Full service public relations
It’s not uncommon for senior executives at large multinational public relations operations to strike out on their own, hoping to offer the skills of a big agency combined with the service orientation of a smaller firm. It’s more unusual for them to succeed as quickly and dramatically as Four Communications, launched in November of 2001 by former Charles Barker and BSMG Worldwide chief executive Nan Williams and now ranked among the top 30 independent public relations consultancies in the U.K., with a team of more than 40 and fees in 2004 of close to £3.2 million. The firm is on track for another 33 percent increase in fees in 2005.
But it’s not just the numbers that are impressive. “Four Communications has set a new standard for our agency roster around the world,” says Anne Tullis, public relations manager for Gulf Air. “The Four Communications team brings a level of commitment and passion that is unmatched,” adds Robert Nadin, head of corporate communications for bmi. “It is why I have chosen to work with them for so many years.” And Bill Waite, chief executive of The Risk Advisory Group, says: “Of all the agencies we reviewed, Four Communications showed the most passion for, and empathy with, our business. Their strategy was spot-on. Their implementation of that has consistently delivered the right results for us.”
One reason for the firm’s success is clearly the quality of its senior leadership team. In addition to Williams, partners include Ray Eglington, a corporate and crisis PR specialist; Einir Williams, who helped Shell manage the Brent Spar crisis; and Tim Lewis, a consumer PR veteran with strong CSR credentials. Then there’s Steve Gebbett, head of consumer, who led marketing communications programs at Charles Barker and Hill & Knowlton before joining Four, and head of sponsorship Alun James, who joined this year from H&K. The firm’s four founding principles—a commitment to staffing accounts with senior consultants, a methodology that combines strategic thinking and creativity, values such as independence and partnership, and passion for communication and clients—provide another source of strength, as does a culture that makes staff eligible to become shareholders after just 12 months.
The firm operate across corporate, crisis and issues management, consumer PR and public affairs practices, and offers in-house capabilities in design, digital and media buying teams in-house; and all our staff are eligible as shareholders after just twelve months. The client list includes bmi, Gulf Air, Kia Motors, Berkeley Homes, and Grant Thornton International, with new additions to the roster over the past 12 months including PlayStation, Granada Ventures, Scandinavian Airlines, and Fujitsu Siemens. Major programmes included the launch of the “chip and PIN” debit card initiative for the U.K.’s banking and retail industries; promotion of Shell’s LiveWIRE awards scheme for young entrepreneurs; and bmi’s introduction of long-haul services from Manchester to Las Vegas, Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua. The firm also managed pan-European PR strategy for more than 30 games released under the Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.
The firm handles pan-European programmes for clients including Gulf Air, Worldspan, Grant Thornton and PlayStation. It works with a select group of affiliates in key European markets and has a wholly-owned operation, Four Middle East, based in Dubai.