2020 Central & Eastern European PR Consultancies of the Year | PRovoke Media

2020 Central & Eastern European Consultancies of the Year

The 2020 EMEA PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 200 submissions and meetings with the best PR firms across the UK, Europe the Middle East and Africa. Analysis of each of the finalists across 20 geographic and specialist categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below. Winners are unveiled at the 2020 EMEA SABRE Awards, which will be taking place virtually, with details forthcoming soon.

You can find the 2020 SABRE Awards EMEA winners here.

Winner: United Partners (Bulgaria/Independent) 

Now in its 22nd year — making it one of the pioneers of PR in the Bulgarian market — United Partners remains one of the most innovative firms in the Central and Eastern European region, thanks to its aim to be the ‘Tesla of the communications industry.’ And that goal appears to be paying off, with UP up 25% (almost double its forecast) in 2019 to €2.7m, which the firm attributes to a focus on talent, culture and happy clients. 

The firm’s FMCG offering led this expansion, underpinned by 22-year client P&G, but there was also new business from the EU Commission, Lime, Volvo, Janssen, Fjallraven, Financial Times, National Revenue Agency, Calvin Klein, Unicef and Fadata — all of which join a client roster that features IBM, VMware, Viber, Abbvie, H&M, Tommy Hilfiger, Monsanto, Paysafe and Saab.

A full-service firm, United has also reinvented its teams to better fit client needs — structuring talent around innovation, insight, creative, client relations and external relations, stepping up its workplace culture initiatives and promoting Victor Savkin to head of finance and strategy. Savkin joins a leadership team that also includes Maria Gergova-Bengtsson, George Ivanov and Nikolay Sabev.

United Partners has always taken its own thought leadership seriously, thanks to a mindset that also sees it working with third party platforms such as Hubspot, Indahash, and Prowly. Campaign highlights include Lime’s market launch in Bulgaria and the Pampers Preemie initiative. — AS


H+K Strategies (Poland/WPP)

Hill+Knowlton’s Polish office has been on a three-year run of 20% per annum growth, doubling in size and establishing itself as a top three player in Eastern Europe’s largest public relations market—and making it the fastest growing office within H+K’s continental European “cluster.” New business last year came from AliExpress, BSH, Ferrero, Jeronimo Martins, Mondelez, Pfizer and Wyborowa Pernod Ricard—a healthy mix of Polish and international clients. They join a roster that includes 3M, Boeing, Coca-Cola, the European Commission, Facebook, Heineken, Huawei, Johnson&Johnson, Shell and Spotify.

The firm has a strong management team, led by CEO Grzegorz Szczepański, who is also serving his second term as president of ZFPR (the Polish trade association), executive vice president Katarzyna Kaminska, who joined from Havas Group in Poland this year, and managing director Katarzyna Fabjaniak. They have built an egalitarian culture with a particular emphasis on development for younger professionals.

Highlights of the firm’s work included launching the Polish edition of the global Facebook Community Guides, project are guides written by representatives of the Facebook community, with a focus on Krakow, the 2019 European Capital of Gastronomy Culture; a campaign celebrating the 15th anniversary of Poland’s accession to the European Union for financial transaction company TransferGo; and an expedition to Namibia, showcasing the sophistication of mobile photography for Huawei.—PH

MSL (Publicis Groupe)

MSL has an extensive network in Central and Eastern Europe, with more than 150 people across offices in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic, generating revenues of around €8.6 million. Those branded operations are supplemented by Publicis offices in eight additional markets, and through affiliates and partners the firm has worked in more than 20 markets in the region, delivering full-service solutions across corporate and consumer, crisis management and IR, public affairs and CSR, healthcare and technology.

The largest operation is in Warsaw, where MSL is the clear number one in the region’s largest PR market, with a team of close to 90 under the leadership of regional CEO Sebastian Hejnowski and general manager Sebastian Stępak. But some of the other offices in the region make a significant contribution to creating a well-rounded, forward thinking presence for MSL: Romania’s MSL The Practice, for example, has an outstanding history of award-winning creative work (including four SABRE Award nominations this year); Sofia is home to a social listening capability that serves offices and clients across the region but also works under the “Power of One” banner with other local Publicis agencies; the two-year old Prague office recently merged with digital firm Kindred, acquired last year.

Clients include global brands like Netflix, Procter & Gamble, Carrefour, Lenovo, Pernod Ricard, Emirates, Heinz, Astra Zeneca, Amnesty International, Burger King, Mastercard, the Coca-Cola Company, and the US Department of State. Interesting work last year included the “Tomorrow Without Smog” campaign for Arcelor Mittal in Poland and the anti-racist “Never Again” initiative for the Polish government, a campaign for MedLife in Romania that featured “the first live heart intervention” using a hologram, and “Project Stratos” for Samsung.—PH

Seesame (Slovakia/Independent) 

Our 2017 Eastern European Consultancy of the Year, Seesame Communication Experts spent its 23rd year in business honing its strategy and mission with the goal of maintaining its market leadership — and serve as a model for the Slovak PR industry. A big part of maintaining that stature during the last year was taking a long and hard look at the agency’s strategy and mission, and how that has shifted over the years. Today, the firm’s focus is clear: providing services in line with the core offerings and values of public relations — and doing so with purpose — as well as provide the innovative creative and editorial content necessary to achieve that goal.  All of which the agency was supported by numerous initiatives in 2018, when the firm created a social impact team devoted exclusively to working with clients, each of which is encouraged to rally around the causes that make sense for them and their business. That year, Seesame also added to traditional PR services, the agency now has creative solutions and in-house editorial content teams, staffed by journalists and video editors. Senior staff share their expertise with clients, offering training on communicating with the media as well as business partners.

The moves are paying off for Seesame. The firm’s fee income rose to nearly €3.1m in 2019 (its sixth consecutive year of growth), thanks to an impressive roster of existing clients and new business wins.  Companies including Heineken, Lucron, ESET, Saint-Gobain, Transparency International Slovakia and Samsung joined a list already populated by Henkel, Association of Innovative Pharmaceutical Industry (AIFP), IKEA, Shell, ESET, Janssen, YIT and MSD. 2019 reaped notable campaigns, too. In its own fight against the spread of disinformation, Seesame created a Facebook Messenger chatbot that discovers and fights fake news. The Checkbot also teaches people how to spot disinformation themselves. It’s work for mobile carrier O2 included rolling out a custom-build navigation app that rewarded drivers with free data for not touching their phones while driving. — DM

Uniomedia (Hungary/Independent) 

Founded in 2007, Hungary’s Uniomedia has grown steadily from one client to more than 20 today, serving as the market’s biggest independent and drawing particular attention for the quality of its campaign work, which this year helped it secure no fewer than three SABRE-nominated campaigns — for Heineken and Magyar Telekom. That performance reflects Uniomedia’s ability to integrate corporate PR with marketing, via a content creation, government relations and stakeholder engagement approach for such clients as Deutsche Telekom, Microsoft, Sanofi, Merck, Heineken, Intesa SanPaolo, Mastercard, NN, Cetelem Bank, Airbus New addition: Danone, Exxon Mobil and Friesland.

Uniomedia grew by an impressive 20% in 2019 to €2.5m, from 50 staffers, under the leadership of founders Zsofia Balatoni and Robert Romai. From a sector perspective, the firm is strong across pharma, FMCG, aviation and telco/technology. As mentioned, the campaign work is what truly sets Uniomedia apart, though, including a drink driving effort for Heineken, and using drones to help win over a sceptical media for market leader Telekom. — AS