm and also worked with Geelmuyden Kiese in Norway.
No wonder that Bjørn Langli, head of corporate communication at Fokus Bank (Danske Bank) says First House is distinguished by its “understanding of the importance of creating business results, dedication and client focus.”
It’s a formidable line-up and talent, and it has helped First House establish itself quickly as a go-to agency in three areas: financial communication, corporate communications (including media relations and crisis and issues management), and public affairs and government relations. The firm expects to end the year with fee income of around NOK 33 million (about €4 million), which would establish itself as a top five firm in its first year. And while the firm does not publicly discuss its clients, it is known to have built up a blue-chip roster that includes several of the biggest banks in the region, including Danske Bank (Fokus Bank), SpareBank 1 Gruppen and Gjensidige. The most high profile work, however, has been continuing support for Inspired by Iceland, an economic development and tourism initiative designed to revive the devastated economy.
During its first year of operation, the focus has been on the domestic Norwegian market, but First House clearly believes that there is a regional market for its services, in Iceland—where several team members have experience—and the other Nordic markets.