Founded in 1992, Newell Public Relations remains one of Hong Kong’s biggest independent firms and has benefited from an ability to diversify beyond its core tech offering. In a market where turnover is often high, Newell can count stable leadership as a core strength, with David Croasdale and Maggie Chan running the Hong Kong and China operations, respectively, for the past five years. Stuart Newell, a former journalist who founded the agency in his bedroom, retains an influential background role.

Last year was a tough year for the firm with revenues dropping by some 30 percent. The situation was managed by active cost control, and Newell also benefited from a 10-year presence in mainland China, that includes offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Indeed, Newell can claim to be one of the few “foreign” independents to have cracked the Chinese PR market.

Like many independent players, the agency attempts to provide top-quality service at a lower cost to its bigger network rivals. The approach has netted it business from the likes of Fonterra, South African Tourism, Seagate and Polycom. Whilst originally focused on IT, that segment only accounts for 40 per cent of current revenues. New business over the past year included Ingersoll Rand, Ruckus Wireless and Frasers Suites.

The agency’s most high-profile assignment over the past 12 months was a legal case involving Fonterra’s minority stake in Chinese dairy Sanlu, one of the companies implicated in the deadly melamine babymilk scandal. Four parents brought a claim against Fonterra, with Newell handling on-ground PR for its client. The case against Fonterra was eventually dismissed.

While Newell focuses on Greater China, it regularly handles assignments in Singapore, Malaysia, Korea and Japan through a network of affiliates.—AS