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

2018 EMEA Public Affairs Consultancies of the Year

Our 2018 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 Amsterdam on 23 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 20 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here. 

Winner: APCO (Independent)

APCO’s EMEA operation has long been built around twin pillars of strength in London and Brussels—the two most significant public affairs markets in the region—but under the leadership of Claire Boussagol, who joined the firm in 1995 and took the helm in Europe after Brad Staples was elevated to the global CEO role at the end of 2014, it has expanded both geographically and in terms of the kind of work it does in the corporate reputation and crisis and issues management spaces, its operations in Germany (offices in Berlin and Frankfurt, up 31% last year), Italy (Rome and Milan, 31% growth), and France are all making a significant contribution. The Middle East operation, meanwhile, was up by 21% last year and with 170 people is the UAE and Saudi Arabia is a major player in the region and a significant contributor to APCO’s EMEA region.

New business wins and expanded assignments came from across the region: American Express, a new global assignment; Boeing in France and Germany; Celgene in Brussels and Paris; and the Copper Alliance in the UK and the US. They also came from across a wide range of industries, from a public affairs and corporate communications assignment for Roche in the healthcare space to a Yum Brands win the consumer arena to work for Palo Alto Networks in the growing technology practice to the Republic of Bulgaria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, indicative of the firm’s strength in representing government clients. Other additions included Arconic, Allianz, Global Citizen, Oculus, Microsoft, and the Motion Picture Association of America. As a result, EMEA the growth was an extremely robust 12%.

The work last year included public affairs and executive leadership communications for Facebook and support for organizational change at Tui in Germany; crisis management support for Whirlpool around plant closings and support for Apple during CEO Tim Cook’s meeting with the Pope in Italy; corporate and CEO positioning for NetJets and issues management around sexual health for Reckitt Benckiser’s Durex brand in the UK; and helping to secure EU funding for Rotary International’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative in Brussels. The firm also continued to expand its APCO Insight group, led by Chris Levy, across the region, adding team members in other key markets and managing research projects for Bulgaria, Metro, Roche and more. — PH


Interel (Independent)

It’s been a big year for Brussels-based Interel, in which it practically doubled in size overnight through the acquisition of leading Washington advocacy firm Association Management Group. This brought $10m of business into the combined firm, now thought to be the world’s largest independent public affairs consultancy, resulting in fee income for the year up 74% to $24m and headcount up 68% to 197 staff worldwide.

It looks to be a good fit for Interel, which celebrates its 35th birthday this year: a European-based global public affairs form with a growing association practice but limited US presence, and a US-based association management and advocacy firm with no international reach. To ensure a successful merger, the team – led by Interel CEO Fredrik Lofthagen, Association Management managing partner Bob Lewis and Jason C Jarrell, managing partner of the global practice – invested in an internal and external stakeholder exercise called “What’s the sum of your organisation?”

In a year of tragedy as well as success, as Interel’s chair in Germany, Claudia Conrad-Kreml, and CFO Christine Burgaud, a key driver of the firm’s global expansion, both died after illness, the firm carried out much impactful client work. Notably, it retained Alibaba Group to build its public affairs function across eight markets, kept Coca-Cola on top of EU policy developments, increased Medicare reimbursement for the American Ambulance Association, modelled European energy trends for Eaton in a groundbreaking study on economic tipping points, and secured the UK government’s commitment to stopping puppy smuggling for the Dog’s Trust.

Pagefield (UK/Independent)

Still only seven years old, Pagefield’s progression into one of the UK’s top public affairs firms has rarely seemed in doubt, thanks to an ability to deliver topnotch senior counsel in a market that rewards such expertise. In 2017, the firm grew by an an impressive 32% to an estimated £6m in fee income, strengthening its offer by snapping up a number of ex-Bell Pottinger executives to launch sister firm Pagefield Global Counsel, which focuses on litigation, crisis comms and international affairs. 

There was further change earlier in the year when Oliver Foster, part of the firm’s founding team under Mark Gallagher, became Pagefield’s first chief executive. Significant new recruits also included Times journalist Philip Bank and the FCO’s Liam Parker. And Pagefield’s unique culture retains a distinguishing edge, with no silos and a focus on the team rather than financial growth.

In 2017, for example, the firm won impressive new business from Avon, CitySprint, EEF, eHarmony, Hunter Boots, the University of Cambridge and Santander, joining an existing client roster that features AB InBev, Camelot, Discovery, Experian, the Fundraising Regulator, HS1, Kellogg’s and Leidos.

Much of the work reflects Pagefield's ability to handle complex issues management work. This is best illustrated, perhaps, by Pagefield’s Museum of London campaign, which won the SABRE Award of Consumer Marketing in 2017. Other campaign highlights included supporting the Fundraising Regulator’s launch of the Fundraising Preference Service; helping AB InBev showcase its commitment to UK agriculture; marking the 10th anniversary of HS1; and executing Kellogg’s annual Breakfast Club Awards. — AS

PLMR (UK/Independent)

A year ago, PLMR was a ten-year-old, medium-sized public affairs agency that wasn’t quite able to break into work for blue-chip clients. Rather than plateauing, founder and CEO Kevin Craig and his team, including MD Elin de Zoete, launched a strategy of acquisition to take the business forward. They quickly found and bought two specialist agencies to bolster its capabilities in the key sectors of town planning (Snapdragon Consulting) and education (Mango Marketing).

A year later, the three firms form an integrated agency of 55 people, with fee income boosted 36% to £4.3m. PLMR is on track to be a £5m business this year and is now winning competitive pitches for the likes of utility giant Centrica, flagship London development Battersea Power Station, the world’s biggest recruitment form Adecco, eBay’s Gumtree online marketplace.

Snapdragon founder Rebekah Paczek came on board as MD of the new planning public affairs practice, and the firm also hired two senior advisers: Neil Carmichael, former chair of the Education Select Committee, and Joe Mitton, a former special advisor on business to Boris Johnson, who now heads up the agency’s Brexit Unit.

PLMR has a reputation for being a hard agency for recruiters to tempt staff away from, and has always had a philanthropic streak, donating 5% of profits to charity from day one. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Craig’s background as a Labour councillor and parliamentary candidate, the agency also has a natural bent towards health and social care work, with clients including health, hygiene and household multinational Reckitt Benckiser (another 2017 win) and online GP service PushDoctor. — MPS