Salt is a small firm—22 people and fees of around £2 million—but its influence within client organizations is disproportionately strong: salt sees public relations as the lead discipline in building brands and corporate reputations, and it expects its clients to see the discipline that way also. The firm delivers senior-level strategic thinking designed to help clients create and express points-of-view that get them talked about, using a range of techniques including “motivated behaviour change” (applying the principles of behavioural psychology and social marketing to help bring about change through communication), and “establishing authority” (positioning clients as authorities in their sectors, or on specific issues, and getting their views heard by the people that matter).
That intellectual approach is one reason why co-founder Richard Cox was awarded the Public Relations Consultants Association 2006 Frontline Award for Outstanding Contributor to the Industry, in recognition of his role in elevating the status of public relations at client Unilever, where he sits on the global committee charged with maximizing the value of PR. And it’s the main reason why salt has been able to attract a roster of blue-chip clients—Heineken and Manpower in addition to Unilever—who rely on the firm not just for publicity but for branding ideas.
Cox, a veteran of Burson-Marsteller, founded salt in 2000 in partnership with Andrew Last, whose career included positions at Bell Pottinger and Nexus Choat. Both principals brought strong ideas about the proper role of public relations in the communications mix: Cox is an advocate of “campaigning marketing,” applying the techniques of campaigning organizations to connect with consumers on a deeper level; Last specializes in “marketing with a mission,” an approach that addresses the need for corporations to align themselves with issues and causes that matter to their key stakeholders. They are joined at the helm of the firm by Nicky Young, who joined in 2001 and became a board director in 2005 and is responsible for key global accounts, and by Sam Knowles, who joined from Kaizo in 2006 and joined the board this year. A new addition in 2007 was Claire Rudall, who joined as an account director from Consolidated Communications.
Growth in 2006 was around 43 percent, and salt ended the year with fees of around £2.1 million, just outside the U.K.’s top 80, with new business from Unilever (adding brands like Domestos, Pond’s and Lipton), Tilda, the Army and Jeans for Genes. Highlights included helping Vaseline create a global social mission and maintaining Manpower’s position as the authority on employment through its seminal Employment Outlook Survey. The firm also helped to create Sunsilk’s “Life Can’t Wait” campaign, a PR-led brand platform that was executed through advertising, digital and PR and generated considerable word-of-mouth; and launched Lipton’s sustainable tea bags programme in partnership with the Rainforest Alliance.
“Salt started working for us as ‘another agency’ but soon became an integral part of the team,” says Analia Mendez, who leads global professional marketing for Unilever in the oral care category. “salt has the expertise and creativity to enhance any proposal I make and translate it into brilliant execution. Most importantly, salt uses my budget intelligently and efficiently and provides honest and accountable billing.”
In addition to its domestic work, salt manages pan-European and global programmes for both Manpower and Unilever brands, briefing in-house teams or their existing local agencies on the delivery of programmes outside the