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Our 2016 EMEA PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 200 submissions and face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
In March, when a Germanwings flight from Barcelona to Düsseldorf crashed in the Alps—a tragedy deliberately caused by the copilot—the Lufthansa-owned carrier called in Hering Schuppener. In September, when Volkwagen found itself embroiled in scandal after revelations that it had distorted emissions tests results, it made the same call. The fact is that whether it’s high-profile corporate crisis work (the firm also represented Takata and Honeywell last year) or high-stakes transaction business (Hering Schuppener handled 30 transactions worth $60 billion last year, more than any other German firm), Hering Schuppener’s phone number is on speed dial for the smartest CCOs in the German-speaking world.
Its client list is a veritable who’s who of German business: adidas, Lufthansa, Volkswagen, Henkel, Siemens, Lanxess, Osram, ThyssenKrupp, RWE, KKR, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Post DHL, Rothschild, Airbus. Its leadership team has unmatched depth and longevity: in addition to chief executive Ralf Hering, partners Alexander Geiser, Tina Mentner, Brigitte von Haacke, Phoebe Kebbel, Georg Jakobs, Martin Bury, Henriette Peucker and Felix Schönauer are minority shareholders in the firm and veterans of corporate and financial PR, public affairs, and employee communications, with an average tenure at HS of more than 10 years. The newest addition to the team, meanwhile, is Andreas Winiarski, formerly of Rocket Internet, who gives the firm newfound digital credibility. Revenues last year topped €25 million (€35 million for the group as a whole), healthy double-digit growth for the year. — PH
Headland Consultancy (UK/Independent)
Three years ago, Headland—founded in 2005 by financial communications expert and Gavin Anderson veterans Chris Salt and Howard Lee—brought on board former Fishburn Hedges chief exec Neil Hedges to expand its corporate capabilities. The decision to blend corporate and financial (with just a dash of marketing for financial services clients) has paid off handsomely: Headland has more than doubled in size over the past couple of years, with fee income now a little over £4 million, and a client list that includes UBS, PwC, Virgin Active, Legal & General, Danone, The AA, and Grosvenor Group.
New business in 2015 came from AA Financial Services (for brand positioning and product communications); PepsiCo (corporate communications, issues management and UK press office work); Smart Energy GB (corporate communications and public affairs); coffee company Jacobs Douwe Egberts (corporate communications and crisis management); and GB Energy.
Salt and Hedges now lead a team of close to 40 that also includes new partner Simon Burton, previously with Tesco as group director global government relations. High-profile work included positioning global bank UBS as a thought leader on the Scottish referendum and general election; developing digital communications platforms for Legal & General to connect with customers; and launching Virgin Active’s first CSR programme. — PH
Three years after being named Best New Consultancy in EMEA by the Holmes Report, Pagefield's continued emergence demonstrates that, just maybe, this publication might know a good firm when it sees one. In 2015, Pagefield passed £4m in fee income, thanks to more growth across corporate and public affairs, with a 25-strong team supported by an advisory board that is chaired by Sir Christopher Meyer.
Much of that is down to the firm's ability, like the best boutiques, to provide senior counsel in a market that rewards corporate expertise. In 2015, for example, the firm won impressive new business from John Lewis, AB- InBev, BGF (Business Growth Fund), Advertising Association, University of Warwick and Centrica, to go with existing clients such as Airbnb, Kellogg’s, High Speed 1, ITN, Camelot, Leidos, Motability, Stonewall, Discovery Communications, Philip Morris, Sime Darby and Battle of Ideas.
Much of the work reflects Pagefield's ability to best bigger rivals for issues management work, under the leadership of founders Mark Gallagher and Sara Price, and managing partner Oliver Foster. This is best illustrated, perhaps, by Pagefield’s lead role on stakeholder engagement for Airbnb and Sime Darby. — AS
Seven Hills (UK/Independent)
A finalist for Corporate Consultancy of the Year for three consecutive years—it won EMEA and Global honours in 2014—Seven Hills is best known for its focus on the entrepreneurial economy, but has been expanding its focus as it has started to work with larger clients (companies, CEOs and other business leaders, destinations) with an emphasis on communicating mission and purpose and explaining business as a force for change. More than just a mouthpiece for companies in this space, Seven Hills provides genuine consultancy and industry-best thought leadership, from the publication this year of its own book "Mission: How the best in business break through" to its role in founding a managing organizations such as StartUp Britain and events such as its Bloomberg partnership Summit: The Future of Growth.
Still only six years old, Seven Hills reported £4 million in fee income last year (growth was close to 33% for the second straight year) with new business from BrewDog, GP Bullhound, Grant Thornton, Harwell Campus, Innovate Finance, Vanguard and Vonage, joining a roster that includes British Business Bank, Cobra Beer, Ella’s Kitchen, One Young Worldm, and Tech City UK. There was new talent too, as co-founders Nick Giles and Michael Hayman were joined by managing director Emma Johnson (formerly of The Communications Group). The firm’s work ranged from assisting Brew Dog with employee communications and employer branding (including the company’s first “blackout day,” which allowed all of its employees to come together for the first time) to helping to manage One Young World’s sixth summit in Bangkok to launching the Tech Nation 2016 study for Tech City UK and Nesta.
Portland Communications (UK/Omnicom)
Typically viewed as one of the UK's defining public affairs firms, Portland has broadened its capabilities considerably to cover the full range of corporate communications in recent years, with the moves paying off to such an extent that it has grown remarkably over the past couple of years, to more than £25m in global fee income after another double-digit upturn in 2015.
Once again, that performance should be placed into context. This is not just a lobbying shop making hay, but a firm that counsels the Barclays CEO on his reputation, and also provides similar advice to the likes of Nestle, Pfizer, Google, Apple (UK public policy work and projects on education and health), McDonald’s, Diageo, Uber AkzoNobel, O2 and Motorola. The firm now handles numerous international mandates, including plenty of work in the Middle East and Africa, often helping governments build their communications capabilities. All of which adds to an existing client roster that includes public affairs and corporate work for Aviva, NetworkRail, Heathrow (around its third runway plans), Funding Circle, AB Inbev and Hyatt; along with a strong base of foundations, for such as figures as Kofi Annan, Mo Ibrahim and Bill and Melinda Gates.
Much of the firm's work, meanwhile, has genuinely moved the needle for its clients, reflecting its view that reputation management requires an integration of public affairs and corporate comms, in recognition of how regulatory debate and scrutiny has moved beyond Westminster onto the High Street. Perhaps the best example of this is its work for Uber, which prevented a number of proposals to limit the company’s expansion in London. In addition, the firm coordinated a broad coalition of industry, consumer groups and charities to make the case for a energy improvement programme; and worked for independent producers trade body to ensure that regulation was not adjusted.
Now numbering 160 people, founder Tim Allan oversees a deep leadership team that includes former Sun political editor George Pascoe-Watson; ex-Downing Street advisor Steve Morris; and Tony Blair's former communications director Alastair Campbell. Allan likes to say that public relations is a "British success story". His own firm continues to provide plenty of evidence of that. — AS
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