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Founded in 2006 by former Labour Party councillor and parliamentary candidate Kevin Craig, PLMR has evolved from a one-man business to a 58-strong agency serving marquee clients such as Battersea Power Station, ExCel Centre & Adecco. PLMR has bolstered its growth with acquisitions, including two in 2021. The firm also is the founder and lead member of the Global Communications Alliance, a network of independent agencies with members in the US, Canada, Argentina, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Russia, India and Australasia.
PLMR is based in the UK, headquartered in London, with offices in Scotland, the East of England and the Midlands.
Overall, PLMR’s revenue grew by 17% to £6.8 million in 2021. Growth was driven by strength in core areas including social care, education, energy & health and expertise in PR, campaigns, public affairs and digital. PLMR also benefited from a total of four acquisitions, two of which the agency made in 2021 with the purchase of West Midlands agency Advent Communications PR and Genesis PR, which works in the East of England. PLMR has emerged as one of the UK’s top education communications consultancies, working with more than 500 schools such as Star Academies, leading universities including Oxford and teacher unions, exam boards and more. The agency is also especially strong in health and social care with clients including Novavax, the Royal Marsden Hospital & the UK’s largest care home provider, HC-One. In 2021, the Scotland office won a major public affairs campaign for the Bingo Association. New business came from Jet2, Teach First, Warwick University, The EG Group and Saab, which joined existing clients such as Royal Veterinary College, Company Shop, Gumtree, and the UN Global Crop Diversity Trust.
PLMR invests in its people, providing training for junior and senior staff while also facilitating senior leaders attending courses at Oxford and Harvard. Since 2006, the agency has donated 5% of net profits to charitable causes, totaling well over £250,000 so far. PLMR runs work experience, mentoring & intern opportunities for schools & are a partner of Taylor Bennett Foundation, whose goal is increasing the number of Black, Asian and ethnic minority people working in communications. An equal opportunity employer, PLMR is committed to fostering a diverse and equitable workplace. The PLMR Board is made up of 43% women and 29% Black, Asian and ethnic minorities. There is no gender pay gap. PLMR strives to make all its products and services fully accessible to people with the likes of visual, cognitive and motor impairments.
PLMR’s 2021 work spanned from using media relations and intel to influence government decisions to pro bono work supporting national projects for the greater good. During the 2021 Conservative Party Conference, PLMR hosted 10 s events over the four days on behalf of clients, which were attended by industry experts, parliamentarians, government ministers and high-profile journalists. The firm’s work for the Food Foundation included creating an online map showing locations providing vulnerable children free mails over the October half term. Leveraging local expertise, PLMR’s campaign to secure the future of Scottish bingo was a factor in the Scottish government to ease restrictions on the bingo sector, and provide funding to help struggling bingo clubs. The campaign won the Best Campaign in Scotland category at the PRCA Public Affairs Awards of 2021.
— Diana Marszalek
Over the years, APCO has been recognized with our Corporate Consultancy of the Year and its Public Affairs counterpart, an indication of the progress its has made expanding beyond its heritage to become one of Europe’s best when it comes to corporate reputation, public policy, issues management, and social impact. Its ability to help clients solve their thorniest public policy and stakeholder relations challenges is one of the things that sets the firm apart from anyone else of its size and scale. And more recently, it has also been on the cutting edge of using digital and social media to achieve those goals.
APCO’s traditional strength in EMEA is in the region’s twin public affairs capitals of London and Brussels, but the firm has additional operations in several European capitals, including Rome (the Italian operation has been among the fastest growing in the region over the past two years), Berlin and Paris and is a powerhouse in the Middle East (offices in Abu Dhabi, Amman, Dubai, Riyadh and a new office in Amman, Jordan).
APCO’s positioning as a firm that can solve the complex problems that occur at the intersection of business, politics and social change has served it well throughout the pandemic, and 2021 was another strong year for its EMEA operations, which saw revenues increase by 23% to $72 million (out of global fee income of $172 million). Strong performers include Italy, where revenues in Milan and Rome were up by more than 40%, and the MENA region (up 22%). Among the main growth sectors were tech and especially fintech (Blockchain for Europe, DuckDuckGo, LinkedIn,the Advanced Technology Research Council, Microsoft, Accenture, Apple); and healthcare (G42, Roche, Lumina Dx, HDA, the Rotary Foundation, Cigna, Reckit Benckiser, and the Platform for Better Oral Health). Another significant contributor has been the new .Pomelo studio, based in Amann, which offers advertising and other creative services.
With Paolo Compostello as president of Europe and Mamoon Sbeih leading the MENA region, APCO has a strong leadership team across key markets, supplemented in 2021 with significant additions such as senior advisors John Defterios, a former CNN Business emerging markets editor and anchor; Declan Kelleher, former Irish Ambassador; and Richard Burn, former UK trade commissioner for China; and director of Dean Cambridge, an expert in sustainability. In addition, key roles are played by Elizabeth Sen, who leads a new gender practice in the Middle East, and Italian MD Sara Amadei, who leads the new “Europe’s Women” employee resource group—in addition to helping clients achieve their own diversity goals, APCO has been walking the walk, promoting gender equity in its own ranks and establishing a European diversity council that has more than 100 members.
High-profile assignments have included several Middle East initiatives: providing support for the 90th Saudi National Day—including a video that featured, for the first time, a Saudi woman singing the country’s national anthem—as well as COP 27 and COP 28 climate conferences, both of which will take place in the Middle East. The firm has also worked with the US Chamber of Commerce in the UAE on a campaign designed to hasten the region’s recovery from the Covid pandemic. In Italy, meanwhile, the firm has done stellar work for Carrefour, an integrated campaign spanning corporate comms, public affairs, crisis planning, and social media. The firm also worked with Tech Accord, an alliance of Microsoft and other tech leaders to lobby for a safer more secure Internet; supported the Rotary Foundation’s long-running campaign to end polio.
— Paul Holmes
Created in 2017 via the merger of Remarkable Group and HardHat Communications, the Built Environment Communications Group has found and filled its niche as a specialty agency focusing on the many facets and challenges facing clients working to further “the built environment” — the manmade places and spaces such as buildings, parks and transit systems in which people live, play and work. After getting off to a remarkably robust start, the agency five years later is flourishing, drawing clients with expertise in an array of specialties — property, energy and utilities, infrastructure, waste and recycling, environment, and the public sector among them. The draw: BECG knows its stuff. The agency has a firm understanding of the built environment, and important role a better built environment can play in society by creating opportunity, prosperity, and well-being. As a result, BECG is well-positioned to support clients with communications strategies that resonate in that context.
BECG is based in London and has offices across the UK including Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Norwich, and Southampton.
Under the watch of founder and CEO Stephen Pomeroy, BECG in 2021 brought in more than £10 million in fees, a 28% lift over 2019. The team also grew, rising in number to 82 from 66, an expansion precipitated by new business from Zenith Racing, Thames Water, Fairfax Homes, Ecoworld International, Legal & General Affordable Homes, Liquid Gas UK and British Summer Fruits, which joined existing clients including AGS, NeuConnect, Redrow Homes, National Grid, Thrive Homes, Whitbread and British Land. 2021 saw BECG rebrand the social media management platform it acquired at the start of the year, changing the name from CrowdControlHQ to SoCrowd, The agency also upgraded SoCrowd to include social media listening tool Buzz Monitor enabling users to follow social conversations and listen out for brand mentions and keywords. BECG was named specialist consultancy of the year by the PRCA and ICCO independent consultancy of the year.
BECG puts a premium staff well-being, resulting in the agency’s robust slate of offerings from personalized support to professional development. The agency just rolled out its two-year diversity, inclusion and belonging strategy with an eye on attracting and retaining a diverse workforce, representative of our clients and community. BECG also is active in bettering the larger community, supporting corporate charity partners including The Brain Tumour Charity, for which employees raised £5,326 for them by skydiving last July. The firm’s Southern regional office provided £60,000 pro-bono creative support in 2021 to help The Murray Parish Trust. All staff gets paid time off for charity work. In response to staff feedback, BECG launched a new model in 2021 which enables staff to work two days a week from the office and the remainder remotely.
Throughout 2021, BECG heightened its focus on producing thought leadership that would help clients navigate the year’s business challenges. Doing that included launching the first digital communications benchmarking survey for the built environment sector that included polling the public, MPs, and councillors on topics including net zero, waste and recycling, and social media engagement. The agency hosted 24 webinars, which included high profile speakers from government and the built environment sector such as business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. In addition, BECG led a working group to raise awareness and acceptance of neurodiversity in the workplace. Other efforts included creating a campaign for Stonewater that sought to push the issue of decarbonisation of social housing to the top of the government’s agenda. The Institute for Customer Service tapped BECG to create a campaign calling on government to create a new law aimed at protecting frontline workers from violence and abuse.
— Diana Marszalek
Grayling has enjoyed an impressive turnaround over the past couple of years, testament to the leadership of Sarah Scholefield and public affairs supremo Richard Jukes, who were elevated in 2019 from UK CEO and chair respectively to the same roles across Europe, and then in late 2020 became global CEO and chairman. Beyond the public affairs realm where it is a regional powerhouse, Grayling strengthened its corporate capabilities in recent years. The agency is also upping its focus on creativity across all its areas of work, extending its creative function, Ignite, into a global creative studio.
In the UK, Grayling has an unusual regional network of nine offices as well as its London headquarters. Across Continental Europe, it has wholly-owned offices in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Ukraine—although it divested itself of its Russian operations earlier this year—plus affiliates in 15 other countries. It also has affiliates across the Middle East and Africa.
Revenue growth in 2021 was a very healthy 18.6% and while parent company Huntsworth has not released its year-end financials, that extrapolates to just under $60 million in fee income for the year. One new area of growth was a PA marketing offer, responding to changes in the way stakeholders think act and interact by delivering multi-channel persuasive content. Elsewhere, there was an increase in transaction business in Paris and Brussels, and growth in employee communications in Spain. New business came from AstraZeneca, Lego, Diageo, Tetra Pak, GE Healthcare, Netflix, L’Oreal, Converse, Hewlett Packard, joining a client roster that includes blue-chip brands such as Huawei, Visa, National Grid, Badoo, Fujitsu, RSA, Bolt, Environmental Defense Action Fund, Poker Stars Group, and Hilton.
The pandemic saw Grayling investing in people and working to assuage their concerns about everything that was happening around them—a commitment that saw the firm named PR Week’s Best Place to Work. There was an increased focus on D&I, including company-wide training sessions with external experts, online events on international Women’s Day, and an international Pride month newsletter. The firm has an Advantage for All taskforce made up of colleagues representing aspects of inclusion from ethnicity to LGBTQ+. Senior people moves in 2021 included global head of creative and planning Nathan Kemp, promoted from the firm’s IGNITE creative unit, and managing director of Germany Geraldine Schroeder, who joined from Berlin consultancy Johanssen + Kretschmer. The new PA marketing practice also fueled an influx of new talent: copywriters, designers, project managers, art directors, strategists.
Grayling talks about delivering “business critical, audience first, creative communications,” the last of those being a significant differentiator in the corporate and public affairs realm. Last year saw the growth of its IGNITE creative and strategic team’s role across Europe with weekly creative clinics, new business support, campaign showcases and collaborative tools. Last year also saw the launch of GPol, Grayling’s proprietary political social media monitoring and digital advocacy service, combining the social listening capabilities of consumer insights platform Linkfluence with the local market knowledge of the firm’s European public affairs network to inform PA strategies and enhance advocacy. For Badoo, the firm tacked bias and microaggressions on French dating apps, with a national campaign that celebrated honesty, inclusivity and openness and called out negative behaviours. For Lloyds Bank, the firm helped fight online fraud during the pandemic by focusing on the sensitive details UK men posted on social media. And for LEGO, it helped manage risk around Covid-related factory closures in the Czech Republic and Hungary. The UK operation also supported CD&R on the Morrisons transaction, probably the most followed deal of the year.
— Paul Holmes
In June last year, the world’s biggest law firm, Dentons, quietly expanded its operations into strategic communications by setting up Dentons Global Advisors (DGA), before buying public affairs specialist Albright Stonebridge Group and then acquiring European public affairs firm Interel. Almost instantly, a consultancy no one had heard of had more than 235 comms professionals across 10 offices in eight countries. DGA is led globally by CEO Edward Reilly, a long-time FTI Consulting stalwart, and in EMEA by Deborah Scott, who had also been at FTI for 21 years.
Dentons Global Advisors has offices in London, New York, Washington DC, Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Dubai, New Delhi, Beijing and Shanghai.
Opening a business in the middle of a pandemic is no easy feat, particularly when it comes to acquisitions, making senior hires and building a brand — all remotely to boot. But DGA succeeded and then some by painstakingly building out services, staff and a culture that rallied employees and clients alike. 2021 also saw DGA acquire Albright Stonebridge Group, Interel and Hills and Co. Working alongside Dentons, the law firm, equips DGA exceptionally well for handling communications around the likes of M&A, activism, crisis and litigation. All of which has resulted in fast growth for the firm, which has approximately 235 people, split roughly as follows: 100 US, 40 UK, 75 Continental Europe, 15 China and five in the rest of the world.
Some of our major clients include Astra Zeneca, Blackrock, Coca-Cola, EY, Expedia, Johnson & Johnson, Nestle, Nissan, John Lewis and Netflix.
DGA’s leadership team came to the firm with deep expertise gleaned from decades in the industry. CEO Edward Reilly’s recredentials including serving as CEO of FTI Consulting’s strategic comms segment. EMEA head Deborah Scott also came from FTI, where she saw on the firm’s EMEA executive committee and strategic communications’ global executive committee.
Grégoire Poisson is CEO of DGA Interel and the EMEA Leader of the Interel Global Partnership. As a new business, DGA has prioritized diversity from the outset. The firm is committed to performance and pay equity, building a diverse talent pipeline so that 50% of job candidates are diverse, and building a leadership team that is 50% diverse.
DGA has prolifically produced thought leadership since launch covering a range of subjects including the Saudi Regional Headquarters program, the European Commission’s Data Act, ESG, US-Bangladesh relations and, more recently, the brutality of the war in Ukraine. The firm’s hallmark 2021 work included a tenacious campaign to support the food and drink wholesale sector during the Covid-19 pandemic, which was at risk of collapsing without government support due to lost business — and therefore put people in places like care homes and schools at risk of losing their access to food as well. The effort resulted in the government creating a £1.5 billion business rates relief fund to help struggling wholesalers. DGA also worked to secure recognition and the UK’s beauty and wellness industry recognition and support after being sidelined during the peak of Covid. The campaign drove momentous schange in how the beauty industry is perceived by politicians and the government, and secured the reopening of all hair, beauty, spa and wellness services alongside the rest of the economy on 12th April 2021. The campaign won awards from PRCA, CIPR and ICCO.
— Diana Marszalek
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