Asia-Pacific New PR Consultancies of the Year 2017 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2017 Asia-Pacific New PR Consultancies of the Year

The 2017 Asia-Pacific PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 100 submissions and meetings with the best PR firms across the region. Consultancy of the Year winners are announced and honoured at the 2017 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, taking place on 14 September in Hong Kong. Analysis of all Finalists (and Winners from 15 September) can be accessed via the navigation menu or below:

Redhill Communications (Singapore)
Before launching Redhill in September of 2015, Jacob Puthenparambil had held communications positions with Government of India’s Ministry for External Affairs, ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller in the Middle East, and the UN’s MUrgency global response network in San Francisco. Partner Surekha Yadav, meanwhile, has a background that spans software development and finance. Together, they bring a wealth of international and business experience to a new firm, which helps to explain how Redhill has grown from five people in 2015 to about 25 today.
 
Those people are spread across offices in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Colombo—giving Redhill good reach across South-East Asia—and serving a roster of about 20 clients, including seven of the region’s largest venture capital firms. The client roster includes Jungle Ventures, Wavemaker Partners, Venture Craft, SoCash, Zumata, BankersLab, RHL Ventures, and Vickers Venture.
 
The firm worked with Jungle Ventures to announce that the firm had successfully raised an initial $50 million for their first investment round of 2016, while respecting the insistence that some aspects that the company wished to keep confidential, generating good coverage without awkward questions. It also helped SOCash, a socialised cash payment system, persuade consumers that cash can still be king in a world focused on cashless transactions. — PH

Finalists

Astrum (India)
Launched in 2015 by Ashwani Singla, Astrum has already grown to more than $1.5m in fee income from a headcount of 22, marking it out as a very different animal from the low fee-per-head agencies that dominate India’s PR market. Much of that is down to Singla himself, who served as one of the key architect of Genesis Burson-Marsteller’s enduring success before leaving to lead WPP’s Penn Schoen Berland unit in 2011. But Singla has also built a strong partnership cadre at Astrum, featuring  Suvir Paul (client service); Soumya Ghosh (corporate affairs); Sharada Sharma (insights/planning); and, Shefali Khanna (digital marketing).

Those titles reflect Astrum’s focus on reputation management at a C-suite level, backed by a robust data and analytics offering. The firm has unveiled a number of specific products to support this approach, including a proprietary 4D campaign management framework, net advocacy scores to benchmark and measure reputation, and a considerable focus on competitive research. Unfortunately, the firm keeps its client list confidential but it includes major global and domestic players across technology, healthcare, industrial and media. Campaign highlights include the transformation of SME chemical intermediary Alok Masterbatch into an innovation-focused company that makes plastics safer, sustainable and cheaper.

Meanwhile, Astrum’s focus on professional development also stands out for such a young firm. There is a Reputation Academy that oversees learning and a fellowship program to bring in young talent via a 12-month training system. Astrum also utilises a collaborative approach to bring in multi-disciplinary support and expertise as required, helping it achieve profitability by the end of year one. — AS

Influence Matters (China)
“We are on a mission to break the Chinese PR habit of working day and night” — bold words for a firm that’s focused on the fast-paced world of startups and technologies looking to wield influence in China and beyond. But with a business model that’s focused on flexibility, agility and results, the firm, so far seems well-positioned to for delivering smart work while maintaining a sustainable culture.

The focus is on  smaller technology companies, startups or SMBs looking for an agency with the expertise and culture to support cross-border needs. The team is six people full-time, plus a small network of freelancers to step in when demand in particularly high. Revenue in 2016 was already 5x that of the nine months the firm operated in 2015. 

The roster includes 21 clients including  La French Tech (Business France, French government), Enchant.VC (Singapore, smart hardware accelerator and VC), Virtuos (China, Video games production), Geneformics (Israel, Biotech), Outfit7 (UK, mobile games), Rayno (Korea, aftermarket auto tech), CAST Software (US, IT), Terark (China, Database management engine), Travel Alberta (Canada, tourism), Glispa Global Group (Germany, Ad tech), Immersion Corporation (US, mobile hardware tech) Swiss Global Enterprise (Switzerland government) and Bee7 (UK, Ad tech).

Founder Simon Vericel started Influence Matters after working at several of the region’s larger players and deciding that structure “did not suit the need for flexibility and efficiency required by today’s fast growing tech companies.” — AaS

Poem (Australia)

Launched just 18 months ago, Poem is defying expectations around the modern PR. The new firm calls itself Poem to represent Paid, Owned, Earned Media — reinforcing that its work is based on creative insights that are amplified through whatever channel fits best. This approach has lured top-shelf clients like Google, Expedia & Wotif, Movember, Tech21, Masterpet and Transport NSW.

Founders Rob Lowe and Matt Holmes have experience at some of the most notable PR and advertising shops across Australia and the UK — Cake, Freud, Eleven PR and One Green Bean — giving them real insight beyond traditional PR. This is also reflected in the firm’s work. 

For instance, the work for Alternative Meat Co. —  a new plant based food product that looks, smells and tastes like meat — tapped into research that shows a growing number of Millennials choosing to eat less meat due to health, environmental or animal welfare reasons while also dealing with the stereotype that eschewing meat is ‘unAustralian.’ The two-phase campaign involved going to a kebab shop and pranking meat fans by serving them their favourite kebabs using AMC products, then revealed the truth and filmed their reaction. The video was supported by statistics on the 'flexitarian trend', paid influencer, native advertising and Facebook media spend. 

The second phase challenged preconceptions that eating meat makes one more Australian. The team recreated MLA's early Australia Day 'lambassador' ads using Sam Kekovitch, rewrote the script and dressed Dave Hughes as the Prime Minister of Australia to make a playful point that 'it doesn't need to moo for you to be true blu'.  — AaS