Recent years have seen several deals—long overdue, in the opinion of some observers—that sought to combine management consultancies and public relations firms, most notably the acquisition of the former Financial Dynamics (now FD) by FTI Consulting. But NASDAQ-listed ICF International got there first. The parent company is a 3,500-employee organization with a 40-year track record in professional services. Its Strategic Communications & Marketing Division is an agency of more than 200 marketing and public relations professionals that has grown rapidly over the past few years, from $7 million to almost $41 million in revenues, establishing itself as one of the largest communications consultancies in the Washington, DC, area and in the US as a whole.
The firm offers a broad range of services, including strategic planning and market research, branding and messaging, creative services (including an in-house video studio and other multimedia capabilities), community and stakeholder engagement, event planning, internal and organizational communications, emergency preparedness and crisis communications, multicultural marketing and program evaluation. And it serves clients across a broad range of sectors, including aviation, climate, community development, defense, education, energy, environment; families and communities, health, homeland security and transportation.
The firm’s approach is rooted in a three-step methodology: advise (analyzing the communications challenges, whether policy-related, regulatory, or technical, and developing appropriate responses); implement (managing communications and outreach); and improve (through evaluation, continuous improvement initiatives, benchmarking, and return-on-investment analyses). And it is enhanced by a values-driven culture that flows from its founder, Tuskegee airman Colonel “Lucky” Lester, and its origins as a venture capital firm founded to finance inner-city businesses and provide energy and environmental policy consulting.
Today, the firm is led by chairman and CEO Sudhakar Kesavan, who was president of the ICF Consulting Group when it was a subsidiary of ICF Kaiser. The SMC division is led by senior vice presidents Kris Tremaine, whose experience includes work with federal government agencies such as the Department of Health & Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency as well as healthcare clients; Tony Silva, who leads business development as well as the firm’s work in energy, environment, and climate change.
The firm enjoyed growth of better than 8 percent in 2010, adding work including the CDC National Diabetes Education Program, the DOD Quit Tobacco Campaign, South Carolina Electric & Gas, the USAID’s Zambia Behavioral and Social Change Communications Program and FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Support Services. Major clients include Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, Baltimore Gas & Electric, the Department of Defense, the US En-vironmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Transportation.
Much of the firm’s work produced substantial results. Its multimedia campaign for Clean Air NY helped the New York State Department of Transportation reduce vehicle miles traveled in downstate New York. The Baltimore Gas & Electric Smart Energy Savers Program campaign helped increase website traffic by 84 percent over two years, helping the utility save more than 340,000 MWh of electricity. And a water conservation campaign for the city of Durham, NC, helped the city reduce water usage by 8 percent.