EMEA Public Affairs PR Consultancies of the Year 2016 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2016 EMEA Public Affairs Consultancies of the Year

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.

Winners will receive their trophies at the EMEA SABRE Awards in Berlin on 25 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 20 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Public Affairs Consultancy of the Year: Hanover Communications (UK/Independent)

Since its inception 18 years ago Hanover has evolved beyond its UK roots to become one of the world’s top public affairs consultancies, winning Global Agency of the Year honours in 2015 and growing by 85% over the past three years. Under the leadership of founder Charles Lewington, the firm has consistently innovated, deepening its expertise in healthcare, financial services, energy and FMCG, and re-investing profits to create new service offerings at its London and Brussels offices. 2015 was another successful year for the firm, with  growth of 23% to £9.2m, keeping the firm on track for its five-year plan to double in size by 2018. There was new business from De Beers, England Athletics, Camelot, FloodRe, Steris, Northern Health Science Alliance, MSD, Gatwick Airport, AFC and Time Warner, who join a blue-chip client roster that includes LRS, Goldman Sachs, Three, Lloyds Banking Group, Lilly, Microsoft and the NFL.

And, like many of its better rivals, Hanover’s work reflects the shifting public affairs landscape, enabling it to expand policy briefs into broader corporate mandates, for the likes of Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Cuadrilla, Tata Steel and Shire. The firm has created five new practice areas and has upped investment in training, particularly in such areas as social media, SEO and creativity. And it found time to create the new Ecosystem global independent agency network, featuring top firms from a number of countries.

Former Downing Street press secretary Lewington is supported by Andrew Harrison, director and global head of the healthcare practice; Laura Swire, director and head of Hanover’s advocacy team; and director and head of Hanover’s corporate and consumer practice, Gavin Megaw. Brussels is led by MD Christian Hierholzer. There were several senior hires in 2015, including Claire Furlong to oversee the new Hanover Sport practice, Leigh Ireland as head of brand activation, Claudia La Donna as head of digital policy, and Emma Carr as head of technology.

The firm’s expansion is not limited to typical public affairs areas alone, reflecting the fact that 30% of its London revenue now comes from its corporate communications practice. Hanover created a Newsroom to support its content creation capabilities and took a majority stake in growth-hacking consultancy Multiple. Campaign highlights included work for the first-ever European Games; global DeBeers support; and assignments for Camelot. — AS

Finalists

APCO (Independent)

Senior APCO executives often bristle when the firm is described as a public affairs player, and with some justification — the expansion of APCO’s work not just into corporate, but also consumer, healthcare and digital, has been underway for several years now. Yet, in truth, that expansion also reflects the way that public affairs itself has evolved beyond a narrow focus on lobbying to broader understanding of the intersection of policy, media and all stakeholder groups.

Accordingly, APCO’s 2015 growth was not powered by lobbying work alone, but by such assignments as an internal communications audit of the UK’s FCA (in association with Deloitte); a ‘digital density’ report for eBay; and campaigning work for Innovate UK. Alongside that was more traditional activity, for the Ukranian Minister of Finance’s successful IMF campaign; and for new clients such Lockheed Martin, Amex, Nespresso, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Crescent Enterprises, Arab Strategy Forum and Dubai Industrial City.

The firm’s 200-strong EMEA presence now features strong operations in the UK (where James Acheson-Gray has overseen a double-digit turnaround in terms of revenue, now £5.4m, and profitability), France (where the firm has doubled in size to €4m in five years), Brussels (where 38 people drove 21% revenue growth to €5.35m) and the Middle East, (which grew by an eye-catching 36% to $14m in 2015.)

As ever, the quality of APCO’s work stood out, whether modernising the legal status of animals in France; handling sensitive anti-trust work for Etihad in Europe; supporting Whirlpool’s controversial acquisition of Italy’s Indent; transforming the reputation of the fishing industry in Brussels on behalf of NGO Blue Fish; helping ABTA secure better EU regulation; developing the comms strategy for the World Government Summit; or, positioning Masdar as leading player in the renewable energy space. — AS

Bellenden (UK/Independent)

Celebrating 10 years this year, Bellenden is considering what it means to be a 10-year-old firm. No longer a startup, Bellenden is now an established player with offices across London, Edinburgh and Manchester and a strong, flourishing business under the leadership of CEO Mark Glover. Last year, fee income climbed 23% to £3.1m from £2.5m and its employee count jumped from six to 40 practitioners. The client portfolio grew 30% to 104 with key wins including the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, Salford University, Octopus Investments, National Accident Helpline, Rail Delivery Group, the British Film Institute among others. While its strengths have resided in energy and professional services, Bellenden recently created a dedicated corporate affairs offer that garnered £750K in its first year.

Notable work includes managing the British Wind Campaign, winning the National Accident Helpline account in a competitive pitch from the incumbent agency and its Regeneration Shell Centre Campaign that has been shortlisted for several awards. — AaS

FTI Consulting (FTI)

That the Brussels operation—with a team of 70 experts from 22 countries—is one of the jewels in FTI Consulting’s crown is no secret, but the past 12 months have seen an expansion of the firm’s EMEA region public affairs capabilities, which now include active members in Berlin, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Dubai, Dublin, Johannesburg, London, Moscow, Paris and Madrid, generating €10m in cross-border business. As a result, FTI can offer businesses support on critical issues, from the political ramifications of restructuring, to regulatory challenges around mergers and acquisitions, to bringing a new drug to market to crisis communications. The public affairs team also collaborates with other parts of FTI’s broad-based consulting business, working on tax issues with the international tax advisory practice based out of London and cybersecurity with fraud, investigation and security teams led out of Brussels.

The leadership team includes EMEA practice leader Julia Harrison in Brussels, special advisor Patricia Hewitt (former UK Secretary of State for Trade & Industry) and managing directors Martin Kothé (Berlin) and Alex Deane (London), with new additions in 2015 including John Clancy, former spokesperson for DG Trade; Alejandro Sánchez García, former head of cabinet of the Spanish Secretary of State for Security; and Sir Philip Lowe, former director general of the European Commission for Development Cooperation, Competition & Energy. Growth was 30 percent last year, with the energy and financial services sectors particularly dynamic (the firm won a SABRE for its Shale Gas Europe work and has been providing policy advice to MasterCard in multiple markets).


PLMR (UK/Independent)

It may not have the most inspiring of names but Political Lobbying & Media Relations (PLMR) has demonstrated a much more innovative approach to its service offering, helping to explain how the UK consultancy has grown rapidly to $4.75m in fee income by the end of 2015. Growth last year was 30%, spurred by some eye-catching campaigns, notably scrapping air passenger duty on behalf of the air travel industry.

New business in 2015 included Bosch, United Nations Crop Trust, Lyft, Care England, and Celsa Steel, all of which join a client roster that includes London City Airport, HC-One, Sunrise Senior Living, Wingas, Cancer Research UK and the British Horseracing Authority. The firm is led by founder and MD Kevin Craig, who is supported by deputy MD Elin De Zoete.

Notably, PLMR brings a strong focus on the health/social care and education sectors, along with expertise in energy/resources and charities. All of this is underpinned by a multi-channel mindset and a global focus — last year the firm founded the Global Communications Alliance of 10 independent consultancies. — AS