Global Public Affairs Agencies of the Year 2017 | Holmes Report
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2017 Global Public Affairs 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 were announced at the 2017 Global SABRE Awards, which took place at the PRovoke17 Global PR Summit in Miami on the evening of 25 October.

Winner — Hanover (Europe/Independent)

Since its inception 19 years ago Hanover has evolved beyond its UK roots to become one of the world’s top public affairs consultancies, winning EMEA Consultancy of the Year honours in 2016 and taking home the Global Public Affairs trophy one year earlier. But even by those standards, 2016 counted as a remarkable year for Charles Lewington's firm, which grew 22% to more than £11m in fee income, its third consecutive year of 20%+ growth. Much of that was led by the firm's healthcare practice, but its flagship public affairs and corporate advocacy offerings continued to evolve too, bolstered by the deep insight into financial services, technology and healthcare sectors that has characterised its growth since it launched. 

Unsurprisingly for a firm with this much momentum there were no shortage of high-profile account wins and senior hires. There were several confidential corporate wins while, in healthcare, the firm beat McKinsey and Deloitte to a brief on Healthcare Technology Assessment reform. And, in Brussels, Apple and Liberty Global were among the many wins for the growing EU policy team. All of those join a blue-chip client roster that features Goldman Sachs, Sky, Lucozade Ribena, Suntory, Tata Steel, Cuadrilla, Lilly, Airbus, Shire, De Beers, and Microsoft.

In terms of personnel, the biggest catch was undoubtedly former BT corporate affairs chief Michael Prescott, who came onboard as group MD of corporate and political strategy. Also arriving were industry veterans Alastair Gornall as Hanover’s first non-executive chairman, and Hanover Health chair Anna Korving. Threepipe co-founder Eddie May joined the firm as MD of its new Playbook creative comms consultancy, and there were also senior hires to lead the new Dublin and London operations. They join a well-established leadership team that features former Downing Street press secretary Lewington, 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. 

And, like many of its better rivals, Hanover’s work reflects the shifting public affairs landscape, enabling it to position Tata Steel as a responsible owner amid intense media scrutiny; establishing a Brexit consulting partnership with German firm Johanssen + Kretschmer; successfully launching flood reinsurance scheme Flood Re; and, helping the Hepatitis B & C Association to raise awareness among EU and national policymakers. — AS 

Finalists

APCO (Global/Independent)

APCO has been growing its corporate and financial (and even, to a less extent, consumer) capabilities in recent years, so the leadership is sometimes frustrated when we continue to pigeonhole the firm as a leader in public affairs—but that is more a reflection of the way in which public affairs has expanded than the notion that APCO has been standing still. Nothing could be further from the truth. APCO’s public affairs expertise includes the obvious (with the inauguration of a new president, areas such as trade policy and climate change have come to the fore) but also areas such as purpose and the challenge of corporate leadership that is both responsive and responsible, and nation branding, which has political and economic development implications. And APCO has long been a leader in applying the latest technology—digital and social—to public affairs, with its new Telescope offer applying the techniques of influencer marketing to the policy environment.

Revenues topped $120 million in 2016, with new business from the likes of Consumer Reports, Exelon and its Pepco Holdings subsidiary, The Partnership for a Healthier America’s Fruit & Veggies campaign, McCormick, the Nuclear Energy Institute, and the Embassy for Switzerland.

The firm’s 300-strong EMEA presence includes 123 people in the Middle East, with Continental Europe contributing around €15.5m in revenue last year. There are strong operations in the UK (where James Acheson-Gray up 16% since 2014 to around £6m); Germany (up 16% last year to around €3.5m, its third year of double-digit growth); and Brussels (now around €5.3m following a turnaround in recent years). Today, about $11.5 million of its revenue is spread across 11 offices in the region, where the past 12 months saw a host of new clients, with the Government of Guangzhou retaining the firm in China and for international markets, and major assignments from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Oculus, Marriott International, IKEA, Michelin, Elsevier, Janssen, and WhatsApp. — PH

FTI Consulting (Global/FTI)

Ranked as the fastest-growing midsize company in Brussels by Trends/Tendances, the leading Belgian business and financial magazine, FTI Consulting has a team of 70 public affairs experts from 22 different countries and has consolidated its leadership position in the Brussels public affairs market in recent years, growing by 30% a year, benefiting perhaps more than any other unit of the FTI communications business from synergies with other practices within the broader management consulting business: corporate finance, economic consulting, forensic and litigation expertise. Those capabilities mean a unique cross-disciplinary approach to problem-solving for clients. And in addition to the powerhouse Brussels office, the public affairs team has a presence in wholly-owned offices across the firm's global network, with particularly eye-catching growth in London under Alex Deane — who has helped build one of the city's strongest Brexit practices — and supplement by substantial capabilities in Washington, DC.

Major clients in 2016 included MasterCard, Google, Facebook, Epson, Bayer, the TransAdriatic Pipeline, Exxon Mobil, Johnson & Johnson, Walk Free Foundation, Zalando, BNY Mellon, Netflix, Apex-Brasil, Booking.com, and Amazon, and high-profile assignments included generating support for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (a proposed natural gas pipeline through Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea landing in Italy) across the EU; helping to launch the Hydrogen Council, a newly formed group of global energy, transport and industry companies.

The firm has expanded its presence in financial services, building out expertise in asset management, insurance and exchanges; technology and media, focusing on the disruptive platforms and technology changing sectors such as automotive; energy and agri-chemicals; and healthcare. And it has specialist groups focused on competition, cyber, trade, tax categories, and of course Brexit, where it draws on tailored research from an in-house polling group to develop a “war-gaming,” scenario-planning approach to the issue. — PH

Global Strategy Group (Global/Independent)

Election years tend to be particularly good for New York-based Global Strategy Group, which has a rich heritage in the world of polling and campaign management and continues to supplement its corporate and public policy work with those activities. But underlying growth in the core public affairs and reputation management business was solid in 2016, with new assignments from the liked of Americans for Responsible Solutions (a grassroots gun control group), Bloomberg Philanthropies, CVS Health, the League of Conservation Voters, PhRMA, Skanska and more.

The firm continues to play a leadership role in some of the vital issues of the day. It has been working on gender equity issues (the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100x25 campaign for women’s leadership); environmental concerns (for NextGen Climate, the Sierra Club, and more); immigration reforms (for FWD.us) and reproductive rights (Planned Parenthood). And GSG client The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform played a major role in informing Mayor Bill DeBlasio commitment to closing Rikers Island. The firm also handled crisis and issues work for CVS Health, football association CONCACAF, Pershing Square, General Motors, and commercial drone company JDI Group.

The firm’s thought leadership on the role of business in political discourse is also looking more and more relevant in the new political environment, in which companies are either choosing or being forced to join political debates around gay rights, immigration and host of other hot-button issues.— PH

Seesame Communication Experts (Slovakia/Independent)

Originally founded as Interel Public Relations, a Slovakian subsidiary of the highly regarded Brussels-based public affairs consultancy of the same name, Seesame achieved its independence following a management buyout 10 years ago and has gone from strength to strength ever since, building on its public affairs heritage to establish itself as arguably the pre-eminent corporate affairs, issues management, and strategic communications firm in Eastern Europe—with a reputation for ethics and integrity as well as results.

Seesame has also always enjoyed success in the international awards arena, winning SABRE Awards in crisis communications and public affairs categories in 2013 and 2014, but celebrating its 20th year in business in 2017, it is a finalist for three awards—and the work involved underscores the firm’s ability to help clients deal with critical issues. For non-profit SPOSA Bratislava, the firm created the “autism simulator” to provide people with a perspective on the condition, combining its strong healthcare credentials with an innovative use of virtual reality. For the Slovak Insurance Association, it launched an intensive grassroots public affairs campaign that fended off a potentially damaging tax. And for the Myeloma Association, it created an awareness campaign to educate the Slovakian public about an invisible disease.  

Under the leadership of founder and managing director Michaela Benedigova, who has more than 20 years of experience, the firm has a depth of experienced professionals unmatched in the local market: head of real estate Adriana Catlosova, public affairs practice leader Anna Michalkova and Juraj Caranek, head of the the FMCG practice) each have a decade of experience handling major issues. They serve a client list that includes Dell, Dr.Oetker, Electrolux, the European Commission, Henkel, IKEA, Pfizer, Shell, YIT, with new business in 2016 from AbbVie, adidas, and Adient. — PH