2024 Public Affairs Consultancies of the Year | PRovoke Media

2024 Public Affairs 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

Grayling (Accordience)

aoy-backstory-iconBackstory

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  worth noting, however, that Grayling has been a significant player in the public policy arena in London and Brussels throughout its history, and its recent expansion of those efforts to include broader corporate affairs, crisis and issues management capabilities has only made the firm’s public affairs offering stronger.

aoy-location-iconLocations

London and Brussels are the two key public affairs markets in Europe, and Grayling has a significant presence in each city, supplemented by operations in Berlin, Madrid, Paris, and Zurich among others. And 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 10 offices.

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Last year presented a number of challenges for Grayling: after strong compound growth in the UK over the past three years, 2023 saw a slow down; western Europe was adversely impacted by a tough year in Germany; and the Brussels office went through a change in leadership—although Central and Eastern Europe continued to provide solid growth. At the same time, many of the firm’s most exciting wins in 2023 came from the corporate affairs team, including Co-op, for which Grayling is now UK agency of record; Nissan, which now works with the UK and Brussels; and Accordience group wins including PETS at Home, Liberty Global, Emirates and Rokos Capital. The firm also expanded its work with Kraft Heinz, a major win from the previous years. And there was growth in the crisis communications space, with data breaches and a major cricket club that was the subject of public enquiries. In the sustainability arena, meanwhile, the firm won Statkraft, Europe’s largest producer of renewable power, and Renew Power, India’s largest renewable energy business. 


aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

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 was a year of change. Other changes included the appointment of Emmanuelle Bitton-Glaab as the new CEO in Germany and Jessica Brobald to lead Brussels, while  Jonny Curtis, who previously led the UK business, was promoted to a newly created role of chief commercial officer for Grayling Global., and former Ketchum exec Heather Blundell was hired to replace him as chief executive of its UK 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.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

October saw the launch of a 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. With a host of elections around the world, including the UK and the EU, Grayling has been producing trend reports and other thought leadership, and 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 included helping The Crown Estate engage with marine and market stakeholders around the future development of the sea bed; helping Hidroelectrica with the largest IPO in Europe; supporting Stena Line as it sought freeport status for Anglesey; and working with Visa to launch open-loop payment systems in Eastern European capitals.

Paul Holmes


Rud Pedersen (Independent)

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Its 20th anniversary was marked by another year of accelerated international growth for European public affairs heavyweight Rud Pedersen. The firm was founded in Sweden in 2002 by Morten Rud Pedersen and established market leadership positions in the four main Nordic markets before setting its sights on a broader continental footprint in 2018, starting a programme of expansion through setting up owned offices and majority stakes in local public affairs firms. In 2023 and into 2024, the firm expanded further, with new operations in Prague, Kyiv and Madrid. Rud Pedersen’s stated aim is to be the biggest public affairs firm in Europe, with ambition to cover every capital on the continent, and it has its sights set on further acquisitions and organic growth across the region. The firm has also expanded into strategic communications beyond public affairs, including political risk assessment, event planning, and crisis and issues management. 

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Rud Pedersen is headquartered in Sweden and has 17 offices across Europe: Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Helsinki, Kyiv, London, Madrid, Oslo, Paris, Prague, Riga, Sofia, Stockholm, Tallinn, Vilnius and Warsaw. 

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After six years in a row of average 30% growth, Rud Pedersen’s fee income rose by 8.7% in 2023 to €50m, up from €46m in 2022, and the size of the team also grew, from 360 to around 400, around 100 of whom are shareholders. Much of this growth came out of London, Brussels and Berlin. Geographical expansion and a wider range of services has been a gamechanger for the scale of the work and the size of its clients; Rud Pedersen now works for the likes of Bayer, P&G, Estee Lauder, AkzoNobel, Diageo, Lego, Ely Lilly, Hello Fresh and chemicals giant Chemours. In 2023, it started working with Honda Motors Europe in London and Brussels; multinational commodity trading and mining company Glencore, and Envac, the Swedish world leader in vacuum waste management system. The agency has clients in every industry sector including technology, healthcare, automotive, as well as major trade associations and industry groups. 

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Rud Pedersen’s culture has been defined by the Nordic values of its charismatic founder, and despite rapid growth it remains entrepreneurial, independent, ethical, open and straight-talking, with a great deal of motivation in each market thanks to the high proportion of senior employees who are shareholders. The firm holds regular town halls where information about the business is shared transparently, and is characterised by a non-siloed, decentralised, collegiate and collaborative approach. More than half the managing partners are female, and while racial diversity has been less of a hot-button issue on the continent than in the UK, the firm is conscious of its increasingly international client base and is developing programmes to address representation. Significant hires included former Chelgate CEO Liam Herbert, Hugh Bennett, a former senior special adviser at 10 Downing Street, former Vertex Pharma government affairs and public policy director Jamie Holyer, law and public affairs specialist Andrew Johnson, former Danish politico and management consultant Jens Hjorth-Larsen as Denmark CEO, and most recently, former Teneo MD Alexandria Hicks. 

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

Notable work over the year included the successful culmination of a three-year campaign for Bayer – thought to be the biggest public affairs account in Europe – to get glysophates relisted by the European Commission. In late 2023, glysophates as an active ingredient in crop protection were approved for a 10-year period, which will enable Bayer to bring its most important product, Roundup, back to the market. And for multinational commodity trading and mining company Glencore, the team carried out work in multiple markets, coordinated from London, focused on developments in the biofuels market, including sustainable aviation fuel. 

Maja Pawinska Sims

SEC Newgate (Investcorp)

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Technically, SEC Newgate is less than five years old, dating to September 2019 when Italian firm SEC merged with Newgate’s holding company Porta. But SEC’s roots stretch back to its founding in Italy 30 years ago, while Newgate itself has been around for more than a decade. And there has been a sustained burst of activity since the merger, including an acquisition spree that has most recently added Wepublic in the Netherlands and V+O Group in Southeastern Europe. In 2023, the firm welcomed $100m in new investment from Investcorp, with focus on expansion in EMEA and Asia-Pacific. All of which adds up to a firm with considerable depth across corporate, public affairs, financial and crisis.

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Headquartered in Milan, SEC Newgate’s 1,300 strong employee footprint spans 54 offices across five continents. 

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SEC Newgate’s overall revenues were effectively flat at $196m in 2023, but public affairs fee income improved to account for 31% of this total in EMEA. Key clients include a range of institutional and corporate players, such as DHL, the Green Finance Institute, Disney. Expedia, Newell, Sodexo, Amazon Logistics, Nestle, Bayer, and Westport Fuels. There was also new business in 2023 from Skanska, Strabag and Leaseplan (CEE), Ecolab, Lavazza, and Uber (EU), Caisse d’Epargne, Haffner Energy and Keolis (France), and Currencies Direct, Sir Robert McAlpine and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (UK). 

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In addition to group CEO Fiorenzo Tagliabue, key leaders included UK CEO and Western EMEA head Emma Kane, Eastern EMEA head Sebastian Hejnowski, Italy GM Paola Ambrosino, and France president Eric Giuily — reflecting a considerable level of industry pedigree. A majority of staff (58%) are female, and 21% identify as BIPOC, while a focus on DEI means that women hold 53% of leadership positions, while 11% are held by BIPOC execs. SEC Newgate UK became a B-Corp in 2023, while Italy has confirmed its status as a Benefit company. The agency has adopted flexible working practices across all its EMEA agencies, underpinning a low turnover rate and supplemented by agency-wide and leadership-specific off-site days for team building and vision shaping.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

The firm’s annual ESG Monitor continues to impress, surveying 12,000 citizens across 12 countries, while there are also various public affairs intelligence tools developed by new acquisition Wepublic. 2023 also saw the third version of the TRUE AI and data project that aims to analyse and measure reputation in partnership with key universities. Campaign highlights include the crucial effort to preserve Polish TV channel TVN’s independence, along with significant public affairs initiatives for Italian energy companies; Cérémé’s efforts to revive nuclear power in France; Ecolab’s successful attempt to put water resilience on the EU agenda; and the Brentford Project for Ballymore in the UK.

Arun Sudhaman

Whyte Corporate Affairs (Belgium/Independent)

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Our 2022 Benelux Consultancy of the Year, Whyte since its inception in 2008 has positioned itself in the Belgian market as a leader in corporate affairs, the custom mix of corporate communications and public affairs the firm’s founders deemed its specialty from the outset. Also our 2020 Benelux Throughout, Whyte has stayed true to its founding principles and plan. But it also has evolved, shifting operations into higher gear around innovation, diversification and upgrading the firm’s core corporate affairs services, boosting its stature in the market. The firm continues to offer valuable insight into the Belgian media, political, corporate, social, and academic landscape, an expertise that allows Whyte to define the right audiences, recommend the most appropriate channels of communication, to formulate the right messages and to anticipate actions and reactions. That expertise has been strengthened by a commitment to analytics and research and a growing emphasis on digital channels and visualization. 

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Whyte is based in Belgium with its headquarters in Brussels and an additional office in Antwerp, which covers the Flanders market.

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2023 was Whyte’s 15th consecutive year of growth. The agency saw its revenue increase by 11% to €6.7 million. Though still independent, Whyte last year partnered with private equity firm Finco, which invested in making the agency “future proof” by providing resources for growth and diversification. Whyte added new high-profile clients to the mix —McDonalds, Coca Cola, Air Liquide, Lanxess, Heidelberg, Baxter and Arcadis among others. The 40-person team continues to serve existing clients Carrefour, Lantis, Fost Plus, Uber, Delhaize, Holcim, Astra Zeneca, Belgian Brewers.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Whyte is owned and managed by its four founding partners: Sandrine Agie, Joris Bulteel, De Ridder and Emmanuel Goedseels—a fact that has led to remarkable stability and consistency of focus. The extended management team—two partners and two more directors—ensures a depth of counseling capability. For the first time, the firm last year added a new equity partner — Philip Naert, who started as a consultant with Whyte nine years ago. New additions include Caroline Pouleyn (who came over from ELIA, Belgium's electricity system operator) and Justine Comijn (a strategy consultant from Deloitte). In 2021, the firm developed a Diversity Plan in collaboration with Brussels employment office Actiris, which provides independent assessment of diversity targets and progress in meeting them. Since then, Whyte has instituted improvements like offering training sessions for all employees, overall awareness on the importance of DEI and DEI getting a more prominent place in client work. Progress is officially monitored by Actiris.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

Thought leadership is a priority for Whyte, as it positions its services as mission-critical elements of successful corporate management. Thought leadership has included the publication of a book on the NIMBY syndrome and how to deal with it from a communications and public affairs  perspective. Subsequent PR and speaking engagements boosted Whyte’s business development in the area of supporting companies in building local acceptance and obtaining their 'license to operate'. Whyte’s new podcast series, 'the Y Files', focuses on topics like corporate restructurings, storytelling and public affairs. Whyte's management lectures at all major universities of Belgium as a way to give back to society while positioning the agency as a thought leader and attract young talent. Whyte’s award-winning 2023 work inlcuded campaigns for Nespresso and the Belgian Federation of Foodbanks, as well as the 'Bye Bye Bridge' campaign for Lantis.

Diana Marszalek