Nordic PR Consultancies of the Year 2019 | Holmes Report

2019 Nordic Consultancies of the Year

Our 2019 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 will be unveiled at the 2019 EMEA SABRE Awards dinner in London on 22 May. Analysis of all Finalists across 20 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Winner: H&H Group (Independent)

The firm formerly known as Hallvarsson & Halvarsson had established itself as the Nordic region’s most formidable financial communications specialist before it was sold to Sage Holdings in 2009. It spent the next five years in a kind of purgatory before senior executives Martin Petersson, Anders Halvarsson, Johan Ramsten and Staffan Lindgren bought the business back in 2014 — but in the three years since then the businesses now known as H&H Group have expanded at a very healthy pace, reclaiming their place of prominence in the financial space while diversifying their portfolio — most notably with the February 2016 acquisition of Swedish creative powerhouse Jung Relations.

That deal was followed up in 2017 by the acquisition of five more agencies (from the publicly-listed ICTA group), as H&H solidified its aim to become a home for entrepreneurs, who will be allowed to maintain the spirit that built their firms while benefiting from the support of a larger holding company. There are now 15 firms in the family — including 2018 acquisitions Identz, BerntzonBylund, Socialminds, Mindmakers and Wonderland — joining other firms like Springtime-Intellecta, digital specialists Creo, risk advisory firm Consilio and Shanghai creative shop Tomorrow China. Accordingly, group fees grew by a very impressive 31% in constant currency terms last year, ending up at around $55 million, enough to rank among the top 40 PR firms in the world.

The firm works for a number of Sweden’s largest companies, including Volvo Cars, Ericsson and Scania, along with international names like Pernod Ricard. In terms of the work, Jung  continues to impress SABRE juries, while BerntzonBylund’s campaigns for LG, Porsce, Starbucks, Live Nation and Sanofi stand out. — AS



Diplomat Group (Independent)

Diplomat Group has a strong heritage in public affairs—a critical part of the Swedish PR business, due to a highly-engaged citizenry—helping clients understand the values, attitudes and politics of Sweden’s opinion leaders. But the group has expanded in new directions recently. The core Diplomat Communications maintains its public affairs and corporate/financial focus, with offices in the other Nordic capitals and in Brussels, but there has also been the development of units devoted to brand comms (YouMe), digital transformation (Repeat Studio) and content marketing (Tale). 

In 2018, furthermore, YouMe and Repeat Studio merged with Strateg, after the latter agency was acquired by Diplomat Group, to create one of Sweden’s bigger marketing communications players. All of which helped to fuel 79% revenue growth in 2018 to more than €11m. 

While Diplomat’s client list is confidential, the firm works for some of the region’s biggest players across key industries. The firm is further distinguished by its strong senior leadership team, including founding partners Gunnar Rune Sonesson, Björn Nyblom, and Anders Oremark; and group CEO Oscar Hyléen, former head of IR at PostNord. 

The firm’s work for Telia stands out, in particular a sophisticated employer branding campaigns for Telia and AGA.— AS

Geelmuyden Kiese (Independent)

Over the past few years, Geelmuyden Kiese has transformed itself from a solid, established leader in the Norwegian PR market, best known for its corporate affairs and issues management work, into a Nordic agency (there are offices in Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, and Bergen) that is among the most creative full-service PR agencies in continental Europe, developing integrated campaigns—with an emphasis on digital content creation—for a wide range of corporate, public sector and nonprofit clients.

Five of the firm’s campaigns from last year are among the nominees for our 2019 SABRE Awards competition, including “72 hours,” an emergency preparedness initiative for the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection; “Mind the municipalities’ savings,” a thought leadership campaign positioning Alm Brand Asset Management as a responsible steward for public monies; “No Nudes For You” for the The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs, educating parents about the risks of young people posting photos online; “The Commuter Challenge,” a campaign for state-owned railway company NSB that encouraged train and road commuters to trade places for a week; and “Add Gaming Experience to your CV,” through which Manpower encouraged job-hunters to see their gaming experience as a relevant ability.

Revenues were flat at around 170 million NOK (close to $20 million), and with a team of around 150 across its three markets, GK remains one of the largest independent firms in Europe and one of the top 100 PR agencies in the world. Clients include Yara, Elkjøp Nordic, Høyskolen Kristiania, Ikea, Manpower, Mastercard, Vy, Samsung, Scandic Hotels, Sparebanken Vest, Veramaris, Discovery, Unibet, Danske Gartnerier, Google, Gilead, Uber, Alstom, and PepsiCo.

Group founder and chief executive Hans Geelmuyden took on the additional role of CEO in Norway following the departure of Nina Riibe, while Karne Lykkebotok took over as managing partner in Denmark. New partners Jannike Holtedahl and Marit Hartmann joined the leadership team in Oslo.—PH

Narva (Ahead Group/Aller Media) 

Narva — named after the Swedish army victory over a Russian force three times its size — has always embraced its positioning as a challenger brand initially within the financial communications space (from investor relations to IPOs and other transactions to annual and sustainability reporting) and more recently in the broader media relations, public affairs and CSR space (via the 2015 acquisition of consultancy Rewise) — and in the healthcare arena, where the firm bought Mix PR in 2012 and Heart three years later, and in early 2016 hired former social affairs minister Göran Hägglund as a senior advisor. In 2018 the firm was named the Holmes Report’s Nordic Consultancy of the Year, and continues to impress, growing 6% last year to around $9m. 

Under the leadership of managing partners Daniel Bergsten and Johan Molander, Narva's performance reflects that its positioning is paying off. There were significant new assignments SJ, Securitas, AP3, Unilever and WWF, along with growth from such clients as SAS, Sandvik, Coop, Amundi and Allianz. In particular, Narva benefits from the market’s newfound focus on purpose, given its existing strength when it comes to integrating sustainability strategies with issues management, particularly in terms of the whole stakeholder landscape. 

Maintaining its tradition of innovation, meanwhile, the firm also continues to lead when it comes to social media in the highly-regulated healthcare industry, and in terms of a superior insight-based planning capability. Last year it launched several new products, focusing on such areas as crisis, sustainability data and reporting and inbound marketing. Perhaps its most impressive campaign was ‘The Pledge’, the latest phase of its work for the Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund, which has been awarded multiple times for its multi-channel approach to public affairs and healthcare communications. — AS

Prime Weber Shandwick (Interpublic Group)

Weber Shandwick’s 2014 acquisition is shaping up—five years in—to be one of the best PR agency deals of the decade. Prime, which had established itself as a well-rounded, full-service player in Sweden in the years prior to the acquisition, an agency equally comfortable coming up with the kind of big creative ideas that could serve as brand platforms or devising strategic corporate reputation campaigns. It has continued to add capabilities in the years since, with 2018 seeing the expansion of the firm’s capabilities in the social impact realm, launching a new team that focuses on issues at the intersection of business, politics and the civil society, and the growth of the Prime Development offer that operates in the intersection of analysis, service design and communication.

Prime has grown by close to 30% over the past three years, with 120 people serving clients such as Ericsson and Essity—both of which are global clients based in Sweden—and delivering sustainability work for the likes of Tetra Pak, McDonald’s and Scandic. The firm has also seen the addition of several employer branding and employee engagement clients, including public sector organizations such as the Swedish Police force and Swedish Tax Agency. Meanwhile, the appointment of new chief executive Therese Bohlin and deputy CEO Krister Nilsson provided a seamless transition to a new generation of leadership.

Examples of fine work abound, including a lead role in the largest single internal communication effort in Ericsson’s history, activating a global cultural change initiative for 80,000 employees; a brand re-set for McDonald’s Sweden, seeking to shift perceptions among customers, the Swedish public at large, the NGO community and the company’s own employees, with a focus on responsibility and sustainability; and helping Nordax Bank, a largely unknown bank, stand out in the highly competitive mortgage market by offering “Bolån för vanligt folk” (“Mortgages for ordinary people”).

And Prime continues to contribute to Weber Shandwick beyond its leadership position in the Nordics. Tom Beckmann continues to chair the parent company’s global creative collective; Jonas Palmqvist is chief operating officer for Weber Shandwick EMEA; and the United Minds business has merged with Weber Shandwick’s change management practice and expanded to key European markets including London and Brussels as well as to the US, giving the agency a unique consulting offer. — PH