Eastern Europe PR Consultancies of the Year 2018 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2018 Eastern Europe PR Consultancies of the Year

Our 2018 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 Amsterdam on 23 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 20 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here. 

Winner: Ewing Public Relations (Czech Republic/Independent)

Founded 25 years ago, Ewing’s current owners took over in 1999 when the firm had just employees. Today, there are 55, generating around €3m in fee income, an impressive 33% jump from the year before. Underpinning that growth is Ewing’s superior corporate and public affairs capabilities. And with 2017, being the first of six straight election years in the Czech Republic, Ewing reaped substantial rewards from its decision to up investment — creating an-house video production studio; inking a joint venture with a polling firm; and, perhaps most notably, buying and merging with sister digital agency Manage Social. Ewing followed that up with an internal restructuring that that focused on its specific industry expertise in financial real estate, energy, environment and healthcare.

All of that paid off for a client roster that now includes synlab, Arriva, AVE, Metrostav, Home Credit International, Gordic, Veolia Water, the City of Prague, Passer Invest and presidential candidate Michal Horacek. There was also eye-catching work — helping to clear the name of Southern Bohemia governor Jiri Zimola; SABRE-nominated work on Horacek’s presidential campaign; and, another SABRE-nominated effort for Arriva.

Ewing’s leadership team includes a number of partners who have helped drive the agency’s transformation. Ondrej Kubala has played a critical role in driving non-PA growth; Jakub Hrabovsky came onboard from Manage Social; Martin Jaros leads all energy and environment clients; Radka Hrstkova led the Zimola effort; and Jan Sedlacek leads financial and real estate. — AS

Finalists

Grayling (Huntsworth)

Grayling’s network of 10 offices and 145 consultants across the Eastern European region is the strongest of any of the western-based multinationals, and while much of it was inherited from Mmd—the pioneering Eastern European firm founded by Alistair McLeish, it has been modernized and expanded in recent years under the leadership of Jan Simunek, who has risen from running Mmd’s Romanian and Bulgarian offices to lead all of Grayling’s Central and Eastern European operations and—since 2015—serving as CEO of continental Europe for the Huntsworth-owned agency.

So while Grayling in Eastern Europe continues to be best known for its work in public affairs and crisis communications it has expanded into new areas, from employer branding all the way to consumer marketing—with expanding digital and social capabilities. New business successes in 2017 added clients like Ahold, Dacia, IKEA, McDonalds, Nokia, Skanska, and Tetra Pak to a formidable existing client list that includes multimarket assignments for Diageo, eBay, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Hilton, IBM, PokerStars and Visa.

Highlights of the firm’s work in 2017 included the “Bring Your Parents to Work” campaign for GE Digital in Hungary and an April Fools’ Day campaign for Airbnb in Russia, while the firm’s work for the Croatian National Tourist Board and Paypal have picked up local awards in the region. There has been plenty of thought leadership activity too, including a presentation on brands and the arts, and another looking at legislative trends across the region.—PH

Seesame (Slovakia/Independent)

Last year’s Eastern European Consultancy of the Year, Seesame Communication Experts celebrated its 21st anniversary in 2017 by maintaining its market leadership in the Slovakian PR market—both in terms of size (with a team of 45 and fee income in excess of $2.5 million) and in terms of its offer, which has expanded from the public affairs and issues management work with which it first made its name (when it was affiliated and shared its name with Interel) to include a fill service offering of marketing communications, digital and social, and creative work.

The latter has been a hallmark of the agency in recent years: it earned itself a place in the top 10 of our Global Creative Index last year, thanks to its Global SABRE Award winning “Autism Simulator” and its grassroots public affairs campaign for the Slovak Insurance Association. This year, it is a SABRE finalist for three campaigns, ranging from an employer branding initiative for Henkel to a bold CSR initiative on behalf of O2 in Slovakia. But it’s not just the creativity that stands out: Seesame is one of those Eastern European firms that are equally well known for their integrity and refusal to engage in the darker side of the business (the firm offers PR training to NGOs and has fought against political and media corruption).

There was new business last year from AT&T, Biogen, and fashion retailer F&F, which join a client list that includes adidas, Dell, Dr Oetker, Electrolux, European Commission, Henkel, IKEA, Pfizer, Shell, and construction company YIT. The senior leadership team remains intact and unparalleled in the market: founder and managing director Michaela Benedigova is joined by real estate practice leader Adriana Catlosova, public affairs chief Anna Michalkova, FMCG leader Juraj Caranek, and head of digital and creative Peter Jancarik—all with at least 10 years experience in their respective fields. — PH

United Partners (Bulgaria/Independent)

Now in its 21st year — making it one of the pioneers of PR in the Bulgarian market — United Partners has worked with more than 150 clients on almost 1,400 projects—more than half of them international in scope. More recently, it has set itself a “big hairy audacious goal”—to be the “Tesla of the communications industry.” It has also put a lot of thought into the kind of values that will get it there: reliability, innovation, learning, positivity and passion.

So while the firm continues to work with some long term clients — P&G (20 years), IBM (12 years), Johnson Wax (20 years), VMware, Viber Abbvie, Bayer and H&M — it has been aggressive on the new business front, picking up assignments from major telco MTEL; Hyper Science, Fadata, Indonesian Embassy; MyLan; Alvogen; Sofia Municipality; Tesy; Monsanto; and the Data Science Society in the past 12 months as it grew by about 10% to end the year with a team of 30 and fees of around $1.67 million.

A full-service firm, United has also reinvented its teams to better fit client needs — structuring talent around Inspiring Innovators (Developing strategies and services), Ingenuous Insighters (research and analysis), Creative Cooks (concepts, video, text, visuals), Wonder-making Wizards (Client relations) and Lasting Linkers (external relations). The agency has also stepped up its workplace culture initiatives and is a regular presence at major PR and marketing events in the CEE region — working with data scientists and machine learning engineers to try and solve fake news, for example.

For its 20th anniversary, United Partners created a yearlong effort to boost its own reputation, including a rebranding and 20 experiments two areas — innovation and people. For external clients, highlights included the Mtel Media Masters; the Baylab initiative for children; and the communications strategy for Sofia’s presidency of the EU. — AS