Russia/CIS PR Consultancies of the Year 2017 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2017 Russia/CIS 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 were unveiled at the EMEA SABRE Awards in London on 23 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 21 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here. 

Winner: FleishmanHillard Vanguard (Omnicom Group)

Launched as a joint venture between FleishmanHillard and leading local PR firm Vanguard in 2007, FleishmanHillard Vanguard (in which the Omnicom firm now owns a majority) remains one of the best PR firms in Russia, with 120 people now working across Moscow and Kiev under the leadership of general director Elena Fadeeva. Last year, furthermore, the firm undertook a strategic review operations to help identify where and how it would grow amid tough market conditions. The results of that process have been impressive, with FleishmanHillard Vanguard demonstrating its ability as one of the firms that can successfully handle MNC and domestic clients,  and also launching the FHV Sport unit in cooperation with Omnicom sibling GMR to capitalise on Russia’s preparations to host its first-ever World Cup. 

Key areas of growth included Russian-based MNCs such as Atomenergoprom, Megafon, Ingosstrakh and Baltic Breweries, with the firm also hiring international veteran Pavel Andreev to oversee the practice. There was also significant new work with the Russian Government, including efforts to build closer links with NGOs, and being selected agency of record for the FIFA local organising committee for the 2017 Confederations Cup and 2018 World Cup. And there was the usual strong haul in terms of MNCs, such as winning Avon, Samsung, P&G, Singapore Tourism Board, Marriott and Viber.

All of that added up to strong double-digit revenue growth, and FleishmanHillard Vanguard now operate as the largest international agency in Russia, the only one to crack the country’s Top 10 according to the NRKK local agency ranking. Much of its new work, furthermore, features an integrated PESO capability that includes marketing and advertising work, showcased by strong work for InterRAO, MegaFon and — most notably — Avon’s breast cancer crusade program. 

Fadeeva's own industry leadership, as head of AKOS (The Russian Communications Consultancies Association) has also helped position FleishmanHillard Vanguard as visible, progressive presence in the market, particularly through her efforts to establish a new ethics code for country's PR firms and in-house communications operations in recent months.  — AS

Finalists

Be-It Agency (Ukraine/Independent)

When its founders realized that business as usual isn’t going to cut it anymore, they broke ties with their legacy partner firms (including Russia's PRP) to start the Be-It Agency with a vision to create a new reality of sorts. That vision is attracting attention, in 2016 Be-it Agency was joined by Republic, Changers and Zeitgeist and transformed into Be-it Group that expanded its services and talent pool.

Also in 2016, the firm grew by 107% to 60 employees because of existing clients like Coca-Cola, MasterCard, Sanofi, Microsoft, Avon, Philips, Sony, Mondelez, BASF, Continental — in addition to new clients like McDonald's, Western NIS Enterprise Fund, UNICEF, MSD, Renaissance Foundation founded by George Soros, Danone, Danish Demining Group/Danish Refugee Council, Ronald McDonald House Charities.

 Already this year, the agency has spun off Be-it Health & Social Impact. The biggest challenge facing the agency is now aligning its growth with its strategic goals. For instance, the firm recently reorganized digital and creative services into a content creation lab powered by a chief content creation officer. The team also formalized its robust business processes, from client development to talent acquisition to quality assurance.

Notable work includes #CokeBottleStory campaign to create awareness about the 100th anniversary of the Coca-Cola bottle with an integrated communications campaign with a bent towards social legacy. President Natalya Popovych leads with a team that includes Kristina Nikolayeva, Natalya Olbert-Sinko, Myroslava Gribova and Oksana Sorzhulenko. — AaS

Ketchum (Omnicom Group)

You could argue that difficult market conditions have affected international firms disproportionately in Russia, given their reliance on MNC business. Yet Ketchum retains its position as one of the market's best firms under the leadership of senior partner and director Michael Maslov. In particular the firm increased its new business win rate by 14%, securing clients such as Samsung, Whirlpool and Hyatt, which add to a roster that includes Skoda, Rolls-Royce, BMW and P&G. 

Ketchum's status as a hub for a 10-strong CIS affiliate network also gives it an edge over many firms, helping it deliver a range of strong campaign, particularly in the consumer sphere. Eye-catching work included Russia Is Škoda Country for Škoda Russia and “Feetnis” Is Feminine for Adidas Russia, both of which have been nominated for EMEA SABRE Awards  — AS


PBN H+K Strategies
(WPP)

San Francisco-based PBN was invited by Mikhail Gorbachev to open an office in Moscow, which it did in 1991. Over the next decade, the firm established offices in the capitals of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Latvia, focusing on the strategic end of the business, with particular expertise in public affairs and government relations, crisis and issues management, and corporate and financial communications.

Now more than 25-years-old in Russia, and owned by WPP under H+K Strategies, PBN continues to flourish in a difficult market under CEO Myron Wasylyk. There are 60 people working across wholly-owned offices in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, driving impressive growth of 12% in 2016. While 40% of the fee income derives from the firm's corporate, public affairs and crisis practices, where it is a market leader, recent years have brought diversified growth into marketing and consumer PR, with clients such as P&G (Braun, Gillette and Venus), Bacardi and Duracell now accounting for 25% of revenue. There was also new business last year from Alcatel, AirBnB, Dr. Reddy’s, Gilead, Janssen, NCR, Qatar Airways and Uber, joining a blue-chip client roster that features Castorama, Chrysler/Fiat, Facebook, Google, IHG, Megafon, Tetra-Pak, Visa, WizzAir and Westinghouse.

And while PBN has built its reputation on handling crises for BP and Arcelor-Mittal, much of its recent growth comes from the consumer and technology spheres, evidenced by good work for Alcatel, Duracell and WhatsApp. The firm's corporate capabilities, meanwhile, retain a market-leading dimension, not least because of a strong thought leadership approach that spans white papers and events. — AS

 

Mikhailov & Partners (Independent)

Founded in 1993, Mikhailov & Partners was one of the first public relations agencies in Russia and has been a pioneer for more than two decades, initially in corporate communications and reputation management, later in international communications (working as an affiliate of Burson-Marsteller), and more recently in developing a more integrated approach, blending offline and online strategies. The firm is headquartered in Moscow, has an office in St Petersburg, and a Kiev operation working with Ukrainian, Russian and global companies in Ukraine and other key CIS markets.

Last year was a challenging one in Russia, with public sector spending cuts and private companies reducing their budgets, so fee income was flat (around $18 million). But there was new business from FIFA 2018, Huawei, Moesk, Lavazza, Bonduelle, X5 Retail Group, MTS, and Transoil, which joined a client list that includes Tele 2, Inter RAO, Astana EXPO-2017, Aeroflot, Rosatom, Kaspresky Lab., Swatch Group, Rostelecom, Merrill Lynch. The firm has gained recognition for its communications campaign for the launch of mobile operator Tele2 in Moscow and has been nominated for SABRE Awards for its work for the Central Bank of the Russian Federation on its All-Russian vote to choose the images for new banknotes.

One key to the firm’s continued strength is the depth of its leadership team, which includes president Alexey Yudin; CEO Svetlana Gorevaya, a veteran of branding and research agencies and former marketing director at Xerox Russia; and deputy CEO Ellen Pinchuk, a former producer and reporter for CTV Canada. — PH