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Our 2017 North America PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 150 submissions and 50 face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across the US and Canada.
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WPP’s GCI Health unit has been the most consistent performer in the healthcare public relations space over the past five years, a fixture on this list of leaders in the category distinguished by a balance of stability—Wendy Lund and her management team providing a steady hand on the tiller—and restless innovation that has seen the integration of social media and content creation and a willingness to “break the rules” (in a good way) of traditionally staid healthcare marketing.
The firm’s “Putting Patients at the Center” initiative was launched three years ago and informs almost all of GCI’s work these days, from its work launching new products in areas from oncology to spinal cord injury to the opioid crisis—as well as several rare disease categories—to its expansion in biotech and medical technology.
Growth was a very impressive 21% last year, and the firm now has 150 people globally (with new offices in Philadelphia, Boston and Denver added over the past 12 months). Highlights included the launch of Abbott’s Absorb, a fully-dissolving stent, with a campaign that introduced the product to consumers, not just physicians; a branded program for Biogen’s Tecfidera MS treatment featuring actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler; CSR work for Pfizer; and the long-running America’s Diabetes Challenge campaign for Merck. — PH
Chandler Chicco Agency (inVentiv Health)
It’s been a rough ride for the pharma since a few high-profile drug price spikes has stained the industry with a serious reputation crisis. But it’s during crises like that firms like CCA stand out with its 20 years of expertise in healthcare-related corporate reputation, risk management and employee engagement issues.
In 2016, healthcare clients also more fiercely battled the turf wars over who owns paid and digital platforms. CCA had to re-shape the way its clients thought about media and the role of PR so teams could deliver results that support client business objectives. The agency advocated that PR is uniquely positioned to lead the multi-channel revolution by combining channel experience with audience insight and expertise. As a result, its digital and social work flourished.
All of this ultimately has helped to drive the firm’s impressive 32% organic growth fueled by 11 new clients on the West Coast including breaking into new areas like healthcare finance, clinical trial recruitment, dentistry while growing its lupus, oncology and cardiovascular work. In New York, the firm took on more oncology and corporate assignments.
The focus remains on owning the client relationship, which is especially critical for its work in the rare disease space where trust is paramount. This year, CCA also looked to more digital platforms to do this — using Google Hangouts to connect patients, nurses and create FAQs and using film to educate how drugs are developed. The firm is tapping into neuroscience when creating content to make sure the work maps back to scientifically-proven methods to create compliance and results.
Clients include Amgen, Rigel (new), Otonomy (new), Aurinia (new) and North American Neuromodulation Society (new). The US operations are led by Andrea Dagger, Lisa Waters and Julie Adrian (who is now leading Europe). — AaS
Finn Partners (Independent)
Overall, Finn Partners enjoyed another strong year in 2016, with fee income up by 8% to around $77 million and investment from Stagwell Group promising continued acquisition growth. The technology practice remains the firm’s largest and most global practice, but the healthcare group is clearly the most improved. A $5 million group when Gil Bashe joined from Makovsky in May 2015, healthcare revenues reached $15 million in 2016 and the practice has expanded beyond the provider and health tech space to include a quarter of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies.
One of the things that has driven that growth is the firm’s understanding of the modern healthcare ecosystem, and the way in which providers, payers, patients and policymakers interact to influence each others’ decisions as well as those of the pharmaceutical industry. Finn has produced some important thought leadership, challenging much of the conventional wisdom in healthcare communications, and analyzing the likely impact of the Trump administration on the future of healthcare.
After the addition late in 2015 of Kristie Kuhl (who joined from Cohn & Wolf) as head of New York health and the pharma team, the practice has been further strengthened with the addition of Michael Heinley (formerly of WebMD and J&J) as partner and deputy leader of the New York practice; Geralyn LaNeve (from Cooney Waters) as VP; and Mina Volvovitch (formerly Bristol-Myers Squibb, Sanofi), who leads the Paris operation. — PH
ReviveHealth (Weber Shandwick)
The fact that Weber Shandwick made ReviveHealth its first US acquisition in 15 years is a testament to several things: the firm’s unique positioning as a leader in health technology, health systems and health services, at a time when healthcare practices are diversifying beyond pharma; the firm’s impressive growth, from zero to $14 million in seven short years; and the firm’s strong culture—a multiple winner of this publication’s Best Agency to Work For title and a good match for its new parent company’s own empowered workplace.
It seems clear, furthermore, that the change in ownership is not exactly hampering ReviveHealth's progress. After winning Boutique Agency of the Year, the firm grew a remarkable 40% in 2016, and now numbers 65 staffers across offices in Nashville, Santa Barbara, and Minneapolis. ReviveHealth's client list remains evenly split between providers and technology/services companies, including big names such as Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Tenet Healthcare, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, athenahealth, Hoag Health, Trinity Health, and Arcadia Healthcare. New clients in 2016 include Avantor, Patient Safe, Accumen, Alegeus, MultiCare Health System and LHC, showcasing ReviveHealth's ability to deliver across the full marketing budget, thanks to strong capabilities in digital, social, creative, content, advertising, and PR.
The firm also added its first creative director last year in Sarah Lodholz, along with a slew of senior hires. That growth prompted a smart restructuring of its legacy PR model, moving to a structure that features account management staff, an enterprise resource and project management group, and the rest of the staff organized into departments — strategic planning, creative, content, PR, issues/crisis and digital. ReviveHealth's annual Trust Survey research remains a driver of new business and campaign work, helping to deliver some standout initiatives for Tenet Healthcare and Vanderbilt University, among others. — AS
RX Mosaic Health (Marina Maher Communications)
Absorbed into Omnicom's Marina Maher Communications in 2014, few expected big things from RX Mosaic, a small healthcare firm that was struggling with senior leadership changes and considerable staff turnover. In the years since, though, MD Michele Schimmel and MMC chief integration officer Diana Littman have steadily steered RX Mosaic into safer waters — doubled in size in 2016, growing headcount to 28 staffers, and diversifying its client portfolio, adding diagnostic and device companies, a patient advocacy organization and NGO to a roster once dominated by pharma companies.
The firm's distinctive culture ('healthcare geeks') provides a measure of differentiation for RX Mosaic from its much larger parent agency, helping it also focus on the future in a manner that many healthcare agencies still find difficult. In 2016, there was new business from Pfizer (Prevnar), Teva Pharmaceuticals (investigational drugs for migraine and Huntington’s disease), Roche Diagnostics (Accu-Chek and Corporate), Quest Diagnostics (HIV and HCV diagnostics) and United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP dietary supplement support).
New hires in 2016 included Lisa Talbot, who oversees healthcare strategy for both MMC and RX Mosaic and Amy Inzanti, Director, Research, Strategy & Insights. And there was compelling campaigns such as Plan B One-Step; and Roche Diagnostics/Accu-Chek Social Media Takeover. — AS
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