2023 UK PR Consultancies of the Year | PRovoke Media

2024 UK 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

Golin (Interpublic Group)

aoy-backstory-iconBackstory

Golin London has become a centre of creative excellence for the global network, delivering a huge range of award-winning, innovative work for clients. In 2023, Ondine Whittington was promoted to London president and to the Golin global board – a reflection not only of Whittington’s transformative leadership but the increasing importance and influence of the UK office within the network. Its impressive work ranges from light-hearted entertainment-driven consumer work through to hard-hitting issues-based campaigns. Golin’s London team comes up with big, brave, earned-led creative ideas, but never just for likes and shares: it also makes full use of world-leading AI and insights initiatives developed by London-based global president of data and analytics Jonny Bentwood and his team, and the strategic hub led by Kat Arnull, to deliver measurable business impact for clients across its consumer, corporate, technology and healthcare practices. Golin's AI taskforce is pioneering AI applications, providing tools, guidance, and thought leadership on AI's impact on crisis management and issues resolution. 

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Golin UK is based in London, and works with the agency’s extensive EMEA and global network. 

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Golin UK was the fastest-growing office in the global network last year, with growth of more than 30% and very healthy margins. The 180-strong business had a 76% pitch win rate, bringing in more than £4.5m of new business last year from the likes of Decathlon and Squaretrade, as well as significant organic growth from its top five clients, including ASICS, Unilever, GSMA and Specsavers. The agency has doubled the number of £1m+ clients over the past two years, had a 77% staff retention – the highest in five years. 

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Golin had 77% staff retention last year, its highest in five years, with a quarter of employees promoted. According to a staff survey, 93% would recommend Golin as a good place to work, while 96% are happy with its hybrid work model, with the requirement of spending two days a week in the office. Of the London team, 22% represent black and ethnic minority communities. Golin's culture fosters openness, encouraging feedback, continuous learning, and transparency. Summer surveys and focus groups enabled candid communication, and salary banding transparency and competency-linked career paths promote growth and development, with 84% feeling well-aligned in their careers. The agency prioritises inclusivity through smart hybrid initiatives, inclusive leadership coaching, and six employee resource groups, with the Thrive group for disabilities a new addition last year. Additionally, the agency champions diverse talent through partnerships with organisations such as Your Game Plan, providing PR training and career opportunities for school leavers. Key hires included Gareth Davies as executive director of integrated media to help Golin’s deliver more audience-led and channel agnostic thinking.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

Golin’s data and analytics capabilities are unequivocally a head above the rest: the agency won a record nine AMEC awards for the measurable effectiveness of its work last year. Innovations include analysing emotions in client-owned social media comments, leveraging AI to identify impactful content and uncover insights to drive market share. The agency was shortlisted for 10 EMEA SABRE Awards, including the ‘Misheard Lyrics’ campaign for Specsavers with sister company Virgo Health. To raise awareness of early signs of hearing loss and encourage people to get tested, the team forged a partnership between Specsavers and pop legend Rick Astley. They created a mass hearing test as part of a witty, earned-first integrated campaign that destigmatised the issue, leading to a 66% increase in hearing test bookings during the campaign. The agency also shone a light on the power of inclusive play and the importance of braille to help launch Lego Braille Bricks as the brand's first commercial product for blind and partially sighted people, leading to a 25% increase in positive sentiment, and worked with ASICS to create the first exercise training programme for AI, helping it to learn what normal, healthy bodies actually look like; the campaign drove a huge spike in ASICS mental wellbeing mentions. 

Maja Pawinska Sims

Headland (Independent)

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Headland was built 12 years ago to challenge conventional agency structures that meant corporate, financial and public affairs clients were forced to choose between senior strategic and commercial counsel and creative campaign delivery, or to prioritise certain audiences. Headland brought together the disciplines of financial PR, corporate comms, public affairs and campaigning to offer a single service that breaks down these artificial barriers, giving clients a view that truly reflects their external worlds. Over a decade later, Headland – one of the fastest-growing communications agencies in the UK over the last five years – represents some of the world’s most famous brands and leading FTSE-listed businesses. The agency’s offer now encompasses sustainability comms, digital marketing, data and insight, as well as a new in-house design function and executive coaching. To address a rapidly and fundamentally changing world – defined by a series of ‘Grand Challenges’, from the economy to the climate crisis to disruptive technology and increasing polarisation – in 2023 Headland set out its purpose for the decade ahead, “to champion collaboration and a wide range of perspectives to help build reputations for a thriving world”.

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Headland is based in London.

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Headland’s PR fee income grew by more than 15% to £28m last year, with headcount up from 154 to 166. The agency won 43 new mandates, with a focus on working with household-name brands and organisations leading change by supporting essential economic development or pioneering sustainability. New clients includes Rail Delivery Group, Darktrace, Matalan, Jaguar Land Rover, DS Smith, Agratas, White Stuff, Trustpilot, Westfield, Royal Mail and Legal & General, which joined a roster including TikTok, Pret, Just Eat, Lidl, PepsiCo, KFC, Three Mobile, Heathrow Airport and The Body Shop. 

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A change to the senior leadership structure saw Dan Mines appointed as CEO, succeeding Chris Salt, who took on the role of chair. It also saw the creation of new roles, with Suzanne Morris becoming COO, and Dan Smith and Stephen Malthouse taking on new MD roles. In addition, Pilar Teixeira joined as partner to unlock international opportunities in the Spanish M&A and financial communications market. Over the past year, Headland has made significant strides in sustainability and diversity, enhancing its employee experience and fostering an inclusive workplace. Recognised as an Ally by The Blueprint for its commitment to racial diversity, Headland has initiatives to promote diversity across all levels, including apprenticeship programs and diversity training. With a 10% increase in headcount and 87% retention rate, the agency prioritises hiring and nurturing diverse talent, and has a partnership with the Taylor Bennett Foundation. It also focuses on mental health support, including partnering with The City Mental Health Alliance to run mental health training for all line managers. Committed to sustainability, Headland has unveiled Science Based Targets to manage and reduce carbon emissions and is pursuing B-Corp certification. 

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

In 2023, Headland launched its first ever thought leadership platform, with the brief to codify its view of what makes for an impactful, modern approach to corporate reputation: a report that would be practical, optimistic, and ambitious. The resulting paper, ‘Collaborative Corporate’, is a roadmap to help clients unearth reputation and commercial wins – and address those ‘Grand Challenges ‘ – via collaboration with others. Headland was SABRE-shortlisted for the second year of the The Body Shop's ‘Be Seen. Be Heard’ campaign with influencers and political allies. The campaign put votes at 16 onto the cusp of inclusion in The Labour Party’s manifesto, drove coverage with a potential reach of 7 billion and improved brand perception amongst Gen Z by 3%. Other standout work included KFC's Kentucky Club litter combating initiatives, work for TikTok throughout 2023, from Eurovision presence to defending against misinformation, and driving stakeholder reappraisal of Premier Foods under a new CEO, resulting in share price growth. 

Maja Pawinska Sims

Ketchum (Omnicom PR Group)

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Ketchum UK aims to be the most diverse and inclusive consultancy in the UK, doing work that matters – covering data and analytics, creative, earned media, purpose and reputation – for leading companies across its brand, corporate and healthcare divisions. The London office is now arguably the most progressive, dynamic and influential office within the global network under the leadership of Jo-ann Robertson, who was last year elevated to CEO of global markets – all Ketchum territories outside the US. Much of the work and many initiatives that come out of London drive the global agenda for the agency, which celebrated its 100th birthday last year. In 2023, Ketchum UK was characterised by innovation, resilience, and creativity during a tough year. A focus on collaboration and breaking down silos was exemplified by the launch of integrated consumer health offer, Consumer+. Its approach paid off with impressive organic growth and the huge coup of retaining the Samsung account. The agency was also the most-awarded UK firm at Cannes. 

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Ketchum UK is based in London, and works with the network’s 70 offices around the world. 

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The UK business saw 44% growth across its top 10 clients, including industry giants P&G, Danone, Adobe, Velux, and Philips. The Adobe account grew by nearly 40% as the agency expanded the diversity and impact of its campaigns. The agency retained the multi-million pound Samsung account for another three years, introducing an innovative press office model. New wins included Dolmio, anti-waste app Too Good To Go, Salomon, travel insurance provider Collinson Group and children’s mental health charity The WEMP Foundation. 

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Ketchum’s approach to its people is ‘culture add, not culture fit’ and its commitment to diversity is evident in the UK leadership team, with 73% female, 27% non-white, and 7% neurodivergent representation. Female employees make up 74% of the firm, and 28% of the team are from ethnic minorities. In 2023 Ketchum partnered with Self Space to offer employees ongoing mental health support, and introduced a 3pm finish on Fridays, as well as a flexible public holiday policy, enabling employees to substitute UK public holidays for other meaningful events. In the latest quarterly employee survey, 82% agreed that ‘leaders demonstrate a visible commitment to DEI’ – the highest score yet. While Ketchum is flexible on office time, it offers plenty of reasons to come in, from speaker sessions with a diverse range of thought leaders, to social activities and celebrations of client wins. The agency offers an industry-leading family leave package from day one of employment. Employees are entitled to six months’ pay and a return-to-work bonus; in 2023 returnship was 100%. ‘Kickstart at Ketchum’ welcomes eight entry-level professionals a year for a six-month paid internship, to provide opportunities for junior talent from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is driven by the 45-strong Inclusion Council. Chief strategy and innovation officer Sera Holland was part of PRovoke’s Innovator 25 class in EMEA. At the start of this year, Ketchum hired former WE European leader Ruth Allchurch as its new UK CEO. Departures included deputy CEO Heather Blundell and chief client and innovation officer Alicia Solanki. 

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Last year Ketchum launched the ‘Beyond the Ballot’ global offering with sister agency Portland in response to 2024’s historic triple election event: a shared platform with polling data and political intelligence to help clients understand the potential impact of the UK, European and US elections. Ketchum was shortlisted for seven SABREs across EMEA, and won four In2 SABREs, including global markets chief creative officer Indy Selvarajah being names as creative professional of the year. Its standout work in London ranged from a cheeky stunt for Burger King that got ‘royal endorsement’ for the brand for the new King Charles, to ground-breaking work for Adobe showcasing diverse creators and artists. ‘Sounds of the Underground’, in partnership with Merseyrail and Supplies for Ukraine, offered Ukrainian musicians ‘remote’ busking spots in Liverpool metro stations during Eurovision. Each spot featured a speaker streaming the artist’s music and a QR code for passers-by to donate to the cause and hear their stories. Ketchum curated a Spotify playlist and filmed their inspiring stories in Ukraine, leading to donations that allowed the charity to buy 60 life-saving trauma kits. 

Maja Pawinska Sims

Ogilvy PR (WPP)

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Ogilvy PR is having something of a moment. In 2023, the PR and influence division moved out of the shadow of the ‘main’ ad agency to being the fastest growing business in the Ogilvy family across EMEA, driving business in the UK and across the region. Under the leadership of Matt Buchanan, who was last year appointed to the newly-created role of global and EMEA president of integrated communications, the agency has strengthened its integrated offering and its earned-first creative capability across PR, influence and social. Ogilvy’s PR heartland is earned creative for the world’s biggest consumer brands, but it is increasingly working with clients on challenging and complex corporate comms issues. It is also leading the way within the wider agency, not just on innovative new global products and approaches, including AI, but on new business and creative ideas: at Ogilvy, the days of the PR team merely amplifying the agency’s ads are over. 

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Ogilvy’s UK office is based in London, and the PR and influence team works with the wider EMEA network of 63 offices across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. 

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Ogilvy PR did extraordinarily well for a networked agency in a challenging year, with UK revenue growth that we estimate at an industry-beating 20%, on healthy margins; the influence division has also been a significant driver of growth. Ogilvy PR’s enviable client roster in London includes Google, The Coca-Cola Company, Lego, Mondelez, Canon, Bacardi Limited, Tata Consulting Services, Unilever, Diageo and Viasat. 

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Buchanan is supported in London by a leadership team that includes Joanna Oosthuizen, promoted to chief client officer for EMEA, John Harding-Easson as head of influence for EMEA, Charlie Coney, creative and strategy officer for EMEA, Nicola Dodd, MD of PR in the UK, and Imogen Coles, UK head of influence. Ogilvy prides itself on its inclusive culture; the core pillars of Ogilvy’s DEI strategy are ensuring its people are collectively a reflection of the societies in which they live and work and talent management practices are experienced as fair, inclusive and demonstrate the agency’s commitment to diversity. This extends to client work: the team ensures casting and insights for creative output reflect a multicultural society, has banished stereotypes from creative work, and is mindful that its work contributes to societal inclusion, celebrates diversity and empowers minorities and non-dominant groups and voices. These pillars inform an annual scorecard, which in 2023 showed 91% of people are proud to work at Ogilvy PR, 85% claim they can be their authentic self at work and 86% valued the agency’s diversity. In case this all sounds rather worthy, the PR and influence team also has a healthy social budget to choose how to have fun together. 

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Ogilvy's influence product suite expanded with iCommerce, harnessing social selling and ecommerce, and Business Influence, facilitating B2B influencer marketing. Ogilvy was shortlisted for six EMEA SABRE awards this year across EMEA, including for Hellman’s ‘Smart Jar’: using a custom thermochromic ink label to indicate when a fridge is set at the optimal temperature, the campaign got people turning their fridges down and cutting down food waste. It was a simple creative idea that delivered not only media coverage but also behaviour change. Ogilvy has been working with Dove for decades, and last year, the agency encouraged the world to ‘turn your back’ on Bold Glamour, TikTok’s new AI digital distortion filter, as it was becoming a threat to young women’s mental health. This smart, earned-first idea was amplified by influencers, across social and outdoor, instantly garnered global attention and industry action, and was awarded the prestigious ‘5 for 50’ Effie Award for effectiveness. 

Maja Pawinska Sims

The Weber Shandwick Collective (Interpublic Group)

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Weber Shandwick has been a force in the UK since its formation 23 years ago, and has only grown in strength with the added firepower of London-based digital business Flipside, creative specialist That Lot and management consultancy United Minds, among other IPG brands, who are now part of The Weber Shandwick Collective (TWSC). In her second year as UK CEO – and her 16th with the agency – Helen Bennett has led the network’s largest EMEA operation with a winning combination of a grown-up hand on the tiller, a deeply human management style, and an appetite for innovation, backed by EMEA chief executive Michael Frohlich. The UK team is very much living up to its proposition of leveraging the power of earned communications to shape society, by working at the intersections of business, culture, media and policy, all underpinned with data. Big moves last year included the acquisition of VR and AR company Diverse Interactive, which became part of Flipside. 

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Weber Shandwick has UK and Ireland offices in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dublin, working alongside EMEA colleagues in 21 other owned offices across the region.

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TWSC grew by double digits in the UK, and revenue from the agency’s top 10 UK clients also grew by double digits. There were notable strong performances from United Minds and Flipside, the corporate division, and the Glasgow office. New business included That Lot winning the Greggs social media account, and existing clients include IBM, HSBC, eBay, Nespresso, Adobe and IKEA.

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After refreshing its approach to talent and its employee value proposition in 2022, TWSC continued its focus on DE&I, with a new talent attraction model, hybrid working, a new listening strategy, the introduction of the Culture Amp employee experience app, the Access All Areas mobility programme, the EMEA ‘Sideboard’, which allows younger employees from across the region to bring the issues of the day to the main board, a region-wide celebration of Inclusion Week, and mental health programme Open Minds, alongside a partnership with mental health resource This Can Happen. The IPG Belong survey showed that 82% of the team feel respected, 81% feel they can be themselves at work, and 75% feel cared about. The agency’s commitment to social responsibility is demonstrated through partnerships with the Food Foundation to advocate for free school meals and pro bono support for Black-owned SMEs and Ukrainian med-tech companies.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

The Weber Shandwick Collective’s biggest piece of thought leadership for 2023 was The Earned Effect study, in partnership with the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. The research showed campaigns that generate sustained coverage and conversation over the long term tend to achieve more significant business impact, and this led to the development of the Earned Impact Value measurement tool. Notable work included setting up a tattoo parlour with Tinder to erase regretful tattoos, and a drink-driving campaign for Direct Line that involved a partnership with a design company to build a toothbrush with a built-in breathalyser to tell you if you are still over the limit after a big night out. The agency also revived its HSBC Fairy Tales campaign for, working with tennis star Emma Raducanu to empower girls around financial literacy. Across EMEA, Weber Shandwick had 16 SABRE nominations this year and took second place on our 2023 Creative Index, thanks to award-winning work with AB InBev, Ancestry, Expedia, Mars Wrigley and Unesco. 

Maja Pawinska Sims