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Our 2017 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 Agencies of the Year for every category can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.
Winners were unveiled at the 2017 North American SABRE Awards, at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York on May 2.
Another of the growing cadre of midsize players that are outperforming the overall market, the 25-year-old Prosek Partners benefits from in-depth knowledge of the financial and professional service sectors, bringing a broad range of services and skills from an entrepreneurial culture that is led by CEO Jennifer Prosek. In 2016, fees grew by an eye-catching 29% to $31.5m, powered by new business from Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Glenview, Blackstone, EY, Prudential and Nuveen, and by the acquisition of LA's Muirfield Partners to extend geographical reach and strengthen M&A and crisis communications capabilities.
That deal resulted in Mickey Mandelbaum joining the agency as partner, with the hire of partner Andy Merrill also helping to expand Prosek's already strong financial services offering into transactions communications, issues and crisis management services. Indeed, Prosek has always prided itself as functioning as something of an 'outsourced marketing department' for its key clients, illustrated well by work for EY (an 'extreme makeover' of its annual TAS report) and PGIM (successful reputation building for Prudential Financial's $1tn investment management business). — PH
Fahlgren Mortine (Independent)
Now 55 years old, fiercely independent Ohio firm Fahlgren Mortine shows little sign of slipping into obsolescence, growing revenues by 19% to $24.4m in 2016 under the leadership of CEO Neil Mortine. The firm's B2B capabilities remain more sophisticated than most, bolstered by investment in marketing automation and data analytics, at a firm that has typically been ahead of the curve when it comes to blending public relations with digital strategy and creative content.
The firm's B2B portfolio benefits from its consumer capabilities, enabling Fahlgren Mortine to tap into more innovative solutions for clients across the technology, education healthcare and tourism sectors. The firm's B2B Peer Summits — shortlisted at the In2 SABRE Awards — also catch the eye, providing in-house networking and learning for B2B prospects and clients, and driving more than $200,000 in agency income.
Campaign highlights include work for TravelNevada and Wyoming Office of Tourism that blends consumer and corporate to strong effect. — AS
Group Gordon (Independent)
There’s a false perception in our business that firms either excel at strategy or execution — and those who can do both are unicorns of sorts. Part of Group Gordon’s positioning is to dispel that stubborn myth with high-end service that aligns communications plans with business outcomes.
The firm tends to work with organizations doing good — philanthropies, nonprofits and responsible businesses. This niche has paid off with significant growth nearly every year, high client retention and building a non-bureaucratic culture (the firm has consistently has a strong showing on our Best Agencies to Work For). Group Gordon has 24 employees and has grown 25% over the last two years and retained 91% of clients in 2016. Among those: Dunbar, AssetMark, Shake Shack, H2O+ Beauty, DonorsChoose.org and new clients Willis Towers Watson, Global Policy Solutions, Habitat for Humanity NYC and others. CEO Michael Gordon runs the firm with a leadership bench that includes COO Jeremy Robinson-Leon, John Keaten and Lana Gersten.
Notable work includes that for DonorsChoose.org that challenged Americans to support a classroom project and make it the #BestSchoolDay. On #BestSchoolDay, the campaign revealed that 50 celebrities, philanthropists, and business leaders were “flash funding” all classroom projects in their home communities – more than $14 million. There was also a storytelling-based call-to-action strategy to inspire citizens to fund 20k projects: 30 celebrities created personal videos sharing “best school day” stories and asking others to take part. #BestSchoolDay was the biggest day in DonorsChoose.org’s history, raising $16.8 million from 33k+ individual donors. — AaS
Lambert, Edwards & Associates (Independent)
Lambert Edwards & Associates markets itself as “The PR Firm That Can Read an Income Statement.” That might (hopefully) not be quite the differentiator that it was 18 years ago, when LE&A was starting out, but it does capture a business-oriented results-driven mindset that has helped the firm (which has offices in Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids establish itself as the leader in the Michigan market and one of the top corporate and financial PR firms in the Midwest.
With a team of 40 from agency, Wall Street, public policy and journalism backgrounds, the firm’s heritage is in investor relations, transaction communications, corporate and B2B PR, crisis and issues management, and public affairs, but the past few years have seen an expansion of the firm’s digital and social media capabilities through its Ripple+Affect unit, which offers web development and online advertising expertise and has been adding social listening and video storytelling offers.
Last year started with the discouraging news that LE&A’s largest client, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (8% of the firm’s revenue) was moving on, but president and managing partner Jeffrey Lambert committed to a new strategic plan, the implementation of a performance-based culture and greater financial transparency, and the firm picked up work from Peak Resorts, MGP Ingredients, Spectrum Health, Flint Chamber, Flint Community Schools, Detroit Public Schools, Ferris Coffee and Nut, Swift Biosciences, Rainbow Childcare, and Horizon Global, joining a roster that includes Blackford Capital, Continental Automotive, Inventure Foods, Michigan Economic Development Corp., Mercantile Bank, Michigan Department of Education, Spartan Motors and more and growing by 6% (an 18th straight year of growth) to end the year with fees of around $7.5 million.— PH
More than three decades after its founding, Taft is amid a resurgence of sorts as its focus has shifted to PR, social media branding and leadership comms. The firm likens its ambition to the trajectory of fellow New Jersey locals Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen — “what started out as a hot act locally has turned into a globally respected brand.” The firm has tripled in revenue over the last three years with clients that span across health, education, energy, public policy, and the environmental sector.
Revenues are up 50% to $3.6m with 17 employees with backgrounds that include a former nonprofit CEO, an actor, a former head of compliance & ethics for an international corporation, two gubernatorial press secretaries, an art historian, an online magazine editor, and a PhD in English. Clients include ReThink Energy NJ (interestingly, for a campaign to stop unneeded natural gas pipelines and promote renewable energy), MedAvante, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Acadia Pharmaceuticals, DiversityInc, RWJBarnabas Health and Samsung Bioepis. New wins include the Fund for New Jersey, Cubic Transportation Systems,, International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, among others.
Founders Mara Connolly Taft and Pete Taft still lead the organization as creative director and CEO, respectively. The management team includes president Ted Deutsch and VP Jayne O’Conner that oversee a team that hasn’t experienced churn in four years. The firm developed Taft ClearPoint as its leadership communications service designed to “spark change in organizations and individuals” via tailor-made workshops, coaching and video production. Also two of its principals have led diversity & inclusion efforts in-house and the firm was recognized by PR News’ Diversity in PR Awards for its inaugural “New Jersey State of Diversity” Survey in 2016. — AaS
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