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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.
Bateman Group (Independent)
The Bateman Group mirrors the tech companies it represents by fostering a culture of taking risks, failing fast and sharing learnings. This startup thinking has turned Bateman into a fast-moving agency with revenue jumping 17% to $14.5m in 2018.
This drive to stay on the cutting edge of PR has netted the agency a notable 82% client retention rate with 19% growth from existing clients, which include: Anthemis Group, Ginkgo Bioworks, Google, LinkedIn Sales Solutions, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, Scale Venture Partners, Tenable, Digital Ocean and Recorded Future, among others. In 2018, the firm received 320 leads — some of which were referred to its friendly competitive agencies, others which resulted in Bateman adding new clients like: Chronicle, Gemini, Ginkgo Joyn, Google Trust, Iridescent, Pendo, Synthego, Tradeshift, Unusual Ventures, UTC Digital and Waystar.
The agency embraced content early and ensured that it became a core agency competency, rather making it an expensive side business. The agency built its content team around talent with unconventional, but relevant, backgrounds — and today, the team produces 500 pieces of thought leadership content and writes 135 articles for client executives per year. The firm’s new Social Media Rapid Response combines real-time marketing with classic PR rapid response.
This year, the management noticed that San Francisco’s high cost of living was becoming an inhibitor to growth, in particular around hiring junior talent. In response, the leadership moved some talent, per their request, to Brooklyn and opened a new office in a lower-cost city. Its 70 employees are now spread across offices in San Francisco, Brooklyn and Portland, Oregon. The key leadership team includes CEO/founder Fred Bateman, partners/presidents Bill Bourdon and Tyler Perry. The firm added Shannon Hutto as a partner/general manager of San Francisco last year.
The agency took an integrated approach in launching SkyRyse, an autonomous flight startup, from stealth in August 2018. The campaign involved building social media accounts and a communications platform completely from the ground-up. — AaS
The Bulleit Group (Independent)
Despite being surrounded by innovation, tech firms can tread in the shallow waters of tactical execution. The Bulleit Group, however, breaks through with exceptional intellectual curiosity and a drive to innovate right alongside its clients. This was evident, for instance, in its work with Thor Trucks that landed as #2 Best in Show at the Innovation SABRE Awards. The campaign involved ‘newsjacking’ against competitor Tesla with game-changing results. Judges lauded the work for telling a “compelling launch story on a limited budget by using Tesla to propel Thor Trucks to the front of the narrative.”
When it comes to talent, the Bulleit Group prioritizes senior-level staff with diverse backgrounds in anthropology, law, politics, data science and linguistics. The firm fuses deep tech expertise with public affairs, which is increasingly important to tech companies. Senior staff come from both sides of the political aisle, providing counsel on issues ranging from data privacy to electric and autonomous vehicle regulation. Among its 27 employees, seven have direct public affairs backgrounds and five have worked either on Capitol Hill and/or the White House.
The agency’s unparalleled positioning is paying off. The Bulleit Group grew by 65% in 2018, pushing its revenues up to $5.35m. This comes on the back of a slower 2017 when co-founders Kyle Arteaga and Alex Hunter focused more on putting systems in place for continued growth. This was a far-reaching endeavor that included revamping contract management, HR policies, billing, network security and all admin processes.
Bulleit has counted Google as a client since 2012 and its work with the tech giant has now grown to 12 divisions, other long-standing clients include LinkedIn (since 2015), Bloomberg (since 2016), Bridgewater (since 2016), Flexport (since 2015), Orbital Insight (since 2015), among others. New clients include P&G Ventures, Thor Trucks, HackerOne, Helm, Orro, Lilt and rideOS, among others.
Notable hires include former head of comms at Clover Health and Yammer Shelley Risk as SVP and GM of San Francisco, in addition to five account leads. The firm also unveiled a dedicated speaker’s bureau last year and it is increasingly handling crisis situations across its practice areas: mobility, energy, security and AI/robotics. — AaS
Max Borges Agency (Independent)
While some firms are constantly on the hunt for new areas of investment, Max Borges maintains a singular focus: be the best at consumer tech and media relations. The limited scope of its capabilities hasn’t limited its growth: in its 17th year of business, the firm grew 18% to $7.8m.
By going deep in few areas, the firm has been able to sharpen its expertise with proprietary tools, like its Collective Intelligence Report that aggregates consumer tech trends into a biannual report. This is used to develop media plans that center on the top 10% most game-changing media outlets for each client. What’s interesting is how much the top 10% varies for clients depending on their sector, business maturity and other factors.
Its Annual Media Preview has become a one-stop gift-guide for 130+ top tier media and is completely serviced with MBA employees. The agency-owned Tech Launch Pad produces polished tech segments —featuring its clients— that is picked up by independent media outlets. Clients include AT&T, Cricket Wireless, KANO, Matrix, Polar, Singing Machine, ThinkGeek, Urbanears, Marshall, Cargo, iDevices, Sound United (new), Adero (new), Decluttr (new), The Zebra (new) and Case-Mate (new), among others.
In 2002, founder Max Borges launched the firm with no PR experience — and no college degree. His management experience is drawn from studying business masters like Jack Welch and Henry Ford. Borges is now working on his own book “Autonomous” about professional services. He remains at the helm with support from SVP Matt Shumate who oversees operations; VP and Miami GM Brad Hobbs; and VPs Lindsay Stuart and Tiffany DesMarais.
Notable work includes landing data-driven stories around Strava’s Year in Sport Report, including a story angle based on one data point (Quitter’s Day) that garnered 33 pieces of coverage in less than two weeks. The agency generated its own media blitz last December when it released research showing that Millennials would give up sex before Amazon. — AaS
Method Communications (Chime)
In the hotly competitive tech PR market, agency sales get noticed. When we broke the news in December that the UK holding group Chime Communications had bought Method, the story immediately became one of our most shared articles and still remains one of our most popular stories.
The sale took the technology PR industry by surprise, much like Method’s entire trajectory from obscurity to a formidable tech player in less than a decade. Given how insular Silicon Valley can be, many firms that come from other markets fail to ever gain momentum in the Bay Area. Yet Method’s co-founders David Parkinson and Jacob Moon charged into the San Francisco market from Salt Lake City and have grown both offices steadily. In 2018, revenues were up 9.2% to $12m with a client portfolio that includes Qualtrics, Vivint Smart Home, Domo, Cloudera, New Relic, Traeger, Pluralsight, RingCentral (new), Check Point (new) and others.
The firm has built its brand around serving “unicorns” or companies with billion dollar valuations, noting that 40% of its clients are currently in that category. In 2018, Method clients raised nearly $500 million in funding, participated in $11.25 billion worth of acquisitions and raised $500 million as part of their IPOs. The firm supported three of 2018’s major equity events: Pluralsight and Domo’s IPOs and Qualtrics’ $8 billion acquisition by SAP. Other notable work includes crafting RingCentral’s corporate narrative around the future of work.
The Chime acquisition should make Method even more competitive with even larger brands and will accelerate its move into New York this quarter. Long-term plans include expanding into other US markets, including Seattle and Austin. — AaS
WE Communications (Independent)
The fiercely independent technology firm has seen its fortunes turn recently with US organic growth at 9.5% to $94m. Global growth was 7.7% on an organic basis, with another 7% attributed to acquisitions. The momentum was driven by growth across all three of its sectors: technology, consumer and healthcare. Moreover, much of this is coming from WE’s new positioning around Brands in Motion, which studies how consumers expect brands to evolve and innovate. Mostly recently, the research put a spotlight on consumer expectations that brands use technology ethically and responsibly. WE’s positioning, mostly as a technology firm, has also helped as technology has morphed from being a sector to, now, an integral driver of the economy. For instance, Capital One, McDonalds, Volvo and Adobe were among the brands that tapped into WE Communication’s deep tech chops for work this past year.
Since co-founder Pam Edstrom died in 2017, Melissa Waggener Zorkin has remained at the helm as CEO & president with a revamped leadership team. North America president Kass Sells recently moved into the role of global operating officer/president of international, tasked with managing several agencies in Asia-Pacific that were bought under his predecessor Alan VanderMolen. Meanwhile, Dawn Beauparlant has been promoted to president of North America while retaining her chief client officer role. (Other notable departures of late include COO Jen Granston; EVP Matt Haynes; EVP Matt Lackie and EVP Alyssa Garnick.)
The agency operates in seven markets in North America (23 offices around the world) with its presence expanding this year with the acquisition of the content shop Codeword, which has offices in San Francisco, New York and Salt Lake City. WE’s services include digital strategy, new media storytelling trends, influencer analytics and experience design. The firm increased the usage of integrated services by 77% in North America.
Microsoft, of course, remains WE’s anchor client for more than 30 years. Other clients are: AT&T, Brother, E2open, F5 Networks, iRobot, McDonalds, RSA and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. New clients include: Amcor, ASUS Technology, CapitalOne, Cornerstone on Demand, DBS Bank, GN Hearing, Kony, Sitecor, Tencent and TrendMicro. — AaS
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