Financial services specialist
When Dewe Rogerson veterans Tony Langham and Clare Parsons launched Lansons Communications in 1989, they chose to focus on the one sector of the market they knew best: financial services. They believed then that the marketplace for financial services was a highly specialized one, requiring intimate knowledge of the industry and the media that covered it, and they have remained steadfast in that belief, recruiting a team of specialists with diverse experience in the many facets of the financial services arena. Today, with 76 people and fees of more than £5.5 million (enough to place the firm in the top 12 of the conglomerate-deprived league tables), the vast majority of the firm’s business still comes from financial services clients, although Lansons has begun to diversify into broader business-to-business PR.
The firm has business-to-business and consumer marketing experts on staff, as well as its own broadcast and online units. As for conflicts, there are markets where Lansons represents the three biggest players, or five of the top 10. Langham says the firm has “investment banking standard” Chinese walls, and it seems clear that clients are prepared to sacrifice exclusivity in order to access Lansons’ deep domain expertise.
Creativity is another point of differentiation: the firm has won more awards than any other in the sector, including 2004 Consultancy of the Year honours at the PR Week awards; Best Use of Measurement at the Amec awards; and a PRCA Frontline Award last year for its work on behalf of IFA Promotion, which promotes the use of independent financial advisors. The firm has also been rated the best firm in the personal finance PR by journalists for the last nine years, according to MORI research.
The firm’s culture is a distinctive as its offering. Over the past decade, Langham and Parsons have presided over one of the biggest transfers of ownership in the PR business, sharing 40 percent of the company with about 20 other employees. Spreading the ownership also allows the principals to devote more of their time to client work and Langham and joint managing directors Ian Williams and Laura Hastings are all active on major accounts.
Growth last year was a modest 6 percent, with new business coming from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, for public relations and public affairs—a significant growth area for the firm after Lansons has quickly built a team of four people following the recruitment of Dirk Paterson out of Citigate. The initial focus is on financial services issues for existing clients, but the team has a broad-based public affairs background and the plan is to expand rapidly beyond the sector. The firm has also expanded into the professional services category, and into consumer brands “rooted in money,” a category that so far includes work for Marks & Spencer, the Port Office, Saga, Tesco and Virgin Mobile.