2024 DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) PR Consultancies of the Year | PRovoke Media

2024 DACH 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

Edelman (DJE Holdings)

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Edelman turned 70 two years ago but—despite becoming the PR industry’s first billion-dollar business—shows no sign of losing its independent, entrepreneurial spirit. The firm is still the global go-to agency for clients looking for everything from crisis support to brand building, and its offer ranges from corporate reputation management ad employee engagement to digital and social media strategy and insights-led creative campaigns, across every industry sector. In EMEA, the agency saw the fruits of its three-year drive—started by Ed Williams, now international president and new EMEA chief executive AJ Hesselink—to emphasize organizational design and become more integrated across offices, moving away from a focus on market teams to a more connected, horizontal approach. 

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Edelman has 1,200 people in 17 offices in 12 markets across EMEA. In Germany, there are 230 people across offices in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, and Hamburg in Germany. 

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While Edelman struggled in North America, which dragged down its global numbers for 2023, EMEA was the brightest spot in the overall story, with fee income up by about 8.1% to $228.6 million. And Germany, where Edelman has established itself as a top 10 agency and one of the two largest multinationals in the market, saw fee income increase by a very healthy 9.4%, marking a 25% growth over the past four years. Healthcare was the strongest sector, up by 40%, while financial business also grew by 16%. The German operation contributes to some of Edelman’s largest global accounts, like Allianz, Fresenius and SAP; and saw solid growth from clients such as Bosch, Haribo, and Pacific, while new business came from Lidl, Merck, Merz and Playmobil.

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In May, Edelman promoted Ed Williams to lead its international operations (everything outside the US) and upped longtime COO AJ Hesselink to CEO in EMEA. In the management restructuring that followed Edelman Germany CEO Christiane Schulz assumed an expanded role as regional client leader, leading the firm’s EMEA client portfolio, focusing on collaboration across the region. In addition, Germany head of health Nils Giese has been appointed as regional healthcare marketing lead for EMEA. Edelman has an EMEA DE&I council that oversees activity and report into local and regional leadership, while in Germany the firm has 16 different nationalities working across its offices, and has signed the Diversity Charter to underscore its commitment to the issue. The company’s EMEA learning and development, meanwhile, has strong leadership in Germany in the shape of lead Stefanie Zeidler. 

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Edelman continues to evolve its industry-leading Trust Barometer thought leadership platform, adding new markets (most recently in Africa) and ensuring that it serves as a diagnostic and consultative tool with the introduction of the Edelman Trust Management Platform. The firm also continues to build on its Action Method, a creative process that enables teams to find action-oriented solutions to clients’ business problems. A great example of this approach in action is the SABRE-nominated “The Squared Ball,” an initiative to draw attention to inequities in women’s football, for financial services giant Allianz. The office also handled corporate and impact work for Fresenius and Lidl and health education initiatives for Abbott, Merck, and Sanofi.


Paul Holmes

Ketchum (Omnicom PR Group)

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Ketchum has two very different offices in the DACH region, but both had a landmark year in 2023. Ketchum Germany celebrated its 100th anniversary with a year of growth, focusing on future-proof industries such as renewables, e-mobility and climate tech and the convergence of corporate comms and brand marketing into a culture first, content-driven consulting approach, anchored in data and analytics. In Austria, Ketchum has evolved from a traditional PR agency into an integrated communications consultancy. The office may be one of Ketchum’s smallest, but it is growing fast: the team size has doubled in the past three years and its social media, influencer marketing, and digital and analytics offering is creating new streams of income, as is its expertise in corporate, crisis and strategic counsel – thanks to the firm being deeply anchored in the local business and financial community.

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In the DACH region, Ketchum has eight offices in Germany (Dresden, Duesseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Bonn and Berlin) and is also present in Vienna, Austria and has affiliates in Switzerland (Zurich and Lausanne).

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At Ketchum Austria, revenue increased by low double digits last year, and the Germany offices have increased revenue by high single digits over the past two years, with a healthy EBITDA. Clients in Germany include P&G, Samsung, Smart, Metro, Deutsche Bahn and Burger King, who were joined by new clients including E.ON and Biogen. In Austria, a client portfolio that includes Accor, Mastercard, Nespresso, P&G, PwC, Smart, Velux and Vivo was boosted by winning new accounts from the Austrian Ministry of Culture, pharma giant MSD and investment management firm Security KAG. 

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Ketchum’s major hire in DACH last year was Matthias Wesselmann, its new Germany CEO, who joined from market leader FischerAppelt with a strong track record of driving growth. Another senior hire was Kathrin Lamprecht, who is responsible for key client P&G. In Austria, Saskia Wallner has been with Ketchum Austria and its predecessor for 25 years and has steered the agency to impressive growth. Fostering a culture where employees feel heard and respected is fundamental to Ketchum’s ethos and values around the world, with a huge focus on DEI, and the DACH offices are no exception. In 2021, the team set a goal in Germany to firmly anchor DEI in the company’s DNA within two years; today, the agency is in the top 3 medium-sized LGBTQIA+ friendly companies in Germany, across all industry sectors, and it has some of the highest scores relating to DEI in the global network. The agency has partnerships with organisations including Netzwerk Chancen, which supports people from disadvantaged backgrounds, Queermentor and the Proudr job portal and has signed the #positivarbeiten declaration from Deutsche Aidshilfe, which draws attention to the challenges faced by people with HIV at work. Ketchum offers flexible working, digital childcare, and subsidised childcare partnerships, and has a focus on intergenerational collaboration. The Austrian office is also a founding member of WEconomy, the country’s leading platform for the promotion of a diverse, fair and equitable working environment.

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Ketchum has developed tools including AI-driven data platform KET.MAP, AI-based topic-tracking for audio visual content, live ‘Customer Impact Intelligence’ dashboards that show what moves target audiences, crisis simulations and a scoring model for ‘informencers’ – credible individuals who are sources of complex information. The agency was shortlisted for an impressive seven SABRE awards for its Germany and Austria offices, including for ‘King Charles III – The Burger King’, where the team seized the opportunity of the King’s first state visit to Germany by distributing thousands of printed BK cardboard crowns to crowds at the Brandenburg Gate, turning the King into an unwitting brand ambassador and garnering branded coverage around the world. For EV manufacturer Smart, the Germany team developed a two-year integrated campaign to change perceptions of the cars, ahead of the launch of the Mercedes-Benz designed #1; the campaign led to thousands of clippings across Europe, earned media reach of 3.3 billion and a slew of industry awards for the new vehicle. In Austria, the team launched Vivo’s new X90 Pro smartphone with an integrated campaign, including influencer relations, that led to the relatively small Austrian market becoming one of Vivo’s biggest markets in Europe. 

Maja Pawinska Sims

Kirchoff | Team Farner (Waterland Private Equity)

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For many, corporate and financial communications is considered the drier side of the business, driven by facts and figures and corporate-speak — minus the creative flair. But Kirchhoff | Team Farner, one of German-speaking Europe’s leading financial and corporate communications agencies, which was acquired by Team Farner last year, refutes that idea; that’s because members of the agency’s 62-person team — a well-mixed crowd including lawyers, analysts, project managers, journalists, designers and digital gurus — enjoy financials more than most. 

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Kirchhoff | Team Farner is based in Germany and does business across Austria, Switzerland, the Benelux countries and UK.

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Kirchhoff | Team Farner has emerged as a regional leader in handling communications surrounding IPOs, annual reports, CSR and investor relations, fueling the agency’s 11% rise to €7 million in 2023. With a commitment to “absolute precision” (although humor is apparently encouraged), Kirchhoff’s 62-person team handles new business from VW, KION and Manz as well as long-standing clients like AURUBIS, Porsche, Stadtwerke München, HILTI and Lanxess, Many of Kirchhoff’s clients have been partners for a decade-plus, a testament to the firm’s ability to grow and adapt with them. The agency has also doubled down on expanding its market position as an ESG consultant, which included producing studies picked up by business press. 

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The agency puts a premium on sustaining a tight-knit team, made up of individuals with diverse expertise, knowledge bases and abilities — and is continuously looking for new ways to do that. Kirchhoff has doubled down on making the agency inclusive, which, most recently, has included finding new ways to accommodate employees with physical disabilities, instituting a hybrid work week and granting sabbaticals. For years, Kirchhoff has been part of the UN Global Compact and has a comprehensive code of conduct with numerous ESG commitments, earning it a silver medal from ESG compliance firm Ecovadis. In addition to founder, chairman & CEO Klaus Kirchhoff, leadership includes co-CEO Vincent Furnari and managing partner Jens Hecht.

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In his 25-plus years in business, Klaus Kirchhoff has established himself as an expert on IPO and ESG. In 2023, the firm continued in its long tradition of working with academics and corporate partners on research looking at developments in the capital markets. Recent studies have focused on issues related to the IPO market, like the quality of reporting, with many regularly featured in the leading business media. Kirchhoff Consult also reports on these topics every year at Deutsche Börse events. The year’s biggest feats include Porsche’s annual and sustainability report — the first since its 2022 IPO — being named the best in the world in the LACP competition. 

Diana Marszalek

MSL Germany (Publicis Groupe)

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MSL Germany, the local representative of Publicis Group’s lead public relations brand, has emerged in recent years as one of the strongest of the publicly-owned multinationals in this key market. In a country where the divide between the corporate and financial communications specialists and the more creative consumer-focused firms can be stark, MSL is one of the few agencies in the market that is equally strong across brand PR, corporate communications (including a robust crisis management capability) and public affairs, underpinned—in all three practices—on creative, influencer, digital and sustainability work.

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MSL Germany has offices in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg and München, with a headcount of about 100 people. And of course the German operation has access to the loosely-knit network of MSL branded offices in Europe and around the world.

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The long-term trajectory remains positive—MSL Germany has doubled in size since 2019—but that can’t obscure the fact that 2023 was a difficult year, as it was for many in the market. At the end of 2022, PR budget cuts began and the firm saw client spending decline by 10-20%. Fortunately, some stability was sustained by long-term clients such as P&G, Coty, Bosch Siemens Home Appliances, Mars, H&M, Grohe/ Lixil, Diageo, Philip Morris, and Coca Cola, and over the course of 2023 they were joined by some exciting new names, including E.ON, Westenergie, Vantage Towers, Deep Tech and Climate Fund, many of which were drawn to the firm’s "360 degrees connected positioning" approach, which seems well suited to an era in which the traditional dividing lines between corporate and consumer are eroding. By the end of the year, fees were down by about 5%.

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CEO Wigan Salazar has presided over the firm’s successful run over the past five years, supported by a strong senior cadre that includes managing partners Birgit Soellner, (featured on our most recent Innovator 25 list) and Kirsten Leinert, and social and digital lead Adrian Rosenthal. New to the team in 2023 is Marco Vollmar, Partner (former MD for communications at WWF Germany) who strengthens the firm’s sustainability focus. The firm also remains committed to promoting an inclusive culture, with a diverse team and some unique initiatives, including the "Working with Cancer," well-being program.

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In addition to formalizing its integrated approach with the "360 degrees connected positioning" approach, MSL draws on its Brand Protection Navigator, leveraging strategic insights to drive success. On the thought leadership front, the firm produced the 22nd edition of the MSL Public Affairs survey, a longstanding signature piece of research. The firm has eight pieces of work shortlisted for SABRE Awards this year, showcasing different aspects of its expertise, from purpose-driven work such as “Nivea's Skin Out Loud: Celebrating (Skin) Diversity” for Beiersdorf to the “WWF Climate Realism” sustainability initiative to digital and social media virality for Fraport, capturing “Awkward Airport Moments” on TikTok to serious crisis work for the German Hospital Federation.

Paul Holmes

WE Communications (Independent)

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Founded 40 years, WE Communications has grown to become one of the world’s leading technology PR firms. WE’s EMEA region has grown fast, particularly in the UK, and its German and South African operations have also matured and expanded service offerings, including digital marketing, social media strategy, insights and analytics for national and international clients of all sizes. Last year, WE invested and extended its corporate reputation and brand purpose capabilities in the region, including its acquisition of social impact and behaviour change agency Hopscotch, adding expertise in social and economic issues, brand reputation and responsible governance, and crisis and issues management to its services. In Germany, specifically, key client offerings include corporate reputation, scientific engagement and insights & analytics. 

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In EMEA WE has offices in London, Frankfurt, Munich and Johannesburg, supported by generous flexible working models. Headquartered in Seattle, WE has an extensive presence in the US and a substantial Asia-Pacific footprint across Australia, India, China and Singapore.

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Despite the tech slowdown, WE’s German operation continued to thrive, up 9% as it celebrated its 25th anniversary in the country. The firm’s 55 employees work across a client roster that includes major healthcare players that must remain confidential, along with FSC, Intel, Ionos, Imperva and Personio. New business featured Doctari, Sobi and UGG, while there was also considerable organic growth from existing clients. 

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In Germany, there are five focus areas – LGBTQAI+ community, women, persons with mental and/or physical health restrictions, age, education – and strong collaboration with the WE Impact team for this year's awareness campaign on the gender health gap. The firm’s German employee engagement ranks highly with employees, with 75% of staff feeling like they belong at WE, and an 86% positive response on agency commitment to social responsibility. Key leaders in Germany include Claudia Wittwer (media strategies), Jochen Langenbach (tech), Sandra Siewert-Plomer (brand) and Daniel Blank (digital). 

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WE continues to establish a unique point of view in the industry and in the world, not just with its flagship Brands in Motion Research, but also a new Future of Comms reports with clients, Hopscotch’s Social Impact Framework, “The Path to Impact”, and more. Campaign highlights include work for FSC and Microsoft. 

Arun Sudhaman