Public relations, public affairs and special events consultancy
Founded in 1981, Grayling and its Westminster Strategy public affairs unit were bought by Lopex in the late 80s and sold to French holding company Havas in the late 90s, before being acquired by Lord Chadlington’s Huntsworth Group in 2004, a deal the allowed management to hold on to 30 percent of the company and provided the firm with a combination of autonomy and support Grayling had not received for quite some time and ushered in a new era of optimism and growth.
Grayling has three units: the public relations business accounts for about 50 percent of international revenues and ranks in the top 10 in the U.K. market; the Grayling Political Strategy unit, which specializes in public affairs, accounts for another 25 percent of revenues; while the balance comes from a unit called Grayling Face-to-Face, which is one of the largest event management companies in the U.K. The majority of that work (85 percent or so) is with public sector clients, including the Departments of Education and Health, managing major conferences.
Some of the firm’s most interesting work has combined all three disciplines. More frequently, however, clients are looking to work with the corporate PR and public affairs groups, addressing public relations challenges that also include a public policy component. So Grayling has advised several clients on obesity issues, and one of its most challenging assignments in recent years involved working for the Irish Department of Health to generate public acceptance for the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants.
Another source of strength is an extensive regional network in the U.K., with public relations offices in Bristol and Birmingham, and five-person public affairs offices in Edinburgh and Cardiff, which have become increasingly important as the Scottish and Welsh parliaments have grown in influence. There’s also a 10-person office in Brussels, and international operations in Singapore, where Grayling represents the local Chamber of Commerce as well as blue-chip clients such as British Airways, DaimlerChrysler, HP, and Rolls-Royce, and Hong Kong. The New York operation—a small and highly specialized firm with a focus on liquor marketing—was sold to Euro RSCG Magnet late in 2004.
The firm’s client list includes a number of big blue-chip companies: Masterfoods has been a client of Grayling (and its predecessor company) for both product and issues communication for more than 30 years; business banker Allied Irish Bank; Formula One sponsor Celerant Consulting. More recent additions to the client list include British Gas Business, The Year of The Volunteer on behalf of the Home Office, Bayer’s OTC brands (all for U.K. PR); Postcomm, The Health Foundation, and The Government of Guernsey (all for U.K. public affairs); and Heinz and Nissan (Brussels public affairs). The firm also handled media relations for the London 2012 bid in Singapore on behalf of the British High Commission and the British Chamber of Commerce.
New talent added over the past year includes Fiona Reece, new managing director in the Bristol office; Crispin Slee, U.K. PR director and media relations maven added from sister company Counsel; and associate director Patricia Thompson, who joined from Barnardo’s.