Global Corporate/Financial PR Agencies of the Year 2017 | Holmes Report
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2017 Global Corporate/Financial Agencies of the Year

The 2017 Global PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 400 submissions and face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across North America, EMEA and Asia-Pacific.

Analysis of all of the Winners and Finalists across specialist categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below. Winners are announced at the 2017 Global SABRE Awards, taking place at the PRovoke17 Global PR Summit in Miami on the evening of 25 October.

Winner — Joele Frank (US, Independent)

It was no surprise to see that Joele Frank’s firm was number two in the US in terms of the number of financial transactions worked last year (and number one in terms of deal value). After all, Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher has been topping those charts for a while. It was a little more surprising to see the firm come in fourth on mergermarket’s global table (second in value), because it’s one of only a couple of major players without formal international links. Clearly, that’s no disadvantage—in fact, its ability to work with multiple global partners may be an advantage.

The firm represented Monsanto in its $65.7 billion sale to Bayer; Agrium and PotashCorp in their merger-of-equals; CenturyLink in its $33.5 billion acquisition of Level 3 Communications; Enbridge in its $28.0B merger with Spectra Energy; as well as deals for Symantec and Salesforce. But M&A is only part of the story at the firm, which has been a leader in investor activism, bankruptcies and restructurings, and in 2016 developed a new capability dedicated to helping companies deal with the reputation threat posed by cybersecurity breaches.

An expert when it comes to helping companies play defense in activist battles, the firm supported Arconic against Elliott Management; Buffalo Wild Wings against Marcato Capital; Chipotle Mexican Grill against Pershing Square; iRobot against Red Mountain Capital; and The Williams Companies against Corvex Management. It also counseled Arch Coal on its successful emergence from Chapter 11; Caesars Entertainment on its complex, contested Chapter 11 reorganization; and CHC Group on the successful confirmation of its plan of reorganization.

The firm also continues to add blue-chips clients such as Chinese giant Anbang Group Holdings, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chipotle, FMC Technologies, Gannett and Yahoo! to a client roster that includes the likes of American Airlines, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Monsanto, and Procter & Gamble. — PH

Finalists

Instinctif (Global, Vitruvian Partners)

Three years after rebranding and repositioning as a international business communications consultancy, Instinctif Partners is effectively unrecognisable from the firm once known as College Hill. That is probably for the best, because Instinctif today is a multi-specialist consultancy with significant depth in capital markets, corporate and public policy, bolstered by considerable breadth across content, creative, research and insights. And much of the firm's work involves multiple practice areas, reflecting an interconnected approach that now accounts for 29% of its revenue, up from 19% in 2015.

Aiding that approach are internal initiatives which celebrate collaboration, part of a substantial cultural effort which saw the firm's 386 employees co-create a new set of values. Staff retention and client retention have both improved considerably, and these days Instinctif looks like an agency that takes its internal outcomes as seriously as its external results.

Those results remain in very good shape, with revenues up slightly to £34m, with the UK driving much of the firm's global growth, which included an 18% uptick in Continental Europe. Unsurprisingly, given its own positioning, Instinctif has carved out a credible niche working for challenger brands, including Purple Bricks, World First, Secret Sales, graze.com and Made.com. There was also new business last year from Majestic Wines, Biffa, UK Power Networks, Redrow, University of Portsmouth, Shepherd Neame and Eve Mattresses, joining an existing roster that already features eBay, Jupiter Asset Management, AGCO, Thomson Reuters, Aviva and Cushman and Wakefield. 

Meanwhile, the best of the firm's work demonstrates its approach to disrupting the traditional corporate PR template. For its largest client eBay, that involves re-engaging the company's global community around a new global mission. For Aviva, that means work to establish its brand with multiple customer demographics And for graze, made.com, Purple Bricks and Eve Mattresses, that featured a range of communications strategies that improved the bottomline. — AS

LDWW (US, Independent)

Helping Carnival Cruises introduce the first US cruise to Cuba in four decades; coordinating a nationally televised discussion on the issues of sexual assault and campus violence; helping a client manage a crisis situation in Yemen; supporting a national campaign encouraging people to talk openly and honesty about mental health; producing more than 100 pieces of content to promote an athletic scholarship. That would have been a bumper year for many large agencies—for a four-year-old firm with a team of 15, it was remarkable.

Perhaps that’s because LDWW is headquartered in Dallas, where the competition from national agencies or local specialists is limited—despite the fact that Texas is home to more Fortune 500 headquarters than any state except New York. Perhaps it’s the ability to deliver creative consumer campaigns and strategic corporate and crisis counsel, as well as content creation capabilities.

Or perhaps it’s because founder Ken Luce has decades of experience in senior roles with Weber Shandwick and Hill+Knowlton, and has assembled a senior team—Chris Cradduck, Mike Flanagan, Ken Maxwell, Jody Venturoni—with impressive credentials.

In any event, LDWW now has fee income of around $6.5 million and a client list that includes Bell Helicopter, Carnival Cruises, GameStop, Omni Hotels and is making a name for itself with 19 national awards last year—making it one of the top four firms on our Creative Index weighted for headcount. — PH

Prosek (US, Independent)

Another of the growing cadre of midsize players that are outperforming the overall market, the 25-year-old Prosek Partners benefits from in-depth knowledge of the financial and professional service sectors, bringing a broad range of services and skills from an entrepreneurial culture that is led by CEO Jennifer Prosek. In 2016, fees grew by an eye-catching 29% to $31.5m, powered by new business from Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Glenview, Blackstone, EY, Prudential and Nuveen, and by the acquisition of LA's Muirfield Partners to extend geographical reach and strengthen M&A and crisis communications capabilities.

That deal resulted in Mickey Mandelbaum joining the agency as partner, with the hire of partner Andy Merrill also helping to expand Prosek's already strong financial services offering into transactions communications, issues and crisis management services. Indeed, Prosek has always prided itself as functioning as something of an 'outsourced marketing department' for its key clients, illustrated well by work for EY (an 'extreme makeover' of its annual TAS report) and PGIM (successful reputation building for Prudential Financial's $1tn investment management business). — PH

SPRG (Asia-Pacific, Independent)

It is now 22 years since Richard Tsang launched Strategic Public Relations Group in Hong Kong, and while it has expanded into a network of 10 offices across Asia and established capabilities in consumer marketing and corporate social responsibility, it remains best known as a market leader in the financial communications space in what remains one of the world’s most dynamic business centers: consistently ranking among the region’s top 20 M&A advisors and dominating the IPO business, with 10 new listings in 2016 (taking it past the 350 mark).

 Longtime clients include Fitbit, Google, H3C, Hong Kong Deposit Protection Board, Hershey, Lenovo, Microsoft, Melco, P&G and UC Rusal, and there was new business over the past year from the likes of ABM AMRO Bank Hong Kong, Asiaray Media Group, Fox Networks, GuocoLand, Land Transport Authority, Lee Tung Avenue, Merck, Nippon, Puma, World Ventures. In terms of capabilities, SPRG made an acquisition to expand its public affairs offering, delivered environmental and social governance reports for several clients, and has continued to expand its digital and social expertise.

The firm now has 300 employees across Asia, generating fee income in excess of $22 million, making it one of the largest independents in the firm—and perhaps the Asia-based agency with a geographic network—there are offices in Hong Kong, China (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou), Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia—that can offer coverage to rival the western multinationals. It continues to differentiate itself by its focus on a culture where local staff can flourish (15 members of the management team have been with SPRG for 15 years or more, 15%  of the 300 staff have been with the firm for a decade) and on a philosophy of giving back to the community that has seen the agency reap numerous awards for its own corporate social responsibility initiatives. — PH