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When M&C Saatchi PR’s former global MD Gary Wheeldon and global executive creative director Steve Strickland launched their own creative comms agency in 2016 for “brands looking to upstage the status quo”, it was always going to shake up the PR business.
Talker Tailor Trouble Maker bills itself as straight talking, hungry, risk-taking, fun-loving, controversy-courting and smart thinking. With big name clients like Wagamama, Mastercard, Deliveroo and Direct Line already along for the ride, the duo have exploded any notion that start-ups have to start small: fee income for 2017 was achingly close to £1m, and the agency already has 16 staff.
Significant hires over the year included former Freud’s director Alex Pearse, who is helping to drive growth among the agency’s retained clients, former News of the World and Loaded editor Ian Edmondson as head of media and Instagram queen Jolene Lukeba, who is developing high-reach influencer programmes.
Talker Tailor Trouble Maker does almost everything differently to the rest of the industry, from closing the office every Wednesday to make the space available “for the greater good”, to unlimited holiday and providing breakfast, lunch, a free bar and awards outfits to its team. Strickland and Weeldon set out to create a diverse agency from the off, and thought leadership last year from the opinionated agency included PR WOKE, voicing the views of BAME people in the industry. — MPS
With a leadership team that features Jeremy Galbraith and Katarina Wallin Bureau — the architects of Burson-Marsteller’s impressive EMEA presence in recent years — BoldT was always likely to make a bang when it started life at the end of 2017. And in just six months the firm is already forecasting revenue of €2m, underpinned by such clients as PepsiCo, European consumer organisation BEUC, Norwegithan publishing house Aschehoug, Area and Norwegian patient organisation LHL.
That haul reflects BoldT’s regional capabilities, which Galbraith has built by focusing on senior talent from his old Burson-Marsteller stomping grounds. In addition to Wallin Bureau, who is based in Brussels, the firm’s senior team also includes former MEP and Dutch Labour Party chairman Michiel van Hulten and the former CEOs of Burson-Marsteller Nordics and Switzerland — Morten Pettersen and Matthias Graf, respectively. Similar level leaders are expected soon in Oslo and Zurich, with BoldT’s multi-market offering gives it a distinctive edge versus other independent consultancies.
Of course, that is not the only thing BoldT has going for it. There are four external investors to support growth, and a focus on people that marks it out as a refuge for senior holding group talent. Unsurprisingly, furthermore, the leaders have developed a business strategy and communications methodology that aims to help clients understand the delicate balance between doing and talking. That was reflected by BoldT’s strategic counsel to PepsiCo’s government affairs unit. — AS
Milk & Honey PR (UK)
Milk & Honey was set up at the start of 2017 by Kirsty Leighton, the former MD of Hudson Sandler, who brought more than 20 years of experience from the likes of Edelman, Text100, Orange and Waggener Edstrom to the creation of her own business.
It was a brave move, but in 12 months, Leighton built a hive of six “strategists and storytellers”, gained a new retained client every six weeks, creating buzz for companies from ambitious start-ups telecoms firms, and posted fee income of £247,000. Clients include compliance software firm Corlytics, for which Milk & Honey went beyond coverage in the FT, Reuters, Dow Jones and the Sunday Times to generate so many sales enquiries that its marketing budget increased by 400%.
Leighton is ambitious: she’s putting the foundations in place to grow quickly into a mid-size agency. She has already secured PRCA management accreditation, has developed a rigorous creative corporate storytelling process, Creative CREAM, and recently brought Comic Relief’s former national media manager Kirsty Reid on board as client director to lead Milk & Honey’s consumer offering. But Leighton is determined to also build an agency that puts people first and has a happy and healthy culture, such as being “fully mobile” so team members can work anywhere, and quarterly “Bee kind to yourself” wellness or spa treats. — MPS
Founder Lizzie Earl’s back story alone means Munch is one to watch in the PR industry, and that’s before you take into account the 18-month-old agency’s growing entertainment client roster and the effectiveness of its campaigns. Earl was just 29 when she started Munch, and she’d already had a decade of adventures in consumer, B2B and tech PR and talent publicity. Hooked on PR from her first week of work experience aged 19, Earl has worked at Frank and Freud’s and in-house at Disney, and was headhunted by Golin to manage big-brand accounts in London and Hong Kong before realising her ambition of starting her own agency.
Earl’s vision was to offer the strategic thinking and efficient process of a large consultancy, blended with the creativity, tenacity, energy and cost-effectiveness of a boutique. Earl and her team focus on targeted media relations that gives clients a real-life return on their marketing spend via hard business results. Everything Munch does is a case study on the power of good PR, and it’s one of the reasons the agency was selected by crowdfunding platform Seedrs as its recommended consumer agency.
Munch, which had first year fee income of close to £121,000 and currently has three staff, is fast becoming a go-to agency for digital platforms, apps, TV channels and music clients because of its track record of smart, creative ideas that get consumers to watch, download, stream, listen, click or fund. For Music Crowns, a global promotion platform for unsigned, newly-signed and independent music artists, Munch drove streams of its first artist release, generating coverage in 12 countries, doubling traffic to the platform, gaining 44,000 listeners on Spotify in one week and knocking Ed Sheeran off the #1 spot in the iTunes singer-songwriter charts. — MPS
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