Reputation and issues management consultancy
Founded in 1992 by former journalists George Pitcher (industrial editor of The Observer) and Charles Stewart-Smith (programme editor of ITN’s News at Ten), Luther Pendragon specializes in issues management, working for a mix of U.S. and European companies on global, pan-European or U.K. challenges, and occasionally handling more conventional corporate public relations programmes-although even then, the firm typically looks for issues that present an opportunity for clients to position themselves as leaders. It’s an approach that blends corporate communications, media relations, and public affairs-approached in a joined up way that recognizes the increasing interaction between various stakeholders in the political, financial, media, and NGO universes.
At the same time, a conscious decision was made to avoid practice areas, so there’s no political team, no financial team, no media team. Instead, bespoke teams are assembled based on client needs and specific challenges-an approach that leads to an unusually collegial, team-oriented culture and encourages knowledge and ideas to be transferred from sector to sector. The absence of formal practice areas notwithstanding, the firm does a lot of work in several industries, including chemicals, financial and professional services, food, healthcare, media and entertainment, and transportation.
So one day LP will find itself working with insurance company Aviva on a wide range of healthcare issues, and the next it will be helping Wrigley deal with proposals for a chewing-gum tax. The firm will work with McDonald’s on obesity issues or with LIFFE as it moved to a screen-based trading system and sought to re-establish itself as a leader. Most programmes begin with a heavy dose of research-often a perception audit or an analysis of stakeholder attitudes-and proceed to develop a case that will resonate with multiple audiences.
The firm has a staff of 40, having doubled in size over the past four years, and revenue was up about 20 percent last year-and is on track for additional 20 percent growth this year. The firm has seen considerable activity in the public sector, in issues management and public affairs for healthcare clients, and additional pan-European issues management on chemicals, food and energy issues. Recent new business wins include the Faber Maunsell, the Association of British Healthcare Industries, BAA, Boeing, IoD, the Better Regulation Task Force, and the House of Commons Commission. They join a roster that includes the Wrigley Company, Aviva, and Kimberly-Clark. The most high-profile assignment last year was LP’s handling of media activity for Holocaust Memorial Day 2005, from strategy through to implementation, in conjunction with the Home Office.
In addition to Pitcher and Stewart-Smith, the firm has nine partners, including Ben Rich, former deputy policy director for the Liberal Democrats; Simon Whale, a veteran of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs; and Gina Coladangelo, promoted to partner earlier this year. The most recent senior addition is Mike Granatt, former head of the Government Information & Communications Service and a 25 year veteran of Whitehall.
When international assistance is required, the firm will select partners across Europe based on experience in specific sectors or with specific issues. It also bankrolled and retains an ownership position in a communications consultancy, G Plus Europe, in Brussels, while in the U.S. it works closely with crisis management experts Dezenhall Resources.