2024 Central & Eastern European PR Consultancies of the Year | PRovoke Media

2024 Central & Eastern European Consultancies of the Year

The 2024 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 Winners and finalists across 20 geographic and specialist categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below. Winners are unveiled at the 2024 EMEA SABRE Awards, which take place in London on 17 April. Tickets and tables are available here.

You can find the 2024 SABRE Awards EMEA finalists here.

Finalists

Ewing (Czech Republic/Independent)

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Over its 30 years in business, Czech Republic firm ewing has established itself and as a leader in corporate comms, digital and public affairs, with proficiency in serving niche industries across eight practice groups. Though firmly rooted in Prague, ewing in 2023 earned the opportunity to show its global prowess (thanks in part it being part of the PROI network), winning an international remit from PMI to showcase the company’s transition to a smoke-free future. 

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Ewing is based in Prague.

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2023 was a banner year for ewing, which saw fee income rise 32% to €3.5 million. Winning an international remit to showcase PMI’s vision of a smoke-free future — beating agencies from New York and London — was one of the year’s crowning moments, propelling elevating ewing on the global stage. Other highlights of the year include launching a social impact and sustainability practice and creating a tool, called Hatched by AI, that serves as an early idea incubator. The firm’s 62-person team handled new business from Deutsche bahn & Sprava Zeleznic, Skoda Auto Endowment Fund and Region of Plzen and EPI in addition to PMI. Longtime clients include Ball, CME, BAE Systems, AVE and Pfizer.

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Ewing’s commitment to diversity shows in its workforce, which is comprised of mixed genders, generations and nationalities, the latter of which is not common in Czech agencies. Returning moms are welcomed back in part-time or flexible positions; in some instances, ewing pays for childcare. Like options also are available for caregivers, parents, students, and mature professionals. Employees are encouraged to push their limits, with the possibility of becoming equity partners in the firm. Ewing is also an active member of the larger community supporting non-profits, charities and civic initiatives that included, last Christmas, donating bikes to children in need and buying 50 holiday dinners for seniors on behalf of clients. This year, ewing plans to roll out its own sustainability report that will document the firm’s impact and commitment to making the agency a more positive force in the larger community. 

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In 2023, ewing’s work for the Pilsen Regional Authority focused on changing the way the public institution communicates with citizens with an eye on boosting awareness of the region and its offerings. The agency produced engaging content highlighting regional goings-on (a village of the year competition and effort to preserve air ambulance service, among others), and spread it far and wide using the authority’s website, social platforms and media; Facebook followers rose by 276%. Other key work including supporting longtime client Diakonie’s annual Shoebox project, a Christmas gift drive for kids in need. In 2023, the nonprofit collected 54,000 shoeboxes filled with gifts — a 10% year-over-year increase — and €200,000 in donations, a 20% increase. Ewing also connected Diakonie with commercial broadcaster TV Nova, whose joint Shoebox from the Heart campaign resulted in the delivery of 30,000 shoeboxes to Ukrainian children taking refuge in the Czech Republic.

Diana Marszalek

Grayling (Accordience)

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Grayling and its parent company Accordience (the non-healthcare businesses of the former Huntsworth: Grayling, Citigate Dewe Rogerson, Red Consultancy and Cirkle) have had a tumultuous time of it in recent years, with changes in infrastructure and ownership impacting the momentum that had seemed to be building. In the past 12 months there have been more changes, with former Grayling chief exec Sarah Scholefield taking on the parent company CEO role full time, with Richard Jukes taking over as Grayling’s global CEO from his former chairman role. It’s important to note, however, that the firm’s Central and Eastern European operations have maintained their regional leadership status throughout all these changes. Originally part of Mmd, the corporate, financial and public affairs specialist acquired in 2006, the operation continues to focus on those high-value services, working with a range of market leaders across multiple markets.

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Nobody has a larger footprint in Central and Eastern Europe than Grayling (even after its withdrawal from Russia after the invasion of Ukraine). It has close to 150 people across offices in Kazakhstan, Serbia, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Bosnia & Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Lithuania, Poland, and Croatia.

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With the Russian invasion of Ukraine causing considerable disruption in the region, in addition to global economic headwinds that kept much of the PR market subdued last year, Grayling’s 2.3% growth in CEE looks pretty healthy in context, especially after growthof 17% and 30% in the previous two years. The firm enjoys longstanding partnerships with some key clients in the region, representive Visa and Tetra Pak in seven markets, Google in  six and brands such as eBay, BMW, Zalando, Ikea, McDonalds, Primark, Netflix, and Jaguar Land Rover in more than one country. There was particularly strong growth from the firm’s crisis and internal communications practices, and from a new creative hub.

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There’s a strong, stable leadership team in place across the region, with regional CEO Peter Fecko (appointed to his current role three years ago after two decades as country manager in Slovakia); Nataša Trslić Štambak promoted to managing director for the CEE region and Robert Škunca named MD or for SEE in 2022; and 15- year Grayling vet Klara Banaszewska leading the significant Polish operation. In addition, Grayling has made significant investments in people, with a £600,00 spend on training and development initiatives, a new  Hi Bob internal communications platform, improved maternity and paternity leave, more flexible working hours, and D&I initiatives ranging from a new internship partnership to “culture club” meetings to an internal D&I survey.

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October saw the launch of  proprietary methodology and diagnostic tool, Advantage Analytics, to give clients a data-led assessment of their brand or business health and track progress to show the impact of its work, while the firm introduced its AI ethical framework at the beginning of this year. But in Central and Eastern Europe, the firm’s CEE Outlook reports have long provided companies doing business in the region with valuable insights and intelligence into political issues. Highlights of the firm’s work in 2023 includin the largest IPO in Romania last year for Hydroelectrica, and the opening of 10 stores in four markets for retail giant Primark.  

Paul Holmes

Hill & Knowlton Poland (WPP)

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Hill & Knowlton has had an owned office in Poland since 2011, when it acquired affiliate agency Feedback. The agency has since grown from the bottom end of the top 10 in Poland to be one of the top two players in the Polish market and the wider central and Eastern European region, with a particular strength in corporate advisory and public affairs. The agency has the largest corporate comms practice in Poland, its creative studio is behind many award-winning campaigns, and it also a leader in the energy – including nuclear energy –and defence sectors. H&K works on complex briefs for major global client, including the $1 million Amazon account, the biggest in Poland. This has all been achieved under the leadership of CEO Grzegorz Szczepański, who joined the agency in 2012 and is one of the most respected PR leaders in the region. 

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Poland is the primary market for H&K’s Warsaw office, but the company operates in all 12 Central and Eastern European markets, either directly or through network partners. 

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H&K in Poland has consistently grown revenues over the past 10 years, and this year its 60-strong team delivered a mid-single digit increase in sales, and a record high double-digit margin, the highest across H&K’s European network. H&K is the CEE hub agency for a number of clients, including Meta in 12 markets and nuclear power giant Westinghouse in four. It is also Amazon’s agency in Poland, with a team of 20 working across six different Amazon businesses. In 2023, it won another major engineering and construction account: alongside its long-term work with Westinghouse, the agency now serves the two companies building the first nuclear power plant in Poland. Organic growth came from Shell and Janssen, and other new wins included ING, Activision Blizzard, Nestlé, Mozilla and Danone. 

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H&K Poland’s employee reward program, Applause, recognises team members who have gone the extra mile in performance and commitment. The agency has a wide range of benefits including private healthcare and gym membership. Two years ago, the agency started disclosing internal pay levels for every job grade below CEO and CFO, which has led to zero gender pay gap. H&K Poland is based in WPP’s Warsaw campus, and together with other WPP agencies last year it took part in a mental health week, during which webinars, workshops and trainings were organized to encourage employees to take care of themselves and their wellbeing. The team also celebrated Pride month along with other agencies on the campus, and an inter-company project group has been formed to focus on diversity and the needs of employees from minority groups. Key hires last year included Magdalena Banasik as director of the consumer practice and head of creative services, joining after a Cannes Lions-winning career working in ad agencies including DDB, Havas and McCann. Tomasz Gołębiewski also joined as director of the energy and industry practice in Warsaw, after working in senior in-house comms roles in the nuclear energy industry. 

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Last year H&K Poland ran an open seminar for current and prospective WPP clients in Warsaw on disinformation, and launched a new product, the Disinformation Shield. It also worked with Meta on its disinformation campaign in the region. Szczepański is currently president of ICCO, and hosted the global PR industry umbrella body’s annual summit in Warsaw last year, with all design work for the event carried out by H&K Poland’s creative studio. Standout work during the year included two campaigns for financial services company ING, educating children about cybersecurity via the Roblox game platform, and using AI to help people visualise their retirement. The agency also continued its strategic comms work for Westinghouse and its role in the green energy transition, running the Polish press office and social media accounts, building relations with key stakeholders in Poland, as well as acting as European PR hub for Westinghouse in Czechia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Sweden 

Maja Pawinska Sims

MSL (Publicis Groupe)

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In 2009, Publicis Groupe acquired Bulgaria’s MARC Group, an integrated agency that includes a small public relations department, nevertheless big enough to give the French holding company a beachhead in the fast-growing Eastern European PR market. In 2011, Publicis added leading Polish independent Ciszewski Public Relations in 2011, giving it a strong corporate and financial communications presence in the region’s largest PR market. In 2013, meanwhile, it took over a majority stake in Romanian creative boutique The Practice—a firm that punched way above its weight in awards competition—strengthening its consumer credentials. The operation has gone from strength to strength since, and a new leadership team is not only sustaining but building on past success. The agency offers a wide range of services, including crisis management, image protection, employee communications, product promotion, and more.

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Headquartered in Poland, where it’s 100+ workforce makes it the market’s biggest PR firm, MSL’s CEE presence includes more than 200 consultants across Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Greece, the Baltics, North Macedonia, and Croatia. 

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MSL reported strong financial returns in 2023., up 26% to $11.8m, while its workforce grew to 226. The client portfolio includes new business from Honor, Kraft-Heinz, Oral-B, Sanofi, Allegro, Sky ShowTime, Karcher, Haleon, Shein, and Johnson & Johnson, joining an existing client roster that features Netflix, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, TikTok, Samsung, Glovo, Mars, Mc’Donald’s, Adidas, and Unilever. 


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MSL has adopted flexible work policies, hiring consultants remotely and including talents from different countries, which has helped to strengthen the firm’s internal culture and creativity. The company also ensures equal distribution of benefits and remuneration, and has shown unwavering support for its teams in Ukraine, maintaining salaries and benefits despite the ongoing conflict. MSL’s commitment to DE&I is further emphasized by its participation in Publicis Groupe's ÉGALITÉ competition, which encourages creative interpretations of equality. Sebastian Stępak leads the operation from Warsaw, having taken over as regional CEO in 2020. He is supported by market leaders including Oana Bulexa (Romania), Iva Grigorova (Bulgaria), Radek Vitek (Czech Republic), Olana Sukhanova (Ukraine), Alexis Mylonas (Greece), Baiba Kaulina (Latvia/Baltics) and public affairs lead Łukasz Kowalski and head of technology Grzegorz Kuźnik.

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The agency's work for Netflix, which won two awards at the Golden Clips competition in Poland, exemplifies its creativity and strategic thinking. MSL Poland also won two awards for its work with the Polish International Freight Forwarders Association, demonstrating its expertise in advocacy and public affairs. MSL Bulgaria also launched a unique measurement tool called PR Brand Acceleration, which conducts qualitative analysis of PR coverage in the media, and will be rolled out across the region in 2024.

Arun Sudhaman

United Partners (Bulgaria/Independent)

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PRovoke Media’s 2020 Central & Eastern European Consultancy of the Year, United Partners started out in 1997 as a pioneer of PR in the Bulgarian market and remains one of the most innovative firms in the region. Marking its 27th anniversary this year, United Partners’ remains focused on being the ‘Tesla of the communications industry,’ focusing in particular on cultural strategy for brands across consumer, technology, healthcare, public sector and defense/security.

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United Partners is based in Sofia, Bulgaria, but works across the wider region through its network of partner agencies.

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United Partners in 2023 leveraged its skills in brand strategy, corporate communications, social impact, public affairs, digital and employer branding to outwit a sluggish economy. Fee income last year rose 15% to $3.1 million, a credit to the firm’s cross-functional and international expertise, particularly in brand and corporate comms. Nearly half UP’s income came from international accounts. Thirty employees supported new business from Kyndyl, Pierre Fabre, World Bank, EU Cohesion fund, Sofia Airport, Jameson and Havana Club as well as existing clients including Procter & Gamble, Pierre Fabre, Paysafe, VMware, Melexis, Nespresso, Calvin Klein, Fjallraven, Tommy Hilfiger, Janssen, Carlsberg and Diageo. 2023 also saw UP launch an ESG comms consultancy and subsidiary focused on building ‘conscious’ brands.

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United Partners has made a major priority of building the kind of corporate culture that attracts and retains top-tier talent. The firm's commitment to staff and culture is evident through substantial investments in talent, including a 20% salary increase to counter inflation, leading to a 93% employee retention rate and a 100%  NPS in Q3. UP also continues to invest in growing its partner agency network and has stepped up training for students and staff alike. The culture that CEO/founder Maria Gergova-Bengtsson has instilled at UP is supported operations and culture head Viktoria Solakova, strategy and finance head Victor Savkin and digital and insights head Georgi Ivanov. New hires include brand strategists Paolo Marino and Giuseppe Cavallo.

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UP’s work retains the innovative flair that its Tesla positioning demands. That showed in the virtual media briefing UP orchestrated for Kyndryl, whose goal was reaching EMEA media and influencers. The event sparked global dialogue with participants across more than 30 countries on three continents. The first month after the webcast saw the publication of 84 deep-dive articles on the company.

Diana Marszalek