2021 Technology Agencies of the Year, North America | PRovoke Media

2021 Technology PR Agencies of the Year

The 2021 North America PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 150 submissions and 50 virtual meetings with the best PR firms across the US and Canada. 

Winners were unveiled at the North American SABRE Awards ceremony, at which Zeno was named Overall Agency of the Year and Bully Pulpit Interactive won Specialist Agency of the Year. Analysis of all winners and finalists across 13 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Separately, you can find the 2021 SABRE Awards North America winners here.


Winner: Method Communications (Chime)

Given how insular Silicon Valley can be, many firms that come from other markets fail to ever gain momentum. Yet Method continues to ascend, becoming a go-to agency for venture capital firms on the hunt for communications counsel for high-growth, high-valuation companies. 

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Salt Lake City (HQ), San Francisco, New York

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Method has been challenging the Silicon Valley PR status quo for more than a decade. The firm is known as a go-to PR and marketing partner for high-growth challenger brands, as well as market leaders facing challenges of their own. Over two-thirds of its clients are billion dollar brands and Method has notable experience with corporate financial transactions, including IPOs and SPACs. Expertise also includes enterprise/B2B, fintech and disruptive tech with a client roster that includes 1Password, Adyen, Blend, Celonis, Checkr, Confluent, Domo, Facebook, Freshworks, Galileo, PagerDuty, SurveyMonkey and Vivint Smart Home.

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Method was able to withstand many of the challenges that shook up the industry in 2020. As early as 2018, Method began planning for a financial slowdown and created processes to weather a storm. So, despite clients reducing budgets, Method retained significant contracts including work focused on racial and gender justice and other high-value services. 

The result: nearly 10% growth to $14.8m, sidestepping a downturn by mirroring the relentless adaptability of the tech industry. In the past six years, agency revenue has grown 143% and EBITDA has grown 476%.  In late 2018, Chime Communications bought Method and in 2020 Method was named a top performer in the holding group.

In addition to organic growth from long-standing clients, Method won a slew of new business in 2020 including BambooHR, Bloomberg, NetApp, Overstock, Quicken, and Webflow among others.

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Founded by David Parkinson and Jacob Moon, Method is built around deep relationships and results-driven work. In 2020, leaders offered brutally honest answers about things like required sacrifices to avoid layoffs. Ultimately, Method made zero layoffs and increased overall headcount by three. Central to the company culture is Method Matters More, an initiative that prioritizes employees with programs like Method From Anywhere, a no-questions-asked work from home policy. When it comes to diversity, in 2020 Method examined all aspects of its talent lifecycle, including ensuring pay parity via data-based salary bands and more transparency around promotions and pay increases. Also, 45% of new hires were BIPOC and the agency goal is 25% BIPOC employees by 2025, including other initiatives and efforts to elevate marginalized voices.

In addition to Parkinson and Moon, key leaders include COO Heather England, EVP Beth Haiken, EVP Matt Stewart, SVP Katy Kenealy, SVP Jenni Holladay. New hires include EVP Adrian Eyre, SVP Lisa Kelaita. 

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

In 2020, Method also began producing a weekly newsletter on the pulse of what was happening in the industry that has become one of the agency’s most valuable products. Notable work includes helping Facebook shine a light on its various DEI initiatives, elevating SurveyMonkey in the enterprise CX space, and working on a SPAC transaction for Skillz. The agency also garnered four Innovation SABRE Award nominations, including one win, plus four SABRE Award North America nods.

Aarti Shah



Finalists

Clarity (Freuds Network)

It’s been two years since Clarity founder Sami McCabe moved to San Francisco to fuel its West Coast business. And it worked — the Freuds Network acquired equity in Clarity and, according to the agency’s fast-growing trajectory in North America, the investment is paying off.  

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San Francisco (HQ), New York, Los Angeles.

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Clarity, founded in 2013, was first envisioned as an agency to help startups in the tech space come to market. But in the last 18 months, Clarity has expanded to be a small, but global, player working with companies across sectors and regions. The client portfolio now spans fintech, adtech/martech, SaaS, VC and financial services, cyber security, B2B and B2C. The Freuds investment resulted in three agencies: Dynamo, Brew PR and Yellow Communications consolidating under Clarity. The merged entity looks to work with businesses that are using technology to transform their industries.

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With a startup mindset, Clarity was determined to overcome the odds in 2020. And it succeeded with 40% growth, landing at $9m globally and $6.1m in North America. CEO Sami McCabe focused on the long-term success of the agency, taking some short-term hits to ensure a strong future. The agency ultimately saw 57% year-over-year increase in staff now at 65, in addition to another acquisition in Europe. In the US, the growth was fueled by existing and new clients, including: Trilith, Extreme Reach, Even, Sony Innovation Fund, Browzwear, plus new wins Claris, Brand Total, and PredictHQ.

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Founder & CEO Sami McCabe leads the agency alongside global COO Alex MacLaverty,  EMEA president and UK managing director Rachel Gilley, and US president Jon Meakin. 

As of September 2020, the agency introduced blind recruitment for all hires and committed to only working with diverse and inclusive vendors. The agency also introduced a DE&I survey to hold themselves accountable to reduce and eliminate unfair bias.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

On the heels of the acquisition of Dynamo PR, in March 2020, Clarity relaunched the firm as Clarity’s global business unit focused on early-stage companies. Drawing on the rich startup heritage of the Dynamo brand, Clarity launched it as a global offering within Clarity Global, providing a curated service offering for Seed to Series-A clients. Clarity also re-launched its financial services practice in 2020 to focus specifically on the venture capital and private equity space in Silicon Valley and, increasingly, in the UK. Clients for this service include Sony Innovation Fund, Cambridge Innovation Capital, Germin8 Ventures and more.

Clarity earned two North America SABRE Award nods this year, one for its entertainment work for Trilith and also for its Diversity Marketing Consortium, an effort to help underrepresented entrepreneurs thrive alongside other agencies. 

— Aarti Shah

Highwire (Independent)

Highwire has established a solid reputation as a Silicon Valley PR firm known for consistently good work and strong leadership. Over its 13-year history, its three co-founders have been committed to constantly transforming its offerings around digital and content innovation. 

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San Francisco (HQ), Chicago, New York, Boston.

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Highwire is designed for disruptive companies ranging from Fortune-50 corporations to mid-size tech leaders and innovative startups. The firm’s roots in journalism and Silicon Valley have helped it develop expertise in enterprise, consumer, digital health, financial technology, and security. 

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For the 87-person shop, revenues grew to $24.2m fueled, in part, with the acquisition of digital consultancy Wonderscript, marking the beginning of a new chapter in Highwire’s digital marketing journey. The agency also added new clients, including Hitachi ABB, Digital Ocean, Bespoke Spirits, Qualtrics, Visitpay, and Omada Health. These companies joined existing clients, Splunk, Cloudera, GitLab, Boomi, LinkedIn/Glint, Level Home and Mr. Cooper.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Moving remote tested Highwire’s core values and leadership responded by encouraging “cameras turned on” for meetings, Slack channels for sharing selfcare tips, and virtual socializing. Highwire launched a Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Council to bring this issue to the forefront. Highwire also developed a diversity action plan with a focus on recruitment and retention, for instance, by joining forces with the Diversity Action Alliance to have 40% agency-wide diversity by 2022. Highwire hired Ayanna Anderson as head of diversity, inclusion and belonging.  Agency principals are Kathleen Gratehouse, Carol Carrubba and Emily Borders. 

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Following the success of the Digital Training Program held in 2019, Highwire made a dedicated investment in expanding its digital offerings with a number of new hires. Highwire’s digital services now expand into amplification across multiple channels and paid media, including search and social. Media production has expanded to video and experiential marketing and design and build services to create interactive experiences.

Highwire is up for two North American SABRE Awards for its Phishing with Cookies campaign with MobileIron and Keeping the Dream of Homeownership Alive with Mr. Cooper. 

Aarti Shah

Hotwire (Enero)

It’s been four years since Hotwire bought Eastwick Communications to accelerate the UK-based company’s US expansion. There are so many technology acquisitions that ultimately fall short of expectations, that the success stories — like this one — stand out. 

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Hotwire refers to its geography as “borderless” while maintaining US offices in New York, San Francisco (HQ), Minneapolis and Chicago.

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Hotwire is a global tech firm with 20 years experience working with clients on communications, branding and digital marketing. Clients span consumer tech, enterprise tech, industrial tech, marketing & ad tech, fintech, retail & leisure tech and software & services. Key accounts include Amazon, AppsFlyer, Atlassian, Citrix, CommScope, Eaton, Facebook, McAfee (Global AOR), and Qualcomm.

aoy-performance-iconPerformance

US revenue took a slight hit in 2020, landing at $17.7m after a breathtaking 2019 that saw 23% growth and a win as PRovoke’s tech agency of the year in North America. Global revenue, however, increased slightly to $41.7m but headcount dropped by 22 to 258 worldwide. Parent company Enero also recently reported a 19% revenue increase, due in part to a “strong first half” for Hotwire. In 2020, the firm also nabbed the coveted Zoom business, along with other new clients including Amazon, Confluent, eBay, F5 Networks, FM Global, Klarna, New Motion, OKCupid, SAS Software, and Twitch.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Even before the pandemic, Hotwire was committed to mental wellbeing, providing a wellness benefit allowance, weekly meditation sessions and access to a Mental Health Toolkit. Yet, in its yearly employee survey, leadership got high marks but wellness remained a concern. Hotwire responded with several initiatives including an ergonomic support program. Hotwire has long implemented a “Thoughtful Working” initiative for flexible work, enabled by a tech stack. For its annual bootcamp — now virtual — Hotwire brought in speakers like Shola Kaye, a global expert in empathy at work. Hotwire’s DE&I commitments include: 25%+ of mid to senior team is Black, Asian, Hispanic, or other ethnic minority;  85%+ of the team feel that they can be themselves at Hotwire; and 85%+ of the team feel that people understand who they are.

Key people include global CEO Barbara Bates and North America CEO Heather Kernahan. 

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The firm launched three significant global campaigns with associated products in 2020: the Hotcomms Toolkit, a digital resource to help navigate new ways of engaging with key audiences and customers in the absence of in-person events. Generation Alpha: The Most Diverse Generation Yet, its third report with a focus on racial and ethnic diversity, and Remote Evolution Campaign to talk to companies on how to build a more sophisticated and differentiating narrative in the stay-at-home economy.

Hotwire supported Zoom on the first virtual edition of their annual user conference, Zoomtopia. As a direct result, during the dates it took place, Zoom’s share price rose by 3.1%. Hotwire won an Innovation SABRE Award for its Avaya: Reinvigorating a 20-Year-Old Brand and has been nominated for a North American SABRE Award for its work helping financially excluded communities with Kiva.

Aarti Shah

PAN Communications (Independent)

It’s astounding that PAN Communications has been around since 1995, evolving its capabilities to be at the forefront of integrated marketing — including spearheading the call for PR to contribute to lead generation. 

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Boston (HQ), San Francisco, New York, Orlando

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Serving B2B tech and healthcare brands, PAN’s successes are rooted in matching its people-first culture with a deep commitment to delivering value to clients that extends beyond the marketing department to the entire organization. PAN employees keep a close pulse on industry-wide and vertical-specific trends that impact clients, so the business can adjust services offerings quickly. For example, PAN has brought creative services, social and digital management and analytics and content development experts under a single roof, reducing the lead-time from opportunity identification to brand action.

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Revenues are up 4.4% to $23.5m with 126 employees. The agency’s growth was driven by new clients like Software AG, Sailpoint, Techstars, Reify Health, LeanTaas, athenahealth, Perforce, 908 Devices, OneStream, Episerver, joining an existing roster that features PointClickCare, Citrix, Blumberg, Rapid7, Quorum, Absolute Software, White Ops, 8x8, GYANT, Payoneer.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

PAN describes its culture as one where employees are encouraged to engage their curiosity, follow their passions and challenge each other to think differently. And in 2020, PAN worked to ensure its already-extensive wellness program with mental health resources, an anonymous email channel to executives, dedicated coaching, wellness webinar series, wellness reimbursement, and fitness tips. 

The Black Lives Matter movement compelled the firm to rethink its approach to diversity, equity and inclusion. Among its actions: diversity training and discussion groups, guest speaker programs, a review of policy and practices and new goals and reporting metrics. Key people include founder/CEO Philip Nardone, EVPs Mark Nardone, Darlene Doyle and Elizabeth Famiglietti. The agency added Brandon Thomas VP/GM of New York in 2020.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

PAN evaluates its clients' work in three ways: delivering results that speak the language of internal executives, meaningfully moving the needle with the external audiences, and gaining their trust to tell their evolving brand stories. Named “NXT Stage” PAN’s approach supports brands from startup, to mid-stage, all the way to IPO.

To guide clients during the height of the pandemic, PAN created a robust Issues Response Team and produced various thought-leadership around crisis communications and guidance for early-stage companies. The firm’s 7th Annual Content Fitness Report surveyed 100+ marketers and focused on how brands should adjust messaging to lead with empathy in their journey towards recovery.  To address the revenue issues that brands experienced during the crisis, PAN created a guide offering sound advice for connecting PR with lead generation.

Aarti Shah