2024 Corporate Consultancies of the Year | PRovoke Media

2024 Corporate PR 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

Boldt (BPI)

aoy-backstory-iconBackstory

Boldt is not a traditional strategic communications agency. The firm has shown impressive growth since it was set up in 2017 by former Burson-Marsteller EMEA CEO Jeremy Galbraith with the intention of reinventing the network model, giving business and marketing leaders access to senior, experienced counsellors with “bold ideas, even bolder solutions and real records of achievement through work that creates measurable value”. The model is working: Boldt has attracted an impressive roster of marquee global brands and works with CEOs and boards across sectors including food and drink, healthcare, industrial, energy, technology, financial services and government on business-critical issues, from regulatory and commercial challenges to transformation and reputational value. The firm’s stellar growth in Europe caught the eye of US-based business and politics advisory Bully Pulpit International, which acquired the firm at the end of last year. At just six years old – Boldt was PRovoke Media’s global new agency of the year in 2019 – this was much earlier than its partners were anticipating, and has created a Western powerhouse in strategic business and communications advisory.

aoy-location-iconLocations

Boldt is based in Belgium and has a presence in Germany, Norway, Switzerland and the UK. It also has a footprint in the US through new parent company BPI. In addition, the firm has senior advisors based in Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain, and strategic partners in Latin America. 

aoy-performance-iconPerformance

Boldt has been on a steep growth trajectory since the start. In 2023, its total income was €9.5m, a significant 48% increase on 2022, and its team grew over the year from 41 to 55. Boldt increased the breadth and depth of its advisory bench last year by hiring six new partners with policy, corporate communications and industry sector expertise in Brussels, Oslo, London and Berlin. The agency's client portfolio includes global brands such as Aramco, Carlsberg, Europe’s largest steel producer, CELSA Group, Formula 1, Google, PepsiCo, renewable energy producer Norsk Hydro and Syngenta. New clients added last year included McDonalds, Nestle, and Novartis.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Boldt describes its culture as its ‘North Star’ – the founding partners set out to make their business somewhere the best people would want to work, long-term. This is reflected in several “minimal and maximum” principles around how the team work together internationally: minimal barriers to get in the way of how people work for clients and how they develop; minimal bureaucracy; zero “dithering”, with decisions made quickly, and experimentation encouraged; maximum exposure for talent, who are encourage to push their comfort zones; maximum collaboration and respect across borders and time zones; and maximum opportunity to work on client challenges and personal development paths. There’s no ‘culture programme’ to ensure this happens: the team have enough experience at other agencies to know how to do things better. Boldt is conscious that it needs to be more diverse, and is committed to attracting and retain talented people who enhance its ethnic, racial, generational, socio-economic, neuro, sexual orientation, disability and religious diversity. In 2023, 75% of promotions went to women and 8% of new joiners were from ethnically or neuro-divergent backgrounds, or had registered disabilities. Galbraith is supported by a senior team that includes founding partner Morten Pettersen, previously CEO of Burson-Marsteller's Nordic region and the Baltics, and former Zeno EMEA leader Steve Earl. New partners included renewable energy specialist Toini Løvseth in Oslo and former BCW public affairs lead Ferdinand Sacksofsky in Berlin. 

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

Research and thought leadership during 2023 focused on two areas: data-driven understanding of reputation, and the implications of major pieces of legislation. Boldt produced two substantial reports into reputation factors, one that took stock of how ESG factors were shifting given changing attitudes in investment markets and political polarisation, and one that sought to isolate and better understand the impact of ‘woke factors’ on reputation and customer sales. It also used its ‘big data’ reputation analysis platform, RISKR, to examine reputation strengths and weaknesses of leading UK and Norwegian companies. Other thought leadership pieces covered regulatory developments in European financial services markets and the ramifications of an independent Regulatory Scrutiny Board. Stand-out work over the year included helping McDonalds take the sector lead to influence the proposed EU legislation around reusable packaging, garnering cross-industry support to create the Together For Sustainable Packaging alliance. The team also advised Carlsberg’s CEO and board on geopolitical challenges and corporate risk as it navigated its exit from Russia, and is now the lead global agency for Carlsberg Group’s corporate affairs function. And for Formula 1, Boldt engaged politicians and policy makers to allow the use of sustainable, synthetic e-fuels in racing cars, with an EU ban on new internal combustion engine vehicles coming into force from 2035. 

Maja Pawinska Sims

MHP (UK/Next15) 

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MHP Group describes its approach as being “designed for the Networked Age” – a world of eight billion digitally connected minds, which is increasingly complex, tribal and activist – and, in its second year as part of Next15, MHP Group continued to lead the way in the application of behavioural science and social analytics to solve communications challenges. The group, led by CEO Alex Bigg and deputy CEO Nick Barron, consists of three brands that come together seamlessly: MHP supports clients with complex communications challenges to change minds, behaviours and reputations, creative consumer shop Mischief, and Accord, which helps leaders navigate divisive situations and polarisation. MHP has specialists across corporate, consumer, capital markets, public affairs, health, financial services and creative, and works across areas including health policy, fintech, AIM advisory, shareholder activism and renewables. Last year, it introduced three new offers: Reverb, an earned-first approach to brand strategy; a specialist change and employee engagement practice; and Storylabs, its own earned media ideation workshops.

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MHP Group is based in London and has an outpost in San Francisco. 

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MHP Group had a robust financial performance in 2023, with total fee income of $47.1m, a 4.6% increase on the previous year, with growth coming from areas including renewable energy and employee engagement. Its workforce stayed stable at 197 people. The agency’s impressive client portfolio includes AstraZeneca, Coca-Cola, Barclays, Lego, E.ON and JustEat, and it also secured new clients across each of its main disciplinary areas, including Amazon, Hilton, Novo Nordisk, the Wellcome Trust, TeamGB, BAE Systems and Worldpay. 

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Last year, MHP Group focused on training, development and wellness, designing bespoke training programmes for employees, with a training budget of £500 per head, as well as a ‘time for you’ allowance for personal admin and a wellness programme and social calendar. The agency looked at its recruitment process and internal development scheme, which has helped to increase minority ethnic representation to 13%. At director level and above, there is 50/50 gender balance. Employees can work from home up to three days a week, and 25% of the team have a flexible working arrangement. The agency has a transparent promotion process, and paid a record bonus pool to employees last year and 88% of the team received a pay rise. MHP Group also allots 1% of revenue to pro bono partnerships , including with Myeloma UK, the Kiyan Prince Foundation and Missing People. Bigg and Barron are supported by a senior team that includes head of brand and reputation Rachel Bower, former UK MD of Edelman, former Brunswick director Oliver Hughes, head of capital markets, and former Instinctif head of financial services Nick Woods. Key hires included Naomi Goodman as head of change and employee engagement, Lisa Hunter as head of strategic communications (previously deputy CEO of the Government Communications Service), Gemma Lingham, director and fintech co-lead, who joined from FleishmanHillard, European health policy specialist Christine Ridout, creative director Iona Inglesby, and political advisor and analytics specialist Atul Hatwal. 

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

Over the past 12 months MHP Group produced several pieces of IP and thought leadership, including the MHP Polarisation Tracker in partnership with Cambridge University's Political Psychology Lab, which spotlighted the Rise of the Super Distruster audience. It also developed Investor Influence, a quantitative study of how institutional and retail investors evaluate companies as investment propositions and the role that communications plays in these decisions, an EU Health Policy Report, Missions Accomplished, a proprietary model that helps clients understand what a Labour government's biggest priorities in power will be, and the Health Influencer Report. Its ‘30 To Watch Journalism’ long-running awards were the biggest ever, including a new partnership with NewsUK to promote social mobility in the news industry, and the agency introduced the ’30 To Watch Politics’ awards. Stand-out work included building excitement around TeamGB ahead of the Paris Olympics this summer, integrated investor relations for Shaftesbury Capital, the biggest real estate merger in years, and delivering NHS England’s digital campaign to promote the benefits of using patient health data beyond direct care, which delivered a measurable uplift in public support for sharing personal information. 

Maja Pawinska Sims

Seven Hills (UK/Independent)

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Since launching Seven Hills—our Corporate Consultancy of the Year two years ago—in 2009, Michael Hayman and Nick Giles have been avid creators of thought leadership content, from research to events, around their primary focus on the entrepreneurial economy and the “change makers” who are driving it. Over the years they have honed Seven Hills’ positioning to focus on two practice areas: purpose and impact, and innovation and investment. To demonstrate the strength of their credentials, they have written a book (‘Mission’) about how businesses can tap into their core purpose to break through, and started two TV shows — Change Makers and the Capital Conversation—to celebrate entrepreneurship and innovation.

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Seven Hills Communications is based in London, but has managed events and communications in the USA, Middle East, Europe, and Hong Kong.

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PERFORMANCE
Fee income was essentially flat in 2023, at around £4.8 million, as was headcount, at around 40, but the firm continued to work with most of its flagship clients and to maintain its focus on the entrepreneurial environment—whether that meant actual start-ups or larger companies trying to remain nimble and innovative in a challenging climate. There was new business from Academy, Village Enterprise, the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses campaign, Google, ID Manchester, Mercato Metropolitano, Reckitt, Lloyds Bank, CNBC, and the London School of Economics. They join an already impressive list of existing clients such as Here East, One Young World, Tech London Advocates, Dell Technologies, Innovate Finance, Strava, James Chen, Hexagon, Brabners, and Get Living. 

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Founders Michael Hayman and Nick Giles continue in their leadership roles, with CEO Emma Johnson leading a team of 40 that includes content director Ed Tyler and haead of design Nadeem Muzaffar in senior creative roles. The firm’s continued commitment to diversity and inclusion includes programs like “Behind the Bio,” which allows team members to share their personal experiences. The company has also introduced more flexible working, allowing employees to work from anywhere globally for two weeks each year, and established a development fund for personal growth and a “Culture Calendar” of social events to preserve a mutually-supportive and connected culture. 


aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

Seven Hills Communications has been a thought leader in the entrepreneurial realm since its foundation, producing original research and events that reinforce its expertise in the space. The firm’s Change Makers podcast is a particularly successful initiative, often featuring high-profile executives and celebrity CEOs. The firm’s MissionLab, meanwhile, employs a structured process to test a company’s mission, interrogate its brand narrative, and explore stories and proof points. In terms of client work, Seven Hills has worked with Here East to showcase the vibrant community it has cultivated on site, organizing a series of Future Talks covering AI, the metaverse and SmartCities; used the MissionLab process to help Aon create the positioning for its new entrepreneur-focused, IP finance product; and delivered a series of high-profile results and broadcast appearances for Tech London Advocates promoting a semiconductor strategy for the UK.

Paul Holmes

Seesame (Slovakia/Independent) 

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Our 2022 Central & Eastern European Consultancy of the Year, Seesame continued to thriveover the past couple of years even as the firm mobilized to help its colleagues and refugees from neighboring Ukraine. A combination of resilience and thought leadership has fueled Seesame’s emergence during its 27 years in business as one of the finest PR firms in Europe. Now a full-service PR and digital agency with strengths across corporate and public affairs, employer branding, lifestyle and ESG, Seesame has strengthened its research/data and social impact capabilities, while also deepening its expertise in digital experience—all while unwaveringly committed to social impact. 

aoy-location-iconLocations

With its headquarters in Slovakia and operations in Czechia, it’s tempting to view Seesame as a big fish in a relatively small pond. But it punches above its weight and beyond its national borders with the quality of its work, thanks in part to membership in the PROI network of independent agencies, which allows it to extend its reach and expertise through collaboration. 

aoy-performance-iconPerformance

Seesame saw a slight increase in its total public relations fee income from 2020 to 2023, ending the year with $4.38 million in fees, with a new focus on ESG communications that helped sustain the growth during a difficult economy in 2023. The agency's client portfolio includes longstanding relationships with major brands like Shell, Henkel, McDonald's, IKEA, Schaeffler, ESET, TESCO, and Johnson & Johnson, as well as new acquisitions such as Coca Cola, Samsung, AVON, Dr. Oetker, and Fuergy. 

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Still helmed by founder and managing director Michaela Benedigova, Seesame has a strong leadership team that includes head of public affairs Anna Michalkova and head of corporate Juraj Caranek. They lead a team of about 50 professionals, and the firm’s commitment to learning and development—as well as the strategic nature of the client work—makes Seesame an attractive destination for local talent. The culture is characterized by a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, with women making up 80% of the leadership team. The agency is a signatory of the Diversity Charter, actively supports local LGBTQI+ initiatives, and provides flexibility for working parents, showing a commitment to creating an inclusive and supportive work environment.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

Seesame has a track record of success in the SABRE Awards (more than 20 over the past 15 years) and the firm has multiple nominations for its work this year. A project for  Iniciatíva Inakosť, “Our lives are at stake: Creating safer Slovakia for LGBTI  people,” showcased the firm’s issues management and public affairs expertise—as well as its bravery. In the healthcare arena, the firm’s work for Janssen is also nominated, drawing attention to changes in blood cancer treatment, while the “Give Your Wardrobe a New Dimension” for the Aupark Shopping Center demonstrated both consumer expertise and digital capabilities. The firm’s newly added ESG speciality, meanwhile, has led to an increase in both ESG reporting and stakeholder engagement work.

Paul Holmes

Woodrow (Independent) 

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Woodrow’s work is defined by communications challenges at the forefront of international relations, global security and society, with its work ranging from leading the global crisis comms response on behalf of the Liberian government during the Ebola outbreak, to managing responses to terror attacks and international incidents. The team, led by founder Charlie Tarr – one of PRovoke Media’s Innovator 25 for EMEA in 2023 – advises clients on conversations that matter around issues that define how we live and work, with a range of services covering strategy and positioning, sustainability, crisis, employee engagement, reputation, leadership coaching, campaigning and advocacy, supported by digital experts and a new design studio. The agency crystallised its difference in 2023 with a brand refresh as the ‘Future Positive’ communications consultancy, underlining its belief that “turning communications into influence is an essential force for good”. Woodrow started 2024 by forging a strategic partnership with French agency Taddeo, appointing former FleishmanHillard leader Jim Donaldson as its first chair, and launching the Woodrow PR Academy out of its Kenya office to offer learning and development opportunities to regional professionals.

aoy-location-iconLocations

Woodrow is based in the UK and has offices in New York and Nairobi, as well as in Paris, via the Taddeo partnership.

aoy-performance-iconPerformance

Woodrow's income increased by 37% in 2023, from just over £2m to £2.9m with the team remaining stable at 25 people, earning the agency a place on the FTSE1000 list of Europe’s fastest-growing companies for the second year running. Notable client wins in 2023 included Lloyd’s Register, $100bn+ market cap US medical technology company Medtronic, Bloomberg Philanthropies, carbon-negative construction business Partanna, impact investing network Unreasonable, and Wildfarmed, the regenerative-farming focused wheat producer run by Armada’s Andy Cato and George Lamb. These joined a client bench that includes refugee charity Choose Love; fintech ESG Book, which provides transparent ESG metrics for thousands of global businesses to investors and markets; healthy snacking company Warp; and international conglomerate JCG.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Woodrow has a ‘builder mentality’, with everyone on the team becoming a shareholder after six month via an EMI scheme. In five years, only one person has left to go to another agency. The agency It has a £500 budget per person for external training each year and runs a learning and development programme for all staff, Woodrow Accelerate, which covers training in all comms disciplines, plus external speakers and trainers including Nobel laureates, global editors and award-winning film makers. There are five trained mental health first aiders on the team – 20% of the company – and everyone has access to counselling. Woodrow offers four months fully-paid parental leave, paid leave and flexible support for fertility treatment, and is a signatory to the Miscarriage Association UK pledge. The agency runs a company offsite for three days every year, in destinations including Italy, Spain and Morocco, to connect, reflect on challenges and opportunities, and immerse the team in culture. It also runs a nature day for the team to reconnect to the natural world, a summer picnic for the London team and a safari for the Kenya team.  

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

Woodrow’s biggest piece of IP was its industry-influencing maritime ESG report, ‘Capital Perspectives: Navigating ESG Risks in the Maritime Sector’, which not only garnered extensive coverage but also led to conversations with two of the world’s largest shipping companies. Some of the team’s most impactful work over the year included ongoing work for Choose Love, Europe’s leading refugee charity, around successfully challenging the UK government’s Rwanda legislation, as well as running comms for Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Africa Business Media Innovators forum in Cape Town. For Partanna, the carbon-negative construction business run by former NBA star Rick Fox, Woodrow managed press, profile and engagement in the run up to COP28. And for Unreasonable, the impact investing network/accelerator which has helped sustainable businesses raise $12bn in financing, Woodrow ran a World Forum in London at the end of 2023 and created a widely-hailed report on talent challenges in the start-up space across Europe. 

Maja Pawinska Sims