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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.
As Harvard enters its 40th year, there’s no question the agency is in its prime. After eight years of consecutive growth, the 70-strong agency boosted fee income by a further 18.5% to £6.4m. Along the way, it won 92% of pitches, including global brands such as Salesforce and the launch of Chinese mobile giant Xiaomi into the UK; they joined a client roster that also features Vodafone, Cisco, Square, Ricoh, Fujitsu and Sennheiser.
The management team, led by CEO Louie St Claire, set out a new five-year strategy for the business to drive it forward to a 100-person agency. It also built a new leadership team responsible for driving cultural change in the business, and refreshed the board (maintaining a 50/50 gender split) including Lewis Webb, who joined from FleishmanHillard Fishburn as client services director. And further international opportunities will arise this year, after parent group Chime’s acquisition of West Coast tech shop Method at the end of 2018.
Harvard has worked hard to defend its open, nurturing culture through the latest period of growth, and last year added further robust wellbeing, psychological safety, diversity and hiring best practice programmes to the business. It established a six-month training programme for senior account managers to help them make the tricky shift to AD and the Future Leaders programme moved 13 of its most talented people into senior management roles. The agency, which has a staff retention rate of 92%, also introduced a more flexible working environment and policy.
Putting planning and creative at the heart of the agency continues to pay dividends with integrated work continuing to grow: 36% of the agency’s revenue now comes from non-traditional PR. The approach has resulted in a raft of awards and Harvard’s first ATL work with Hiyacar. There was also an increased focus on corporate work, reflecting the shifting technology narrative from the industry being media darlings, to dealing with more complex responsibility and reputation challenges.
Among the stand-out work over the past year was helping xxx Square engage with small businesses across the UK with its Digital Towns campaign; devising the ‘Tech in a Transforming Britain’ campaign to help Fujitsu address some of the UK’s biggest challenges; and capturing the imagination of Mancunians to launch Cisco’s smart city accelerator in Manchester, including a hero film, an augmented reality walking tour of the city and a digital skills academy. – MPS
Amid the massive changes afoot at its parent agency BCW, AxiCom’s progress could easily be overlooked. But the European technology specialist also appears to be benefiting from the blockbuster merger, adding 60 people from BCW’s technology operations in North America to the 100-odd that make up its EMEA workforce across London, Munich, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Amsterdam and Stockholm.
In Europe, fee income grew to £10.6m, underpinned by new business from Roku, Cybersource, Computacenter, Kaspersky, Avaya, Fujitsu, PWC, Cohesity and Puppet. They join an existing client roster that features HMD, Proofpoint, Dell EMC, LG, Lexmark, Cloudera, LZLabs, Kantar and Orange.
Under the leadership of European president Henry Brake (who took over from Cathy Pittham at the start of 2018) and UK MD Kate Stevens, Axicom has also stepped up its thought leadership efforts, partnering with research firm CCS Insight on its ‘2019 & Beyond Predictions’ report, which reveals the trends the tech industry will be challenged by over the next few years. And the firm has also diversified its offering to good effect to include analyst relations, digital/social, market research, in-house design and content production.
Campaign highlights included following up Axicom’s award-winning Nokia 3310 relaunch, this time by successfully rolling out the 8110 ‘banana phone’. There was also impressive lead generation work for LzLabs, and support of LG’s PR once again at the key IFA exhibition. — AS
When American Colette Ballou launched her eponymous firm in Paris in 2002, she did so with the goal of helping fast-growing US startups enter the European market. In the time since, Ballou has grown into a full-service European tech agency that works with firms scaling up as well as starting up — regardless of where they’re based. With fee income of £3.8 in 2018, the 38-person shop is big enough to get clients play across the continent (it has offices in London, Paris and Berlin) while still offering all the advantage of an independent, boutique operation.
In the past 12 months, Ballou has expanded its offering from pure-play PR to include social media, social media marketing, SEO, graphic design, video and animation. Ballou is a big believer in the power of thought leadership in bolstering awareness of clients — and the agency itself, regularly publishing pieces on its blog. Training and nurturing staff with training sessions and the like is a priority, with the aim of serving clients and drawing and retaining talent.
2018 was marked by winning business from Shopify, Cloudflare, RedHat, Cornerstone OnDemand, Marketo, Vanmoof, Fever/Secret London which join Trivago, Box, Applause, DiffBlue, Samsung NEXT, Stack Overflow, Vonage, Expedia LPS, Zendesk and MEGA International. Ballou continues to run the firm as chairman, with help from CEO Cordy Griffiths, France general manager Cedric Voigt and Nick Taylor, the agency’s UK GM. — DM
Chameleon does anything but blend into the background: the independent, proudly B2B agency has become a trusted business and comms partner for a client list of billion-dollar tech companies, and continues to punch well above its weight for a team of only 20.
The firm – which had fee income of over £2m for the first time last year, with 27% margins – has been owned by Tom Berry (CEO) and Tom Buttle (MD) since their MBO four years ago. The two Toms’ deep understanding of the technology industry is matched by their boldness in challenging client briefs and their obsession with doing measurably brilliant work that makes a difference to clients’ businesses. They are also embedded in the industry: Berry sits on the board of ClubCISO, the association of Chief Information Security Officers, while Buttle is on the advisory board of the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations.
The small but mighty agency beat global networks to big accounts last year, picking up a pan-European briefs from $40bn software company Workday and tech unicorn Dataminr. Other new clients included Cyxtera, the world’s biggest start-up, for which it is establishing the brand, PR strategy and content programme; Gartner, where it is bringing together the analyst’s global data, content and marketing strategies; and BAE Systems, where it is supporting digital transformation, data engineering and cyber security.
Chameleon was the first UK agency to take full advantage of TrendKite analytics; for one fast-growing US tech brand in EMEA it was able to show that content creation, targeted campaigns and media relations directly contributed to: a 224% increase in leads and more than £100,000 in new business.
The agency has a strong culture, where junior members are given plenty of autonomy to develop initiatives (such as last year’s diversity and inclusion policy and training). It has also introduced a blind recruitment process and unconscious bias training and, recognising the pressure of working in such a fast-paced industry, has introduced a mental health group to support its team.
And after deciding not to open its own office on the West or East Coast despite picking up work for tech companies from Silicon Valley to Seattle, Chameleon spent time last year building its Global PR Network of like-minded, independent technology agencies across the US, EMEA and AsiaPac. In 2018, the network resulted in £1.3m of fees being generated for Chameleon’s partners. — MPS
Whiteoaks International (UK/Independent)
Whiteoaks International may not have a fashionable London address, but is none the worse for it. Based in Hook, an hour or more from London, the firm bills itself as the largest UK agency outside the city, after growth of 17% to £4m in 2018. Offerings include PR, content and digital services to clients in fintech, security, retail tech, built environment and energy, enterprise IT, AI and machine learning and media. Over the last year, the 35-plus person Whiteoaks team won new business from Glen Dimplex Heating and Ventilation, NiceLabel, Gravity Supply Chain, Hastee Pay, Speedy Services, Asset Control, Capital on Tap, Jisp, REPL Group and Intersystems. They join an already robust list populated by companies such as, Pulsant, Clarivate Analytics, OKI Europe, UiPath, Omnico Group, Ecrebo, Nevion, Glasswall, Fraedom and Clearwater..
Since its 1993 launch, Whiteoaks has operated as a deliberately different kind of tech PR agency; By its sixth year in business, the firm got particularly gutsy, offering clients “totally transparent PR with proven sales success.” The company offers set fees for set deliverables and agreed upon performance targets. True ROI is a guarantee, backed by with formal service level agreements and pro-rata fee rebates if targets are missed. Whiteoaks’ way of doing business is driven by its values: quality, commerciality, integrity and teamwork. Each Whiteoaks team has had one or more specialists in industry relations, content creation, digital & social or account coordination. — DM
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