2019 Boutique PR Agencies of the Year, North America | Holmes Report
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2019 North America Boutique PR Agencies of the Year

The 2019 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.

Analysis of each of the 70 finalists across 14 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below. Winners are unveiled at the 2019 North American SABRE Awards on May 7 at Cipriani 42nd St in New York. 

Finalists

ARPR (Independent)

In 2018, Atlanta-based ARPR’s fee income rose to $2.2m from $1.5m the previous year. It’s an impressive leap for a firm started just six years ago, when CEO Anna Ruth Williams opened for business because she felt the existing agency model — as well as the PR industry — was broken and clients, in turn, were getting shortchanged. Since that time, Williams has built a thriving, tech-focused business based on the belief that PR partnerships have to work for both clients and employees, while strengthening PR’s value proposition through a coherent, consistent approach to integrated communications.

Executing multichannel marcomm initiatives that drive measurable, data-driven results is the heart of ARPR’s work. The agency’s 17-person staff — located in offices in Atlanta and New  Orleans — operate using ARPR’s 6-phase approach to client services, called Panorama. The approach ensures client’s PR plans are created around the tight integration of media relations, social media, content marketing and lead generation. In turn, ARPR takes clients on the entire marketing journey, from creating brand awareness and buzz to delivering results.

ARPR’s expertise in tech industries such as cybersecurity, fintech, cloud and HealthIT, in addition to PR, has helped the firm build a client roster that includes the likes of Cartoon Network, Greenway Health, Merck-owned StayWell and Azuga. Lime Bikes, Delta Air Lines, Buildertrend and Coronet joined the list over the last 12 months. — DM

 

Bospar (Independent)

Tech PR veteran Chris Boehlke parted ways with Grayling in 2014 after selling her shop Phase Two Strategies to the Huntsworth firm in the years prior. Since then, she has grown and expanded her second entrepreneurial effort, Bospar co-founded with Curtis Sparrer, and also featuring Tricia Heinrich and Tom Carpenter as principals.

In four years, the tech shop has grown to $4.7 million with 24 people – impressive returns for an agency that is disrupting the conventional industry thinking that a brick-and-mortar office becomes inevitable after a certain size. Rather, Bospar manages to be a 100% virtual agency by implementing technology, training and processes designed specifically for a virtual workforce — including teaching senior staff how to manage remote teams and conduct virtual whiteboarding.          

The firm’s client base reflects its technology expertise, including new business for Snowflake, Digital Brands, Espresa, Instart, Intapp, Living Matrix, Marqeta, Postman, Prodege, SalesLoft, SleepCycle, Unisys and Zingbox. But perhaps its most exciting assignment was the House of Cats, a new app that revolved around Bospar’s counsel to position Star Trek actor George Takei as the originator based on his development of the ‘grumpy cat meme’ — ultimately resulting in the app shooting to third spot on the paid entertainment app ranking. 

Bospar also brings a strong focus on business impact metrics, and has expanded its social media training to focus on sales teams looking to improve their funnel and close deals. The firm has established a new content team and leveraged AI to power its business development, reflecting a restless desire to innovate its services, and has also demonstrated a welcome commitment to diversity among its employee ranks. — AS   

Firehouse Strategies (Independent)

After managing US Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign (and, as they say, losing to a reality TV star in the late stages of the primary process) three longtime GOP operatives — Terry Sullivan, Alex Conant and Will Holley — gave up the campaign trail to start Washington public affairs shop Firehouse Strategies. Their strategy: take lessons learned from that wild election cycle — the one in which Donald Trump upended modern communications —and use them to help clients communicate in the modern age.

Less than three years into it, Sullivan, a political strategist, and Conant, who ran the Rubio campaign’s communications, are doing just that: running PR and public affairs campaigns just like they did political ones. They call what they do targeted persuasion, which means putting a premium on authentic, organic communications to reach very targeted audiences — all with a focus on results.

Clients are biting, as the numbers show. In 2018, Firehouse’s free income rose to $3.2m, up from $1.5m the year before. Headcount grew from three to 10.  Over the last two years, Firehouse executed public affairs campaigns for Fortune 10 companies, prominent trade associations and nonprofits including environmental groups and immigration reform advocates. The firm worked for 27 different clients in 2018 including the American Investment Council, Association for Accessible Medicines, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and U.S. Travel Association. Consumer Technology Association, FedEx Corporation and The Foundation for Government Accountability are among new clients that came onboard during the last 12 months. — DM

LDWW (Independent)

LDWW is an interesting hybrid. It’s a PR firm, yes, but given that it was born only six years ago it’s a very 21st Century kind of PR firm, as comfortable producing paid content as it is in the earned media realm, and combining the creativity of a hot consumer shop with the strategic savvy of a corporate communications firm (crisis management is a core strength). It grew at a healthy pace in 2018, with fee income up more than 25% to crack the $8m barrier, reflecting how LDWW’s offering perfectly matches a thriving Dallas marketplace that remains overlooked by bigger firms.

Founded by industry veteran Ken Luce, LDWW’s focus on client service demonstrates one of the core advantages of its boutique offering. Key accounts include the Big 12 Conference, Carnival Corporation, Bell, the NFL’s Football Matters initiative, GameStop and Children’s Health, while there was new business over the past year from Lyft, Texas Tech University, DFW International Airport, Blucora, IntelliCentrics and Texas Women’s Foundation.

Luce was joined last year by new partner Jeff Orth, an ad agency veteran who is charged with stepping up LDWW’s focus on CMOs. The firm’s campaign work has always been a standout feature of its offering, demonstrated again in 2018 by the Football Matters initiative, for which LDWW helped the National Football Foundation protect and promote the sport. — AS

Singer Associates (Independent)

When it comes to high-stakes public battles on the West Coast, Sam Singer’s firm is very likely to be involved on one side of the aisle. And that reputation has only improved in recent years, powering another year of impressive growth — up an eye-catching 34% in 2018 to $13.1m, from just 17 staffers, including a new office in Silicon Valley to join its existing San Francisco HQ.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that Singer’s revenues have grown 300% since 2013, thanks to a loyal client base that includes Chevron, Stanford and Bayer. But there was plenty of new business last year, from such names as Tetra Tech Environmental Engineering, the Denver Broncos, the Hotel Council of San Francisco, the California Hotel & Lodging Association, the San Jose Water Company, Blue Shield of California and Kylli Real Estate Development. They join a roster that also features American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Bayer Crop Science Hawaii, Jay Paul Development Company and Sand Hill Property Company.

Singer’s offering includes its long-running (and award-winning) corporate-sponsored community-based newspaper/news site, The Richmond Standard for Chevron. The online publication has garnered significant media coverage nationally and internationally as a groundbreaking community journalism concept and as a corporate news delivery service. Meanwhile, the firm’s work continues to showcase its aptitude in handling sensitive public issues, whether Monsanto/Bayer, the Outside Lands music festival or the successful RM3 bridge toll campaign. 

Sam Singer continues to head the organization with a growing leadership bench that includes Adam Alberti and Jason Barnett. New hires included partner Pete Hillan and account director Christie Farrell — AS