Benelux PR Consultancies of the Year 2017 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2017 Benelux PR Consultancies of the Year

Our 2017 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 London on 23 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 20 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Winner: Ketchum (Omnicom Group)

While almost all international agencies have built their Brussels operations by focusing on EU public affairs, Ketchum as taken an opposite approach, developing a strong local-market offering that services clients across consumer, corporate and healthcare. Over the past four years, this plan has paid off handsomely, resulting in 112% growth, including double-digit expansion in 2016. The firm now has 33 people working for its Belgian operation, finding a unique positioning that is more global than the local players and more local than the global firms. 

Last year, there was significant new business from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Ikea, Philips and P&G, adding to a client roster that already features IGU, International Baccalaureate, Goodyear and GS1. There was also some excellent work too, often in collaboration with BBDO, including a major disease awareness campaign for GSK and support for the country's biggest corporate deal. — AS 

Finalists

Akkanto (Independent)

On March 22 of last year, Brussels Airport was faced with the biggest crisis in its history when it was hit by a terrorist attack. After two explosions destroyed the departure hall, akkanto worked with the airport’s corporate communication, working on message strategy, providing media relations support, assisting with social media outreach, and creating a dedicated crisis website. As the recovery effort came together the firm provided internal and external communications support to reassure workers and travelers., ultimately launching the airport’s new strategic vision.

That’s the kind of high-level strategic counsel akkanto has been providing to companies in the Belgian market (and often beyond; it has a long history of stakeholder engagement work in Africa) since its was founded. In a market dominated by public affairs specialists, akkanto can certainly help international clients navigate the EU landscape, but its true strength is in the corporate reputation realm, with strong crisis credentials and an expanding array of digital capabilities.

The team is appropriately senior, led by managing partner Thierry Bouckaert, a former journalist (La Libre Belgique) and communications director (Orange, Proximus); and partners Nathalie van Ypersele, (former editor of Trends-Tendances), Carl Buyck, (former spokesperson of Federal Minister of Health); and new senior consultant Emily Hoyos (former president of Ecolo, the Belgian Green party, and former chairwoman of the Walloon Parliament.

Last year was particularly strong, with fees up by about 10 percent to €4.3 million, thanks to major assignments for clients like Abbvie, Brussels Airport, Proximus, LVMH, Celgene, Infrabel, BAE, and Eurodisney. — PH

LVT Group (Independent)

Founded in 1994 as a technology public relations specialist, LVT has succeeded in building a well-rounded corporate and consumer public relations business. But its technology credentials—now embodied in specialist subsidiary Progress Communications—continue to shine, with two campaigns for Microsoft (the first showcasing 3D technology by reconstructing a Rembrandt painting, the second harnessing the power of a leading Dutch boy band to fake out younger consumers) wowing the SABRE judges this year.

Meanwhile, LVTPR continues to work across a number of business-to-business categories, with clients in the fintech, aviation, mobility, construction and real estate, and consumer and retail sectors. Last year saw growth in the high single digits, with fee income of around €7.8 million. New business came from

Gigaset Pro and Wolf Oil Corporation, who hired LVTPR to serve as their European hub partner;  Bosch Power Tools (for social media in the Benelux region); Etihad, which tapped Progress Communications for PR support in Benelux; Air Belgium, Haacht Breweries and Auping. They join existing LVTPR clients Oracle, Veeam, Castrol, TomTom Telematics, Sonos, Plus Supermarkets, and The Northface and Progress clients Microsoft, AVM, Indeed, and DOMO.

LVT has grown its team to around 70, led by group CEO Charly Lammers van Toorenburg, Belgian country manager Karolien Hessels, Progress managing director Stella Jansen, consumer director Marije Perdon, and B2B director Gijs van Beek. Recent years Have seen the addition of content creators and other new digital and social media specialists, but attracting new talent in the Benelux market remains the biggest obstacle to continued growth. Fortunately, LVT has been a consistent performer in our Best Consultancies to Work For research, which has helped the firm position itself as an employer of choice in the market. — PH

Whyte Corporate Affairs (Independent)

Less than a decade after it was launched by former Interel exec Emmnanuel Goedseels, Whyte Corporate Affairs has positioned itself as leader in corporate affairs in the Belgian market, and in 2016 embarked on an ambitious plan to broaden its capabilities (investments in employee engagement, crisis communications, and data and analytics) and its geographic reach (plans for a new operation in Antwerp to cover the Flanders market, and partnerships with select Dutch firms to play across the Benelux region).

The firm continues to offer valuable insight into the Belgian media, political, corporate, social and academic landscape, an expertise that allows Whyte to define the right audiences, recommend the most appropriate channels of communication, to formulate the right messages and to anticipate actions and reactions. That expertise has been strengthened by a commitment to analytics and research and a growing emphasis on digital channels and visualization. An already strong senior team expanded with the addition of Martine Maelschalck, former editor in Chief of business newspaper L'Echo and communications director for the Federal Budget Minister; Stany Vaes, public affairs manager for the Belgian retail industry association; and An Teyssen, with experience in senior roles at the Port of Antwerp and AB InBev.

Last year saw healthy growth of around 10%, with fee income of close to €3.5 million. New business came from Unibet (public affairs and issues management against a backdrop of greater scrutiny on the gambling business); Burger King (supporting its entry into the Belgian market through the acquisition of local brand Quick); Uber (public affairs and reputation management); and Dutch construction company BAM (change management(. They join a roster that includes blue-chip clients such as Ikea, Thalys, AB InBev, Medtronic, AXA and Mondelez. — PH