Corporate, financial, and public affairs consultancy
Founded in 1970, Kreab (it’s an abbreviation of Creative Information AB) initially concentrated on helping Swedish companies and trade associations practice “the art of listening, clarifying and persuading." Much of the firm’s early work was in the visual identity arena, but its focus was always on helping companies communicate with multiple stakeholders—the media, consumers, shareholders, employees, government, NGOs—and even in its early days Kreab worked as often with the CEOs, CFOs and chairmen of its clients as with their public relations staff.
Over the past 35 years, the firm has developed its own approach to communication, helping clients cut through the communications clutter not by shouting louder but by speaking more clearly and more credibly to key stakeholders. Kreab specializes in financial (it has handled more than 100 transactions over the past decade, including the delicate AstraZeneca merger) and corporate communications and public affairs, but it does its best work on issues that involve some combination of the three disciplines—the more complex the challenge, the better. The firm expanded its crisis communications capability in 2004 with the acquisition of the Crisis Management Academy, formerly part of the School of Economics in Stockholm, which provides crisis planning, prevention and training counsel to clients such as Novo Nordisk, Silja Line, and Svenska Spel.
It’s an approach that means most clients hire Kreab to deal with a specific, critical issue, so while many of its clients have worked with the firm for decades (and its client list is a veritable who’s who of Swedish business) they tend to do so on a project rather than retainer basis. The firm remains circumspect about revealing client names, although some of its work inevitably makes headlines. It has been working with a confederation of Swedish companies, for example, on European corporate governance reform issues; and it has represented Old Mutual, which is reportedly in talks to acquire Skandia. Overall, about half of its business comes from the Nordic region and about half from multinationals headquartered elsewhere.
Kreab was also one of the first continental European firms to expand beyond its own borders. It formed a Brussels office 11 years ago, shortly after Sweden joined the EU. The office is led by Georg Danell, former Cabinet Minister at the Swedish Ministry of Planning and Henning Christopherson, a former European Commissioner, serves as advisor, and the firm now has 22 consultants working on European public affairs—making it one of the largest firms in the market. It also has its own offices in Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo and London and through a partnership with communications consultancy Strategy XXI—founded by international PR veteran Harriet Mouchly-Weiss—has additional offices in New York, and more recently Beijing. Today, about half the firm’s 150 consultants (about 30 of them partners) work outside the Swedish headquarters.
Charlotte Erkhammar—a former director of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise and director of information for the Swedish Exhibition Centre—took over as CEO in March of 2004, with founder Peje Emilsson stepping into a less active role, which in reality means he still devotes 80 percent of his time to the firm, focusing primarily on client work while Erkhammer takes care of the day-to-day management chores. With Emilsson retaining majority ownership control, stability is ensured, but Erkhammer was able to make several changes—including expanded roles for a younger generation of partners—and after a slight dip in revenues following the transition, the firm is back on course, having been named “Best in Class” among communications consultancies by the Swedish business magazine Veckans Affärar.
With revenues in excess of €30 million, Kreab remains one of the giants of the European public relations scene, and continues to enjoy a unique relationship—one many Anglo-Saxon firms seek to duplicate—counselling CEOs and their corporate communications advisors on critical corporate, financial and public affairs issues.