Global Corporate/Financial PR Agencies of the Year 2019 | Holmes Report

2019 Global Corporate/Financial Agencies of the Year

The 2019 Global PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 450 submissions and face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across North AmericaEMEAAsia-Pacific and LatAm.

Analysis of all of the Winners and Finalists across specialist categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below. Winners are announced at the 2019 Global SABRE Awards, which take place at the PRovoke19 Global PR Summit in Washington, DC, on the evening of 23 October. 


Winner: Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher (US, Independent)

While the vast majority of its peers have been emphasizing their global reach (the merger of Kekst and CNC being the latest example, following the example of Finsbury and RLM and seeking to replicate the resources of FTI and Brunswick), Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher continues to thrive as an independent US firm with 120 people across just two offices (New York and San Francisco), its lack of physical presence in overseas markets apparently no impediment to cracking the top five global M&A advisors (by value of deals worked) as compiled by industry authority mergermarket.

The Deal’s Corporate Control Alert again ranked Joele Frank as the top M&A public relations advisor by deal count in the US, reflecting work on 110 transactions. Among the highlights, the firm advised the Dell special committee in connection with the company’s acquisition of tracking stock related to Dell’s economic interest in VMware; GGP on its sale to Brookfield Property Partners; and Perry Ellis following take-out proposals from multiple potential buyers. The firm’s fast-growing financial sponsors practice, meanwhile, advised on more than 80 sponsor-backed transactions, including several of the largest buyouts of the year and counseled five companies, with a combined market capitalization of more than $10 billion, on their initial public offerings.

The M&A work remains the most high-profile, but like many of its peers Joele Frank has diversified its offer quite considerably in recent years, and works across a wide range of mission-critical situations, including financial restatements, product recalls, litigation, and unplanned management changes, as well as gender and diversity issues in the age of #MeToo, unprecedented natural disasters and a volatile climate in Washington. Last year, the firm was called upon to advise Papa John’s on a cultural audit and investigation of the company following controversial remarks made by its founder and former CEO, and Wynn Resorts following allegations of sexual harassment by Steve Wynn. It also supported David’s Bridal through its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, maintaining a focus on the customer during a troubled period, and helped Lowe’s communicate with stakeholders around the appointment of a new CEO and two new board members.

The firm maintains a singular focus on delivering successful outcomes for its clients by providing actionable, honest advice and executive counsel with integrity and intensity. That’s one reason why 70% of project clients stay on after the initial assignment is completed. New clients in 2018 included Barnes & Noble, Biogen, Cardtronics, Cronos Group, Donnelley Financial Services, International Flavors & Fragrances, Papa John’s, and Syneos Health, while the firm continues to work with American Airlines, Broadcom, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, MGM Resorts International, Procter & Gamble, Prudential Financial, S&P Global, and Twitter, among others.—PH


Cannings Purple (Asia-Pacific, WPP)

The past few years have seen sustained growth for WPP’s Cannings Purple in Australia, where its 40-person headcount marks it out as one of the country’s biggest corporate consultancies. Focusing largely on investor relations and public affairs in Western Australia from its Perth HQ, the firm added a Brisbane office last year, underlining an expansionary mindset by developing multiple new service offerings including a new content hub, hiring a chief innovation officer and overhauling its data insights and community engagement teams. The firm remains chaired by experienced Australian businessman Keith Jones and CEO Annette Ellis, who oversee a culture that continues to focus heavily on culture and an emphasis on family.

The firm’s continued growth, up 20% in 2018 to A$7.6m reflects the success of its offering, which handles major corporate mandates for such clients as LandCorp, BGC Australia, Gold Road Resources, Northern Minerals, Shell Australia and Aeris Resources, along with new assignments for Rio Tinto, RAC WA, South 32, Rod Jones, Pitcher Partners, Iris Residential and Fortescue Metals Group. And while Cannings Purple continues to lead the M&A tables, much of its work involves high-stakes crisis communications, issues management and public policy — supported by increased thought leadership investment in such areas as cybersecurity and aged care. 

Campaign highlights, meanwhile, included supporting the $91.5m Matagarup Bridge project, providing probono support to Noongar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australia’s first culturally-based Chamber of Commerce, and successfully lobbying for Northern Minerals against a proposed federal government cap on research and development rebates. The firm also advised Jupiter Mines on its ASX listing and equity capital raising, and mounted a successful multi-faceted campaign on behalf of the Western Rock Lobster Council. — AS

H&H Group (Nordics, 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, Porsche, Starbucks, Live Nation and Sanofi stand out. — AS

Fahlgren Mortine (US, Eastport Holdings)

Throughout its 57-year history, Fahlgren Mortine has aimed to continually reinvent itself as a means of keeping pace with and serving clients as they undergo changes of their own. Rarely has that been more evident than in 2018, when, boasting 225 clients and 206 associates, the family-owned firm was sold to Eastport Holdings, which owns 16 other US PR, advertising and digital agencies, to further growth. Three months later, Fahlgren Mortine merged with fellow Eastport company SBC Advertising, creating a combined integrated marketing and communications agency under the Fahlgren Mortine brand. The result: Fahlgren Mortine is very much a hybrid business, rather than a firm focused on a single discipline. As such, the Columbus, Ohio-based agency believes it can offer clients the authenticity of PR coupled with the creativity of an ad agency and accountability of a digital shop.

The year was punctuated by the value of its work. On the heels of Hurricane Maria, the Discover Dominica Authority tapped Fahlgren Mortine to develop a tourism brand that would draw travelers to the relatively low-profile destination. The agency’s multichannel campaign differentiated Dominica from other destinations and let prospective visitors know that the island was a viable destination in 2018. The campaign included overhauling the Dominica organization’s website using video produced by local Dominicans, and expressed the inviting culture of the island. It showcased only activities that were available to tourists during the hurricane recovery period. The campaigns Fahlgren Mortine crafted for Kidde, the fire safety product company, and for Columbia Gas of Ohio show the firm’s propensity for delivering messages in terms and ways that make a difference. The multifaceted campaign for Kidde, which was meant to remind Californians to replace aging carbon monoxide alarms, included distributing toolkits to fire departments and public safety officials; Fahlgren Mortine's campaign for Columbia Gas, built to promote energy efficiency, focused on how participating in Columbia Gas’ energy efficiency programs could save consumers money.

With that, Fahlgren Mortine’s revenue in 2018 grew 12% to $29.6m, fueled by its particular strengths serving clients in the tourism, economic development and B2B sectors (the revenue figure includes the company’s wholly owned subsidiary, Turner). New business jumped by 11% to $3.3 million with the addition of clients including J.M. Smucker Co., National Veteran’s Memorial and Museum, Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Ohio Lottery Commission, University at Buffalo and Value City Furniture / American Signature Inc. They join an impressive list of existing clients such as Cardinal Health, TravelNevada, Visit Myrtle Beach, Emerson, DHL, Dunkin’ and The Kroger Company. — DM