2019 New PR Agencies of the Year, North America | Holmes Report

2019 North America New PR Agencies of the Year

The 2019 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 70 finalists across 14 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below. Winners are unveiled at the 2019 North American SABRE Awards on May 7 at Cipriani 42nd St in New York. 

Winner: SourceCode Communications (Independent)

There hasn’t been a shortage of new tech firms hitting the market over the last few years. But it is notable when a new firm emerges and moves right into producing award-winning work combined with solid, and sustainable, business performance.

Former Hotwire execs Greg Mondshein and Becky Honeyman launched SourceCode in the fall of 2017 and grew last year into a $1.7m business that operated at 42% profitability. Although SourceCode focuses exclusively on technology brands, the firm is committed to having a level of humanity at the core of tech communications. SourceCode is built on a fundamental belief that human beings create and tell the most effective stories, and that communicatons need to make an emotional connection between brands and consumers to succeed.The agency now has 10 full-time employees and 19 clients including 2018 newcomers such as Yotpo, Pindrop, Casaza, Elvie, SCRUFF, SOCi, FocusVision and Channel Bakers amongst others.

Other clients across its five key sectors — mobile & telecommunications, consumer technology, advertising & marketing technology, IT & enterprise and financial technology — include Blis, Puls, Rachio, 37.5 Technology, PCI Pal, Adzuna, Zailab and Felix Gray. To tackle the talent issues, especially as a new firm, SourceCode offers unlimited vacation, full benefits and flexible working arrangements. — DM



Blue Door (Independent)

Canada’s Blue Door Communications has been hard at work since Laura Fracassi opened its Toronto office in 2017. The agency — opened specifically to serve the hospitality industry —since day one has had a roster of clients including Baro Toronto, Tequila Tromba, Gusto 54 Restaurant Group, The Pint Public House and Assembly Chef's Hall. During the last 12 months, Blue Door grew its fee income to Can$790,479 from Can$242,000 the year before by onboarding new partners across the sector — The Thompson Hotel, Lost Craft Beer, Longos, Hunny Pot Cannabis and Basil Box among them. Blue Door’s headcount has grown from three to 14. By December, Blue Door was acquiring the food and beverage shop PunchXPepper

Fracassi has created demand by offering the full slate of services — media relations, crisis communications, event management, digital ad planning, social media management and graphic design — custom built for the hospitality industry. The agency prides itself on being ROI-centric in both its PR and digital services, yet rolling out campaigns with the twist needed to distinguish players in the sector.

The firm delivered 100+ personalized influencer boxes to content creators located in downtown Toronto and surrounding area. Each influencer also received custom discount codes to share with their followers. The firm’s work promoting craft spirit Toronto Tequila included securing the brand’s spot as the exclusive tequila of the Toronto International Film Festival. When the Antler Kitchen and Bar, whose chef Michael Hunter promotes using sustainably sourced and wildly caught meat, was embroiled in a flap with vegan activists, Blue Door successfully diffused the situation, resulting in Hunter maintaining a positive public profile as well as a book deal. — DM


Brands2Life (Independent)

When Brands2Life decided to launch a US operation in 2017, the firm’s founders Giles Fraser and Sarah Scales knew better than most that success was hardly guaranteed. Credentials as one of the UK’s finest PR agencies counted for little in a US market that is littered with the carcasses of failed contenders from across the pond. Yet, two years in, Brands2Life may well be on the road to proving the naysayers wrong, delivering an encouraging start that has blended the best of its UK capabilities with a refreshing willingness to localise its offering in line with market expectations.

Under the oversight of US MD Rene Musech, Brands2Life’s San Francisco operation is working with 18 technology companies and B2B brands, bringing in more than $1m with a team of 10. Hallmark work in 2018 included expanding brand awareness for Verizon Connect through a campaign focused on “unsung holiday heroes” – service providers, like plumbers and electricians. The agency secured coverage across national and trade media widely read by Verizon Connect's key audiences including FOX Business, Automotive Fleet, Work Truck and Fleet Equipment. For the second consecutive year, Brands2Life drove record-breaking media coverage The Internet of Things World expo. Coverage of the 2018 show was up 30% from 2017. And the 2017 show, which the agency handled, was up 25% from the year before.

Assignments also include social media for the LinkedIn Marketing and Sales Solutions unit; increasing Tanium’s brand awareness; promoting the growth of the French technology ecosystem; thought leadership for Verizon Connect; and driving media coverage and attendance to the 2019 Internet of Things World expo. — DM

Cheer Partners (Independent)

With more than 20 years of experience each in HR, communications and business, Cathleen Graham and Darcie Peck's consultancy is dedicated to helping companies work through employee and talent-related issues. Founded in 2018, Cheer Partners clearly opened up at the right time, as companies are increasingly requiring expertise in such areas as employee engagement and internal communications, boosting diversity & inclusion and fostering a compelling company culture. The proof is in the traction Cheer Partners has gained in a very short time. Clients including Aetna, Juniper Networks, J&J, Pfizer Kendall Square and Nike Communications. The firm also started a joint venture with RF|Binder focusing on areas like employee engagement and diversity.

Though based in New York, Cheer Partners’ decentralized operation includes 13 employees in cities including Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale and San Francisco, serving clients spread equally far and wide in the Bay Area, New York, Cleveland, Miami, Cambridge, Hartford, Nashville and Dallas. To achieve its mission — change the way employees experience work — Cheer Partners first tests out its tactics internally to make sure they’re on target. After all, Cheer Partners does things differently; it marries its offerings so the talent team talk to the HR advisory team so your training or virtual HR can all be connected working on your employer brand proposition. The same applies to its employee communications practice.

Graham and Peck grew their team in 2018 with key appointments. Carrie Goldstein, formerly of Pfizer, joined as team lead of employee communications. Former Edelman staffer Carol Ready is the consultancy’s senior director of strategic communications. And Lisa Fedrizzi, team lead joined from Rubenstein PR. The operation’s promising start is testament to Graham and Peck’s ability to position and leverage their expertise in ways that attract and serve clients. One client’s diversity & inclusion program, for instance, included training, focus groups, surveys, team building activities and holding salons featuring outside voices on the subject. — DM

Hot Paper Lantern (Independent)

Last September, Peppercomm co-founder and CEO Ed Moed left the agency after 24 years to start a new venture — an affiliate agency called Hot Paper Lantern — with Ted Birkhahn, a 20-year Peppercomm vet who most recently served as president. The idea: launch a thoroughly modern agency designed to help brands thrive in a digital economic. The opportunity: be a well-rounded client partner with a model that integrates strategy, technology, communications and culture – all with the goal of creating, telling and measuring the impact of brands’ stories.

Brand marketing and communications is at the heart of HPL, whose ultimate goal is to help clients craft compelling messages, design the best experiences and tell their stories through the channels that have the greatest impact on their audiences. The agency, however, goes beyond those core competencies to shepherd brands in the throes of change. The firm provides business consulting, working closely with clients to further their understanding of the intersection of business and brand transformation. When it comes to technology, HPL uses tools to unlock new ideas, drive innovation and deliver results.

Since its launch, HPL has grown its revenue by 20%, and its headcount from 35 to 45 full-timers.
The growth is a credit in part to the addition of five new clients including Lazard, Lenox Advisors, PVH Corp. and Remy Cointreau. The lift in revenue is also due to expanding services for existing clients which include the likes of AIG, Amazon Web Services, Dell EMC, Ernst & Young, Facebook and Nikon. The young company also launched products during its first months in action. HPL Echo, developed in partnership with SwissVBS, is a cloud-based employee training solution that allows employees to learn at their own pace. HPL's Crisis Response Index analyzes the crisis communications of 45 Fortune 1000 companies, including 400,000 media articles and 80,000 social mentions, to assess the speed and effectiveness of each company’s crisis response. — DM