New PR Consultancies of the Year 2019 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2019 New Consultancies of the Year

Our 2019 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 will be unveiled at the 2019 EMEA SABRE Awards dinner in London on 22 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 20 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Winner: BoldT (Independent)

In just 18 months BoldT has built a heavyweight multi-market offering in Europe and beyond, which, combined with its positioning as a business and communications consultancy, gives it a distinctive edge.

With a founding team featuring former Burson-Marsteller leaders Jeremy Galbraith and Katarina Wallin Bureau, BoldT was always likely to make a bang when it started life at the end of 2017. Its fee income for 2018 was €1.5m euros, with growth of €4m forecast for 2019, underpinned by clients such as Google, YouTube, Generali, PepsiCo, MSD, Atea, DNB and Givaudan.

The team now numbers 20, with Galbraith building BoldT’s regional capabilities fast, focusing on senior talent from his former Burson-Marsteller stomping ground. In addition to Wallin Bureau, based in Brussels, the senior team includes former MEP and Dutch Labour Party chairman Michiel van Hulten and the former CEOs of Burson-Marsteller Nordics and Switzerland — Morten Pettersen and Matthias Graf, respectively. Other senior hires included David Brugger in Zurich, Simone Ceruti in Brussels and Erik Strøm in Oslo.

This senior team means BoldT’s client relationships are nearly all with the CEOs or other board-level executives, whether the consultancy is shaping legislation, navigating a crisis, changing a business model or helping companies deliver sustainable growth while living up to their purpose. BoldT’s thought leadership over the year included reports on corporate purpose, and managing Brexit and other EU challenges.

As well as its presence in Brussels, Oslo, Zurich – and, through Heuser Communications, run by the consultancy’s chairman Karl-Heinz Heuser Cologne and Berlin – BoldT has established a network of strategic partners around the world, including formal partnerships with Madano in the UK, IBEX Partners/Summit Strategy Group in the US and Agora Public Affairs & Strategic Communications in Latin America. More informal partnerships allow it to work in China, Canada, Egypt and Turkey. – MPS

 

Finalists

Blurred (UK/Independent)

It’s unusual for such a new agency to be in our new agency shortlist, but when Blurred won two seven-figure accounts in its first six months, it was clear the team is onto something a bit special. When Nik Govier left Unity, the agency she founded with Gerry Hopkinson in 2005, the whole London PR scene was waiting to see what the super-bright, creative powerhouse did next. In October 2018, we got our answer, as she announced she was starting a new kind of agency, Blurred.

Govier has been joined by former Weber Shandwick strategy and creative director Stuart Lambert and ex-Unity and Brands2Life director Katy Stolliday, and the founding trio have set out to build an agency that recognizes the increasingly blurred lines between marketing and consulting disciplines, and blurs them itself in the breadth and depth of the work it offers.

Rather than building the agency with juniors, the team combines its permanent team with members of its experienced, specialist consulting and creative cohorts – which Blurred will draw on as clients need them – who come from varied backgrounds including government, FTSE boardrooms and sustainability experts, as well as the worlds of photography, music and digital culture.

Even before launch, Blurred had won its first retained client after a five-way competitive pitch: StockX, the world’s first “stock market of things”. The two-year-old billion-dollar company counts Eminem, Karlie Kloss and Mark Wahlberg among its investors, and as well as the European launch, Blurred’s brief covers corporate and mainstream consumer PR across four markets and reaching “sneakerheads” who collect trainers.

The agency is already at £1m in fee income, smashing its Y1 target before it was five months old. Its client portfolio includes luxury brand house LVMH Paris, a global hotel group, an international educational institution, a major consumer electronics manufacturer, a telco giant and a global charity, while the scope of work reaches well beyond traditional PR, including management consultancy, creative campaign development, branding, employee engagement, crisis consultancy, purposeful business consulting and large-scale change management. There’s no question that Blurred is one to watch for the future. — MPS

Don't Cry Wolf (UK/Independent)

This year-old agency was started by former Hotwire head of engagement John Brown – known for being simultaneously bullish and passionately zero-bull – at the start of 2018, with a manifesto to help brands communicate honestly and so build more affinity with their audience.

Brown is also committed to having a net positive impact on the world while turning a profit, and rather than just knock up a values statement he very quickly signed up to being one of the first B Corps in the PR industry, meaning the firm is audited for its contribution to society, its environmental footprint, employee welfare, as well as its clients' practices.

Brown is building the organisation from the top down, hiring senior people first, supported with a network of freelancers, who are psychometrically tested to ensure they the company's personality and have the right skill set to build a team for each client.

The agency offers three core services: brand strategy: from naming workshops through to full scale rebrands and communications strategies; short term, high impact creative campaigns; and training, including media training and social media navigation.

Clients over its first year have included Flight Club – for which it launched the “social darts” company’s first outside-London venue in Manchester, ripping up the events brief to execute a research-based campaign that increased booking page traffic by 53% and generated 487 pre-bookings in two months. It has also worked with Lucozade Suntory, The British Heart Foundation, ePayments, cryptocurrency exchange DSX, The League Against Cruel Sports and The Children's Trust.

Its 2018 fee income was close to £400,000. And the firm has also turned down at least one six-figure brief because the high street retailer in question didn’t want to work in partnership with its agency, since Don’t Cry Wolf insists on clients signing a charter that shares accountability for the projects it embarks on. Now that’s a values-driven business. – MPS

Fourth Angel (UK/Independent) 

The Fourth Angel is not even one year old and is already making waves, partly just because it’s the new venture from legendary 3 Monkeys founder Angie Moxham. The irrepressible PR queen parted ways with Zeno at the end of 2017 after it bought her former firm – which Moxham had founded in 2003 and built into a £6.5m business – in 2016, and soon bounced back to start The Fourth Angel.

The agency bills itself as a “minister of truth”, building authentic, meaningful integrated communications campaigns “for brands that crave smarter and better.” The offer has clearly resonated: The Fourth Angel secured its launch client – a large project for a global technology brand – without a pitch and hasn’t looked back since.

Over 2018, it has picked up other consumer and B2B clients from much bigger agencies, including restaurant chain Prezzo’s consumer and social brief, formerly handled by Porter Novelli, and Hawk Incentives, for which it pitched against 3 Monkeys, as well as Pink News, digital retailer Green Man Gaming, broadcaster AMC Networks, female health, beauty and pleasure brand Woo Woo and pre- and post-natal supplies company My Expert Midwife.

And, after signing its first seven-figure account for a financial services company, the company is looking at fee income for its first year of around £1.7m, with billings split 65% PR and social and 35% wider marcomms, including ad creative, digital marketing and CRM.

The team currently has five full time angels and 20 part-time team members, including founding partner and former 3 Monkeys executive Samantha Henry, as well as fellow 3 Monkeys staffer Gemma Dilworth, brand marketing specialist BJ Cunningham, creative director Alan Cinnamond and consultants across areas such as digital marketing, challenger brands, video, production, healthcare, photography and journalism.

To achieve growth of this scale, in less than a year, from a consultancy not operating in a high-earning specialism such as financial comms, is a significant achievement; expert Moxham and her team to turn up on a pitch list near you soon. — MPS

Tyto (UK/Independent)

While long-established agencies are busy tearing down silos, ex-Hotwire CEO Brendon Craigie created his firm, Tyto Public Relations, under a model in which divisions of any kind — between disciplines, between borders — are simply not in the mix. The name: PRWithoutBorders, and it’s a mode of operating that is imbued in virtually everything Tyto does, enabling the rapid rollout of integrated, pan-European campaigns and scaling up business. The plan: Inspire free-thinking and creative output from a team not hindered by hierarchal or geographical constraints.

All while very much building an agency that puts a premium on fostering a collaborative team well-equipped to deliver results. The year included four week-long team building sessions, called ‘hackweeks,” in Valencia, Spain, as well as and regular two-day hacks in London. Tyto also invested of £15k in external management and client service training. The idea is working.  In 2018, Tyto’s first full year in business, the agency registered more than  £800,000 in fee income serving clients across the UK, German, France, Spain and the Netherlands. With a science and tech focus, the firm has already built a client roster 14-companies strong including Freshfields, bitFlyer, Travelport, Laybuy, ComplyAdvantage, iProov, PodGroup, BACB and #techmums. — DM