Public Affairs Consultancies of the Year, Asia-Pacific 2015 | Holmes Report

2015 Asia-Pacific Corporate & Public Affairs Consultancies of the Year

Our 2015 Asia-Pacific PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 100 face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across the region.

Winners were announced at the Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards in Hong Kong on 23 September. Analysis of all consultancies across geographic and specialist categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below.

Corporate & Public Affairs Consultancy of the Year — SenateSHJ (Australia/New Zealand, Independent)

One of the top five independents in Australia and New Zealand—it has offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington—SenateSHJ has a team of close to 60 generation revenue of close to NZ$10 million, with a focus on the high-stakes, high-value sector of the market: reputation management, crisis and issues, change communications, and public affairs. But the past couple of years have seen an expansion of the firm’s social and digital capabilities, including the launch of a specialist video production unit, Kamber. The firm acquired New Zealand-based PR Partners, and added new partners Craig Badings, an expert in thought leadership and executive coaching and Matt Foran, former head of external affairs at Australia Post, and consulting partner David McCarthy, former head of Edelman’s Melbourne office.

New business came from Beijing Capital Group, Inland Revenue, and Waste Management in New Zealand and Hanes Group in Australia, joining a roster that includes Astra Zeneca, BP Oil, Bayer, Google, Novartis, Origin Energy, Statoil, and Woolworths. Interesting work included helping BP win the Energy Retailer of the Year award for second year running; corporate social responsibility work on My Cancer, My Voice; and award-winning community relations outreach for the Australian Medicines Industry.—PH


APCO Worldwide (Independent)

APCO’s Greater China operations launched with a focus on market access—helping companies navigate the sometimes opaque regulatory environment in Beijing—but quickly expanded into broader public affairs and reputation work (including crisis management and corporate social responsibility), with particular expertise in the healthcare and food and beverage sectors. In recent years, the operation has gone from strength to strength under the leadership of chairman Jim McGregor, author of two highly-regarded China-focused books, with a background in media, consulting and research) and over the past 12 months has seen greater integration of its Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong offices, with business development, talent, and client services working more closely, and in 2014 achieving 27 percent growth, ending the year with fees of more than HKD 50 million. Building on its work with key clients like Enterprise Florida (a major economic development assignment), Educational Testing Service (a client for nearly 15 years), Johnson & Johnson (crisis communications, corporate positioning, and CSR), Microsoft (an expanding piece of business spanning several issues), and Walmart (including corporate positioning and crisis response), the firm added work for AdvaMed, GSK, Missouri Department of Economic Development, AirBnB, and Netflix.—PH

Burson-Marsteller (WPP)

With increasing scrutiny of overseas multinationals and foreign government clients in China, Burson-Marsteller’s leadership in the crisis and public affairs arena has been a continued source of competitive advantage. To better deal with complex and multifaceted assignments, the firm merged its government relations team (including its Public Policy Consulting Group) with its corporate affairs team, while the return of Daisy King—head of the US-China Specialty Team and an expert in market entry issues—from New York top Beijing reinforced a strong existing team. The firm also continues as a leader in crisis and issues management in China and across the region, and has strong research and evaluation capabilities through its PSB sister firm, which has offices in India and Singapore. Regionally, interesting work ranged from key opinion leader mapping for BOE Technology Group in China to a successful recruitment campaign in India for Ashoka University to management of trade related issues for a foreign government and major Chinese trading partner. With a strong team already in place, one impressive new hire saw Dr. Chang’an Tien: former chief representative for FedEx Pacific and VP of government affairs for Ford, join as senior consultant in China. Thought leadership initiatives include the firm’s Corporate Perception Indicator study, now in its second year.—PH

Sefiani Communications Group (Australia, Independent)

After a dozen years in regional leadership positions with Edelman, Robyn Sefiani launched her own firm in 1999 and quickly established it as a leader in corporate and financial communications and public affairs. With a strong cadre of experienced senior executives— Sefiani has been joined by a trio of directors and shareholders: Nicholas Owen, Sarah Craig and recently-promoted Francesca Boase are all veterans of major global agencies—and a major commitment to professional development and client service, Sefiani has expanded its leadership in areas such as crisis management, litigation, and executive coaching. It has also expanded its suite of crisis and issues services and its planning methodology, Alchemy, and launched a new consumer-focused sister agency, Kite. It grew at a healthy pace in 2014, and now has a team of more than 20 serving clients including MetLife, Allen & Overy, ARUP and; Australian market leaders HCF Australia, Vita Group, McGrathNicol, Crescent Wealth, The Tax Institute and Western Sydney Institute TAFE; and Asian property developers UEM Sunrise and M&L Hospitality. New clients in the past year include REST Industry Super, AMP Capital, Expedia LPS, Rabobank, Bright Foods, Hamilton Island, R M Williams, Baptist Care, Kip McGrath Education, Chartered Accountants Institute, Pepinnini Minerals, Everlight Radiology, and Australia for UNHCR. Award-winning work included campaigns for RateSetter (a peer-to-peer lender) and Western Sydney Institute of TAFE.—PH

SPAG Asia (India, Independent)

An impressive newcomer, SPAG Asia has carved out a niche for itself in two areas that are under-served in the region: focusing on clients in the healthcare sector (and the pharmaceutical space in particular) and offering an impressive expertise in public affairs. The firm has two things that are necessary to cut through the clutter in a highly-competitive environment: a distinctive point-of-view grounded in its “be real” value statement, and an intellectual approach that begins with its research-driven IDEA (Influencer Driven Engagement Approach) methodology. The firm has also introduced a new C-Plan offering, a suite of crisis management services. All of this helped SPAG expand quickly—it now has offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Singapore, and Washington, DC, after just two years, with fee income of $1.5 million. The firm has picked up business from the US Chambers of Commerce (a mandate expanded from India to include Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia); PhRMA; Gilead Sciences (another multi-market assignment); the Partnership to Fight Chronic Diseases; and IKEA Foundation. Interesting work has included building awareness of the “value of IP” for the US Chambers, and ensuring that non-communicable diseases were a priority in Indian health policy for the Partnership to Fight Chronic Diseases.—PH