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Typically viewed as one of the UK's defining public affairs firms, Portland has broadened its capabilities considerably to cover the full range of corporate communications in recent years, with the moves paying off to such an extent that it grew by as much as 70% in 2014, to more than £20m in fee income.
That performance is remarkable enough, but it should be placed into context. This is not just a lobbying shop making hay, but a firm that counsels the Barclays CEO on his repuation, and also provides similar advice to the likes of Nestle, Pfizer, Google, Apple (UK public policy work and projects on education and health) and McDonald's. With that growth has come increasingly international mandates, including plenty of work in the Middle East and Africa, often helping governments build their communications capabilities . All of which adds to an existing client roster that includes public affairs and corporate work for Aviva, NetworkRail, Heathrow (around its third runway plans), Funding Circle, AB Inbev and Hyatt; along with a strong base of foundations, for such as figures as Kofi Annan, Mo Ibrahim and Bill and Melinda Gates.
Plenty of the firm's work, meanwhile, has genuined moved the needle for its clients, reflecting its view that genuine reputation management requires an integrated of public affairs and corporate comms, in recognition of how regulaotry debate and scrutiny has moved beyond Westminster onto the High Street.
For example, the firm has helped Nestle position itself as a UK leader when it comes to skills and innovation. An expanding Heathrow account involves public affairs, local consultation, corporate comms, events, digital, content and branding. And its Barclays activity involves nothing less than transforming the bank's corporate reputation in tandem with CEO Antony Jenkins.
Now numbering 145 people, founder Tim Allan oversees a deep leadership team that includes former Sun political editor George Pascoe-Watson; ex-Downing Street advisor Steve Morris; and Tony Blair's former communications director Alastair Campbell. Allan likes to say that public relations is a "British success story". His own firm certainly provides evidence of that. — AS
Hering Schuppener (Germany/WPP/AMO)
Corporate and financial communications specialist Hering Schuppener is not only the best capital markets consultancies in Germany, it is one of the best in the world—the partner of choice in its market not only for the AMO network (Abernathy MacGregor, Maitland, Havas and others) of which it is a longtime member, but for many independent M&A specialists around the world.
One key to its success is the strength of its leadership team, from CEO Ralf Hering and senior advisor Bernd Schuppener to managing partners Martin Bury, Alex Geiser, Tina Mentner and Matthias Poth, senior consultants with a wealth of experience. They lead a team of 160 consultants across four broad areas of expertise—capital markets communications and investor relations, corporate communications, corporate and public affairs, and crisis management and “special situations”—as well as a specialist healthcare business focused on market access issues.
High-profile assignments last year included work for Airbus Group (for its attempted merger with BAE Systems), Commerzbank (capital fundraising), Deutsche Borse Group (for its attempted merger with NYSE Euronext), RWE (for the sale of its stake in Berlinwasse to Land Berlin), SAP (for its takeover bid for Ariba), and Telefonica (for its takeover offer for E-Plus). The only major challenge is growth—Hering Schuppener is conflicted out of a lot of opportunities because it represents so many market leaders—but as long as margins remain at the top end of the PR consultancy range, that won’t concern the principals too much.— PH
Newgate Communications (UK/Porta Group)
Formed by several senior ex-Citigate executives in late 2011, Newgate has emerged as one of the world’s fastest-growing PR firms, with a global footprint that now spans the UK, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. Despite its strengths in such traditional areas as corporate and financial, Newgate’s integrated approach lends itself to the view that audiences are now inter-linked, demand a response from one team that can manage relationships with business, investors, politicians and consumers- worldwide. The firm also takes a campaigning approach to issues, helping companies develop a point of view in such industries as financial services, retail and energy.
Citigate Dewe Rogerson founder Jonathan Clare serves as executive chairman of Newgate, with former Citigate corporate MD Deborah Saw occupying the managing partner role. Former Kreab Gavin Anderson president Fergus Wylie heads international development at Newgate parent Porta, while public affairs specialist Simon Nayyar is a managing partner. The Middle East, meanwhile, is led by Habib Bacha.
Client work is often linked to senior-level counsel, such as initiatives for Matchtech, Abu Dhabi Racing, Abu Dhabi Finance Xeros and UKOOG. Revenue growth was again remarkable, up 81% to £14m.— AS
Two years after being named Best New Consultancy in EMEA by the Holmes Report, Pagefield's continued emergence demonstrates that, just maybe, this publication might know a good firm when it sees one. In 2013, Pagefield had already cracked £2m in fee income, and its sustained growth across corporate and public affairs means that it is now closing in on the £4m barrier, after another year to remember.
Much of that is down to the firm's ability, like the best boutiques, to provide senior counsel in a market that rewards corporate expertise. In 2014, for example, the firm won business from Worth School, Philip Morris International, Lottotech, Viacom, Centrica, Visit England, and Heathrow, to go with a number of other interesting assignments that, sadly, must remain confidential. Regardless, they demonstrate Pagefield's ability to best bigger rivals for issues management work, and its success in growing its client base onto a more sound footing.
Some of the firm's work also deserves plaudits, including its stakeholder engagement for Airbnb; its continued support for Camelot; and its successful crowdfunding work for Lunar Mission One. Now numbering 22 people, the firm has also bolstered its leadership team beyond founder Mark Gallagher and Sara Price, and managing partner Oliver Foster. There were several new hires in 2014 including Will Spratt (partner, formerly of MHP and Cohn & Wolfe), Geoff Duggan (associate partner, from Porter Novelli) and Lucy Holbrook (associate partner, from Connect). We have also added Alison Hastings (former BBC trustee and Vice President of the BBFC) and Sir Alan Pascoe (former Olympic silver medallist, Vice Chairman of London’s 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Bid and entrepreneur) to our advisory board.— AaS
Seven Hills (UK/Independent)
Last year’s Corporate Consultancy of the Year continues to expand and evolve, building on its focus on the entrepreneurial economy—a positioning that saw Seven Hills through its first four years—to serve a wider variety of growth companies, taking a campaigning approach, communicating mission and purpose for companies with momentum. It’s an approach that has helped the firm built a portfolio of companies, CEOs, and destinations (a particular focus since Seven Hills’ inception) that includes the likes of Ovo Energy, Ella’s Kitchen, Cobra beer, Jessops, 118118 Money, Virgin Media, Evernote, RBS, Coutts, the International Festival for Business, Liverpool Vision and more.
Growth last year was around 33%, and Seven Hills ended the year with fee income of around £3.2m. The firm is also getting plaudits for its work, such as the “Feel Loved Again” campaign for Ovo, positioning the brand as an alternative to the “big six” energy providers, challenging the status quo and encouraging people to “break-up” with their current energy supplier on Valentine’s Day. For Simply Business, an insurance broker, Seven Hills devised a media campaign centered on the High Street Tracker, an annual temperature check of High Street traders. Next up for founders Michael Hayman and Nick Giles: a new book on the topic of Mission, featuring interviews with CEOs from innovative companies around the world, from airbnb to Whole Foods.— PH
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