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London’s Fight or Flight is a boutique B2B PR agency whose founders — Charlie Meredith-Hardy, David Woodward and Joe Walton — spent a combined 32 years at Weber Shandwick before launching the firm in April 2020. Their goal in doing so: disrupt a B2B market dominated by boring product stories, whitepapers, and webinars at a time when B2B brands fight for attention in the same crowded space as consumer brands. Fight or Flight’s owned, earned and social campaigns are designed to enable B2B brands to compete, while turning heads and making headlines.
Fight or Flight is located in London.
Fight or Flight has made immense strides since opening for business in April 2020, just one month into the first Covid shutdown. Much of the firm’s success is tied to two core areas of expertise — creating B2B campaigns that attract mainstream attention and the delivery of multilanguage PR programs across Europe. The former is exemplified by the firm’s influencer partnerships with astronaut Scott Kelly for Wolters Kluwer and presenter Angelica Bell for Sky, which use consumer-grade tactics for B2B audiences. As for the latter, Fight or Flight’s network of language and culture experts across France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Benelux and the Nordics allows companies to run campaigns across the region without having to hire expensive in-market teams. For Roland DG, the model drove more than 400 pieces of coverage across Europe in 2021, 200 of which were in languages other English. Now a 20-person shop, Fight or Flight grew an eye-catching 232% to £1.8 million in 2021 driven by new business from DLA Piper, Trustly, Lyca Mobile, Sky Connect and Nokia, which joined existing clients Flipdish, GitHub, Expedia and LinkedIn.
Despite early Covid-related setbacks, Fight or Flight invested in a high-quality senior team with big agency pedigree as a means of growing quickly and navigating the challenges of the pandemic. Over the last 18 months the firm has hired Dan Bird and Gemma Ashley as associate directors from Weber Shandwick; Lauren Payne McLeod as AD from Teneo; and Stephanie Crisp as AD from Edelman. Fight or Flight starts and ends its days with a team call to foster unity and togetherness and, to that end, has hosted socials, dressing-up competitions and team events on Zoom and Teams. Senior leaders provide each staff member tailored training to help them meet career goals. As of January 2022, 68% of the agency’s permanent employees are women, 26% of the agency’s permanent employees come from ethnic minority backgrounds and there is pay parity across all roles, levels and salary bands in the agency. As part of its DEI commitment, Fight or Flight last year hired two apprentices through the PRCA’s PR & communications assistant standard program, and was one of the first signatories of the PRCA’s Accessible by Design initiative.
Since launch, the agency has created the world’s first ‘Dress Release’ for printing firm Roland DG, helped LinkedIn to make sense of the new world of work, launched Sky Connect’s challenger broadband service for SMBs, repositioned Lyca Mobile as the leading British MVNO, and brought humble digital health start-up eConsult out of the shadows and into The Independent, Forbes and Sifted. Fight or Flight also helped Flipdish — Europe’s latest unicorn — wage war on Uber Eats, Deliveroo, and Just Eat’s massive commission fees (persuading a pizza restaurant to break up with Just Eat on Valentine’s Day), got Swedish fintech Trustly onto the front page of the Daily Mirror on Euro 2021 semi-final day and launched Trainline’s B2B offering during rail’s biggest shakeup in decades.
— Diana Marszalek
Performance-driven marketing and communications agency Hard Numbers was founded by former Hotwire director Darryl Sparey and creative director Paul Stollery in June 2020, after they spotted an opportunity to innovate by combining sales-led marketing with PR, and injecting a welcome dose of creativity into B2B comms. It has become one of the most noteworthy of the many ex-Hotwire alumni, thanks to the agency’s single-minded focus on ensuring every element of communications strategy leads directly to stretching sales outcomes for clients, with KPIs based on metrics such as driving marketing qualified leads, meeting bookings, or driving attendance to events rather than more traditional comms metrics. More than 95% of revenues in 2021 came from technology businesses, especially fintech, healthtech, mobility and martech, and the agency also launched its “Community as a Service” proposition, which sees it set-up, manage and run online customer communities for clients.
Hard Numbers is headquartered in London.
For the calendar year, Hard Numbers’ fee income was just shy of £1 million, and it is on track for £1.4 million for its second full year of trading and £2 million for 2022/2023. The team has grown from seven to 18 over the past year. The agency already has two tech unicorns in its stable – SaaS cloud banking platform Mambu and sales performance software firm Highspot. Launch clients Phos, Paynetics and BlueSnap have remained with the agency, and it has also worked with Onto, Proteus, Factmata, CircleLoop and National Broadband over the past year.
Hard Numbers has eschewed timesheets from the start: the agency writes KPIs into its service agreements with clients and has sophisticated reporting to demonstrate progress. It may have relentless focus on results for clients but Hard Numbers also cares for its staff, encouraging them to only work contracted hours, with investment in mental health wellbeing and a training package that equates to much larger agencies. Significant hires include AMEC rising star Claire Simpson, who along with three other female consultants is expected to be running the business day-to-day within the next couple of years. The agency is committed to improving DE&I in the PR industry, and has evolved its recruitment practices to improve candidate diversity. Against the 8% industry average for Black, Asian and ethnic minority staff in the PR industry, 33% of Hard Numbers staff are from non-white backgrounds. The agency also started putting a proportion of profits into its StaffSeed Fund to help team members who have worked with the agency for more than four years to set up their own businesses £100,000 start-up funding. Stollery also provided creativity training to the first cohort of Socially Mobile, which delivers training to those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Hard Numbers has continued to drive results from its first Coverage to Capital report, in association with Carma, which set out to prove the link between media coverage and successful fundraises for start-ups. This has now generated over 150 leads and led directly to six pitches and two client wins. The agency is currently researching the second annual report. It has also started “learning in public”, with Sparey providing a weekly blog series on its first forays into NFT marketing with client Pandimensional Trading Company. Outstanding campaigns in 2021 included AMEC-award-winning work for point-of-sale app Phos, which needed to raise its profile within the banking and payments industry. Via events, research, thought leadership and media relations, the campaign led to huge levels of engagement, a 250% increase in relevant search terms, 37 meetings with relevant target prospects, and a new client: Bunq in Amsterdam, which is now offering Phos across its European markets.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
After successfully building three creatively-feted South African PR agencies, Keri-Ann Stanton launched her own firm at the start of 2020, two months before the pandemic arrived to devastate the country’s economy. Regardless, Stanton’s frustration with agency structures and systems has ensured that Kamuses Consultancy (KAC) has already built a vibrant offering that is as concerned with youth unemployment and staff burnout as it is with high impact results and agile delivery. Accordingly, the firm focuses on better ways to cost, pay and deliver — the kind of back-to-basics approach that is often overlooked when growth is pursued at all costs. Stanton relies heavily on freelance support, but has already landed numerous awards for highly creative work on behalf of clients that span corporate, technology and NGO sectors.
There are three full time staffers in South Africa, along with 12 associate freelancers.
300% growth reflects KAC’s recent origins, but also demonstrates the firm’s ability to develop work that involves producers, publicists, writers, videographers and designers. The firm does not publicise its client roster, but PRovoke Media can confirm that it includes significant assignments from the NGO, B2B, corporate, SOE, industrial, technology and financial services sectors.
South Africa’s 74% youth unemployment rate has effectively become the guiding purpose for KAC, brought to life with a Think Tank experiment that features six youngsters who challenge the agency’s thinking in a bid to make the work richer, more diverse and more inclusive. That initiative has now become a permanent offering that is available to clients. Stanton is currently the sole owner of KAC, but plans to release 50% in 2023 to Black partners, with the two other FT staffers both being Black women. All six Think Tankers are also Black, as is 50% of the freelance team.
Stanton is a visible advocate for better PR work, and runs a weekly Instagram #PRChurch to share advice and insights, while also using it pass on work that her firm cannot handle. Campaign highlights include SABRE Africa-winning campaigns for The Pendoring Indigenous Language Awards and Network BBDO.
— Arun Sudhaman
Shook is one of the most exciting consumer agencies to come on the scene for some time, and that’s partly down to its approach of combining behavioural science and creativity, and partly the pedigree and chemistry of its co-founders, Engine Mischief’s former head of strategy Gemma Moroney and executive creative director Damon Statt, who had worked together for 15 years before starting their own agency in July 2020 with backing from Hope&Glory. Shook’s mission is to “make work that shakes the world” across creative, communications and campaigning. Over the past year the agency has delivered work ranging from purpose, mission, vision and values development, to integrated communications, print advertising and influencer campaigns. While its heartland is consumer PR, the agency has also stepped into the B2B and tech space. In 2021 Shook launched a Habits Practice after undertaking research showing the correlation between a brand’s category position and whether it is a ‘habit brand’, as well as consumers’ desire for brands to help them establish better physical, financial and mental wellbeing habits.
Shook is headquartered in London and works with clients around the world.
Shook topped six-figure income within its first 12 months of trading and earned fees of £431,000 for calendar year 2021. The agency is on track to grow by another 70% for its second full year of trading, with healthy margins of 20%. It now has a team of 10, including associate director Belinda Turffrey, who formerly worked for 38 Degrees and Shelter and turned down an offer from an established agency to join Shook. Around 57% of new business has been won without a pitch, either introduced directly – including through existing client recommendation – or won at creds stage. Since opening, Shook has helped brands including UK for UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency charity), Marks & Spencer, Cook and Uswitch, and joined Red, H+K and Tin Man on the Smart Energy GB roster. It also won work for the National Trust, the Adult Cerebral Palsy Hub, and Bother, the delivery service for basic household products.
Shook is driven by five values: open, honest, restless, generous, fun. The co-founders took the opportunity of building inclusivity into the heart of the agency from the start, and rather than a D&I policy, created a pledge of what they are doing now, next and as the agency grows. This pledge, and a client charter, are shared with clients when Shook starts work, and covers everything from miscarriage and menopause leave to prompts around accessibility on meeting agendas, time off for religious holidays and commitment to advertising job roles on diverse job boards. The agency tailors training for each team member depending on what they need to thrive, supports the work of the Taylor Bennett Foundation, and is working with an external DE&I consultant. The team describes Shook as “understanding” (of its people and of what clients and the industry needs) and "welcoming”, in terms of welcoming people, ideas and inclusivity. Shook’s clients, 100% of which would recommend the agency, consistently describe the team as “partners”.
The agency developed its ShookShop of creative ideas that don’t yet have a home by proactively pitching ideas to brands and organisations. This led to two 2021 projects for UK for UNHCR, including the SABRE-shortlisted Refugee Dictionary to mark the 70th anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention: a dictionary defining only the word ‘refugee’, with contributions from the public, celebrities, influencers and opinion leaders. The agency’s SABRE-shortlisted work also included a campaign to support adults with cerebral palsy, who often find it hard to access joined-up healthcare, with a set of mock second class stamps featuring celebs with CP, designed by an artist from the community. The campaign put the cause on the Disability Minister’s agenda as well as leading to thousands of pounds in grants.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
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