EMEA Public Affairs PR Consultancies of the Year 2017 | Holmes Report

2017 EMEA Public Affairs Consultancies of the Year

Our 2017 EMEA PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 200 submissions and face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Winners were unveiled at the EMEA SABRE Awards in London on 23 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 21 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here. 

Winner: FTI Consulting (FTI)

Ranked as the fastest-growing midsize company in Brussels by Trends/Tendances, the leading Belgian business and financial magazine, FTI Consulting has a team of 70 public affairs experts from 22 different countries and has consolidated its leadership position in the Brussels public affairs market in recent years, growing by 30% a year, benefiting perhaps more than any other unit of the FTI communications business from synergies with other practices within the broader management consulting business: corporate finance, economic consulting, forensic and litigation expertise. Those capabilities mean a unique cross-disciplinary approach to problem-solving for clients. And in addition to the powerhouse Brussels office, the public affairs team has a presence in wholly-owned offices in Berlin, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Dubai, Dublin, Johannesburg, London, Moscow, Paris and Madrid.

Major clients in 2016 included MasterCard, Google, Facebook, Epson, Bayer, the TransAdriatic Pipeline, Exxon Mobil, Johnson & Johnson, Walk Free Foundation, Zalando, BNY Mellon, Netflix, Apex-Brasil, Booking.com, and Amazon, and high-profile assignments included generating support for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (a proposed natural gas pipeline through Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea landing in Italy) across the EU; helping to launch the Hydrogen Council, a newly formed group of global energy, transport and industry companies.

The firm has expanded its presence in financial services, building out expertise in asset management, insurance and exchanges; technology and media, focusing on the disruptive platforms and technology changing sectors such as automotive; energy and agri-chemicals; and healthcare. And it has specialist groups focused on competition, cyber, trade, tax categories, and of course Brexit, where a London-Brussels Brexit taskforce led by chair Louise Harvey has drawn on tailored research from an in-house polling group to develop a “war-gaming,” scenario-planning approach to the issue. — PH


APCO (Independent)

Senior APCO executives often bristle when the firm is described as a public affairs player, and with some justification — the expansion of APCO’s work not just into corporate, but also consumer, healthcare and digital, has been underway for several years now. Yet, in truth, that expansion also reflects the way that public affairs itself has evolved beyond a narrow focus on lobbying to broader understanding of the intersection of policy, media and all stakeholder groups. The firm’s 300-strong EMEA presence includes 123 people in the Middle East, with Continental Europe contributing around €15.5m in revenue last year. There are strong operations in the UK (where James Acheson-Gray up 16% since 2014 to around £6m); Germany (up 16% last year to around €3.5m, it's third year of double-digit growth); Brussels (now around €5.3m following a turnaround in recent years); Italy (which has grown to 15 people in six years, and will reach €1.5m this year); and France (where the firm has doubled in size in five years), Brussels (where 35 people generated revenue of €5.35m) and the Middle East, (which is worth around $14m, after a tough year in Turkey.)

The numbers are good but, as ever, it is the sheer quality of APCO's work that stands out, much of it driven by a consistently strong research and insights capability. In Italy, the firm handled change management for Whirlpool after the Indesit acquisition, helped Apple through its tax problems in the country, and supported eBay's efforts to revitalise SMEs in Aquila after the earthquake. In the UK, new healthcare chair James Tyrrell oversaw £1.4m in new business from the likes of GSK, Wrigley, Boehringer Ingelheim, GE Healthcare, J&J and Thrombisis UK, much of it work that included a policy/regulatory dimension alongside market access and communications. The UK also featured expanded business for Reckitt Benckiser, WorldVentures, Microsoft, Deloitte and Lockheed Martin, along with strong campaign work such as #BetterThanThat and Mars' proactive effort to disclose health warnings on its sauces. In Germany, there was a global project for WhatsApp and new business from TUI (global crisis response preparation), Disneyland Paris and Equinix. And in Brussels there were a string of new hires to build out a more rounded offering that features classic lobbying (Microsoft), litigation communications (GML), public affairs infrastructure (Danone) and a burgeoning competition practice (featuring Finland's TVO), that is forecast to bring in €2m in revenue this year. — AS

Burson-Marsteller (WPP)

Burson-Marsteller’s EMEA operations have long been anchored by the strength of its public affairs capabilities in London and Brussels and so it’s no surprise that the firm was biggest beneficiaries of the “Brexit bounce,” which saw a host of organizations seeking clarity about the policy situation in the EU and the UK in the wake of the British public’s shocking vote to withdraw from the Union.

Burson has some of the most impressive public affairs talent in the region. Kevin Bell, who joined BM in 2014 as global public affairs chair (and was promoted to global president in 2016) has been an adviser to several senior Conservative Party politicians in the UK and led public affairs for FleishmanHillard and Maitland. Andrew Cecil joined in 2016 to lead EMEA public affairs after leading the European public policy function for Amazon. Brussels chief executive Karen Massin has been with the firm for 16 years. And head of UK public affairs Stephen Day (who was promoted to COO in 2016) has held senior roles with Portcullis and in the Conservative Party.

The firm’s work included launching a policy audit on fertility in the European Parliament for Merck; visualizing the problem of air pollution for Air View; creating an ad campaign featuring footballers Marouane Fellaini and Anja Mittag showing support for refugees for the European Commission; promoting safe alcohol consumption for Cerveceros de Espana; and helping to launch the Counter Terrorism Coalition for Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. Other high-profile public affairs clients include Microsoft, Merck, Qualcomm and Spotify. The firm’s thought leadership activity in the arena includes its Twiplomacy research—the definitive study of social media use by world leaders—and “What Influences the Influencers,” a survey into the preferred news sources and social media channels used by MEPs, EU officials and opinion-formers in Brussels. — PH

Hanover Communications (UK/Independent)

Since its inception 19 years ago Hanover has evolved beyond its UK roots to become one of the world’s top public affairs consultancies, winning EMEA Consultancy of the Year honours in 2016 and taking home the Global Public Affairs trophy one year earlier. But even by those standards, 2016 counted as a remarkable year for Charles Lewington's firm, which grew 22% to more than £11m in fee income, its third consecutive year of 20%+ growth. Much of that was led by the firm's healthcare practice, but its flagship public affairs and corporate advocacy offerings continued to evolve too, bolstered by the deep insight into financial services, technology and healthcare sectors that has characterised its growth since it launched. 

Unsurprisingly for a firm with this much momentum there were no shortage of high-profile account wins and senior hires. There were several confidential corporate wins while, in healthcare, the firm beat McKinsey and Deloitte to a brief on Healthcare Technology Assessment reform. And, in Brussels, Apple and Liberty Global were among the many wins for the growing EU policy team. All of those join a blue-chip client roster that features Goldman Sachs, Sky, Lucozade Ribena, Suntory, Tata Steel, Cuadrilla, Lilly, Airbus, Shire, De Beers, and Microsoft.

In terms of personnel, the biggest catch was undoubtedly former BT corporate affairs chief Michael Prescott, who came onboard as group MD of corporate and political strategy. Also arriving were industry veterans Alastair Gornall as Hanover’s first non-executive Chairman, and Hanover Health chair Anna Korving. Threepipe co-founder Eddie May joined the firm as MD of its new Playbook creative comms consultancy, and there were also senior hires to lead the new Dublin and London operations. They join a well-established leadership team that features former Downing Street press secretary Lewington, supported by Andrew Harrison, director and global head of the healthcare practice; Laura Swire, director and head of Hanover’s advocacy team; and director and head of Hanover’s corporate and consumer practice, Gavin Megaw. Brussels is led by MD Christian Hierholzer. 

And, like many of its better rivals, Hanover’s work reflects the shifting public affairs landscape, enabling it to position Tata Steel as a responsible owner amid intense media scrutiny; establishing a Brexit consulting partnership with German firm Johanssen + Kretschmer; successfully launching flood reinsurance scheme Flood Re; and, helping the Hepatitis B & C Association to raise awareness among EU and national policymakers. — AS 

Newington (UK/SEC spa)

Newington celebrated 10 years in 2016 by rebranding from Bellenden to Newington with a fresh look and a new website, while also moving to a bigger London HQ with architectural features, designed by staff — and opening satellite offices in Birmingham, Manchester and Chelmsford. The firm also bolstered its culture with enhanced maternity cover, higher starting salaries, introduced a matched pension scheme and a new bonus program. All of this investment appears to already be showing some payoff — 20 new clients were won in 2016 (among these, Just Eat, Abbvie, Octopus Investments, Peel Group and Berkeley Homes) resulting in the 44-person firm securing fees £3 million with almost £600k from new business.

Fee income was relatively flat compared to 2015, in part because of the collapse of the onshore wind energy market in the UK. The firm now has a more diverse client portfolio reducing its exposure to any single individual market. Notable work includes that for  Horticultural Trades Association to raise its profile in Scotland and to put building blocks in place to start influencing the Scottish Parliament and government. The team’s counsel and activity has made the HTA the lead in establishing a Horticulture Framework for the Future Panel and Framework which will be used to present specific industry asks of the Scottish Government.

Mark Glover is CEO with a management team that includes Phil Briscoe, Naomi Harris, Chris White and Muniya Barau. — AaS