2019 Healthcare PR Agencies of the Year, North America | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2019 Healthcare 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. 

Winner: GCI Health (WPP)

At a time when the healthcare sector is going through unprecedented transformation — mergers and acquisitions, vertical integration, new CEOs — the gulf between patients and physicians and the industry that serves them has never been wider. For companies like GCI Health, which serves the entire range of healthcare companies, from pharma to biotech to medical tech to health IT to the payer/provider sector, that means facing new challenges and more complex assignments while maintaining a laser-like focus on the core values that define and differentiate them.

That was why GCI made the decision three years ago to talk about putting patients at the center, and why it decided last year to talk about “people at the center,” reflecting a more holistic view of those individuals but also acknowledging the need to reach out to physicians, pharmacists and other influencers. It’s also why the firm launched the Healthiher movement, a platform developed to address the fact that 50% of women put their spouses, children and parents ahead of themselves when they’re thinking about health. Now it’s changing its own culture to ensure it lives up to the inherent promises, and challenging the rest of the industry to get on board with these issues.

In the meantime, the firm is enjoying record growth. Fees were up by a staggering 40% last year, with 40 new accounts including BMS, Pfizer, Merck, Abbott, Seattle Genetics, Alexion, Spark Therapeutics, and the Educational Commission For Foreign Medical Graduates (while 95% of existing clients were retained). GCI now has fees of around $60 million in the US (with another $5 million or so overseas). And it now has about 225 people in offices in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, DC, and on the west coast, as well as Canada, the UK, and now Singapore. 

Interesting work includes the “What the HL” campaign, activating newly diagnosed Hodgkins lymphoma patients to ask about their treatment options; promoting the Freestyle Libre alternative to fingersticks for type 2 diabetes patients; and raising awareness of stoke risk in people with atrial fibrillation (Afib) through a unique digital concert series, “Tune in to Afib." — PH

 

Finalists

DNA Communications (Interpublic Group)

As the complexity of healthcare communications has increased, DNA Communications has responded with a breadth of robust, multidimensional efforts that help clients navigate the intricacies of the system, while boosting advancements — and aiming to change lives by doing so. In the last 12 months, the healthcare agency has been steeped in some of the biggest issues facing stakeholders from pharmaceutical companies, policy makers and payers to healthcare providers, patients and advocacy organizations. Clients work in areas that range from high-science oncology to over-the-counter cold and flu medications, all of which are handled with DNA’s hallmark patient-centric and science-first approach. Over the last 12 months, DNA has spearheaded campaigns focused on leading health issues like addiction, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, macular degeneration, immunotherapy in oncology, evolving HIV treatment, multiple sclerosis and diabetes in the Hispanic community.

Some of DNA’s most recognizable work hit early in 2018, playing a key part in OTC Mucinex’s  ‘Super Sick Monday’ Super Bowl campaign, which garnered close to 1 billion impressions in five days. In March, DNA delivered the second Going Beyond Undetectable meeting in partnership with Gilead Sciences, designed to transform physician thinking in HIV. When Exelixis wanted to target and engage a highly specific and relatively small kidney cancer patient base (nearly 74K diagnosed each year), DNA created a documentary-like video series that, through real patient stories, focused on the importance of extended time with loved ones, engaging thousands of patients via postings to the Exelixis’ Facebook and Twitter pages.

With team members well-versed in science and research as well as strategic communications, DNA takes a multidisciplinary approach to serving its roster of clients — which in 2018 added Avexis, Exact Sciences and Roche to a list already including Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim and Lilly Novartis. The firm is keenly aware that, despite being part of the same industry, the companies it works with are utterly different from one another, and therefore have specific needs in negotiating the healthcare sector’s ever-changing commercial, regulatory, scientific and communications landscape. That approach has fueled DNA’s growth trajectory, which continued in 2018. All told, DNA has grown globally by 64% in the last two years. In the US, growth clocked in at 54%, while business in ex-US markets grew by more than 16%. DNA staff size grew to 100 this year, an increase of nearly 45%. This follows on a 35% global staffing increase in 2017. One in ten DNA staffers hold advanced science degrees. — DM

ReviveHealth (Weber Shandwick/IPG)

Since Weber Shandwick’s 2016 acquisition of ReviveHealth (its first US acquisition in 15 years), the Nashville-based firm has continued on the growth trajectory that made it so attractive in the first place. An impressive rise in revenue was driven by a sizeable boost in the clients seeking out ReviveHealth to serve as their PR agency of record. The firm’s expertise in crisis communications and issues management, however, continues to be its hallmark offering. ReviveHealth is driven by an overarching commitment to its purpose: to help healthcare brands thrive.

ReviveHealth has been a standout since its inception in 2009, already having unique positioning as a leader in health technology, health systems and health services while traditional healthcare practices were diversifying beyond pharma. In 2018, that appeal spurred a range of new client relationships, as ReviveHealth’s roster grew to include VCU Health, Atlantic Health, Geisinger Health, Kaiser Permanente, Connecticut Children's, New York-Presbyterian, Teladoc Health and Halo Communications. All while the firm continued investing the time and resources in serving its existing partners, a notable list including VCU Health, Caravan Health, Tenet Healthcare, New York-Presbyterian, Penn State Health and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Health system clients account for 60% of the agency’s revenue; the other 40% comes from health services and technology companies.

ReviveHealth, which has been awarded for its culture and services, started 2018 taking stock of where it was at — and what would propel the agency even further. In turn, and under the watch of CEO Brandon Edwards, ReviveHealth made a big investment in data analytics, committing resources to making sure it had the systems and tools necessary to offer richer, deeper capabilities. Today, leveraging data and research is a core component of ReviveHealth’s approach to client service, using the information not only to make informed decisions but to challenge the team’s own biases and points of view. It’s how the firm ensures that its work is being guided by facts. The result was some of ReviveHealth’s most creative and successful 2018 initiatives including its See Goodness effort for EVP EyeCare, a gamma knife technology launch campaign for the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center and its positioning of Penn State Health as part of the central Pennsylvania community. — DM

RxMosaic (Marina Maher/Omnicom)

RxMosaic can trace its history back to the days when Omnicom-owned Brodeur Partners felt the need to add healthcare to its core tech business. After four years as part of Brodeur and another four as part of Omnicom’s healthcare-focused ad agency LLNS, it became part of Marina Maher Communications in 2014 — and since then has enjoyed an impressive rejuvenation and transformation. At the time, it was an agency of 15 people, with three accounts and growth that was tepid at best. Today, it’s a 44-person shop with 17 clients and a track record of double-digit growth in each of the past four years.

Under the leadership of managing director Jane Petrino and director of healthcare Michele Schimmel — both veterans of the healthcare practice at Cohn & Wolfe — RxMosaic has developed a true positioning, taking proud ownership of the “healthcare geek” label in emphasizing science and talking about the firm as a “communications lab.” But the firm has also emphasized a culture that is a place for explorers — those who want to expand the boundaries of healthcare communications — and futurists.

There’s an emphasis on data-driven communications that is shared by parent company MMC, with products like Advocacy in Motion (harnessing the power of patient advocates on behalf of pharma and health tech clients); HCPiD, which identifies healthcare professionals who are also opinion leaders; and Patient Micro Clustering, which goes beyond demographic segmentation to micro-target groups with common interests and behaviors. The approach has helped attract a client list that includes pharma giants like Teva, Novartis, Takeda and Pfizer, as well as specialty companies such as Leo, Cooper Surgical, Roche Diabetes, and Quest Diagnostics. New in 2018 were Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Purdue and Eisai, and Novartis Oncology.

The work ranges from helping Roche address the high cost of diabetes treatment with a savings card, using financial planners and influencers; to helping Plan B address the need for choice in reproductive health, telling stories and using creative experiential to help women understand the different choices available to them; to working with Terry Bradshaw to educate boomers about pneumococcal pneumonia in a way that drove doctor visits. — PH

Spectrum (Independent)

2018 marked the completion of Spectrum’s sale to CEO Jonathan Wilson, and the firm’s growth trajectory since he came onboard five years ago has been nothing short of remarkable, from $5m to $33m, after 37% growth in 2018 alone. Now numbering 120 people, Spectrum last year expanded its leadership ranks by hiring Ketchum veteran Jon Higgins as chief engagement officer, joining an expanded strategy council that also includes Wilson, Michelle Gross (president), Rob Oquendo (chief innovation officer), Michelle Strier (chief strategy officer) and Scott Chesson (chief operations officer).

Spectrum’s growth owes much to its deep focus on health and science communications, which is bolstered by its expertise in the fast growing areas of biotech and health technology. Last year, there was new business from Accent Therapeutics, Aclaris Therapeutics, Adaptive Phage Technologies, Akrevia Therapeutics, Cellular Biomedicine Group and Otonomy, joining an existing client roster that features Astellas, Dermira, Medtronic, Veracyte, Tesaro and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Spectrum’s work is also increasingly global, which it services through its GlobalHealthPR alliance.

And Spectrum’s campaign work reflects this expertise. The firm developed a compelling patient activation initiative with AbbVie to help sufferers of HS, and also worked with the Sepsis Alliance on the creation and launch of It’s About TIME, a national initiative raising awareness of sepsis and the urgent need to recognize symptoms and seek treatment. — AS