2024 Digital PR Agencies of the Year, North America | PRovoke Media

2024 Digital PR Agencies of the Year

The 2024 North America PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 150 submissions and 50 meetings with the best PR firms across the US and Canada. 

Winners are unveiled at the North American SABRE Awards ceremony, taking place on 1 May at Cipriani Midtown. Tickets and tables are available here. Analysis of all winners and finalists across 13 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Separately, you can find the 2024 SABRE Awards North America finalists here.
 

Finalists

Allison (Stagwell Group) 

aoy-backstory-iconBackstory

More than 20 years ago, Allison+Partners was launched amid the wreckage of the dotcom bust and quickly established itself as a significant player, first on the West Coast and soon nationally. Now in its third decade, the firm has been one of the fastest growing and most award-winning midsize agencies in the US, establishing itself as a leader in the consumer, corporate and technology arenas, and building a formidable digital capability. Our 2023 midsize agency of the year, the agency shortened its name to Allison, a move meant to reflect its evolution from an earned media PR agency to a global integrated marketing communications firm. With an eye on rapid growth, Scott Allison in January of this year ceded his global CEO role to global COO and co-founder Jonathan Heit so that he could focus on expanding the agency through acquisitions.

aoy-location-iconLocations

The firm’s US offices—its San Francisco headquarters, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami,New York, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, and Washington —are deliberately sized so that no one location is dominant and the firm has centers of excellence across the country. Over the past few years, the international reach has been growing too, and Allison now has offices in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Middle East, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the UK.

aoy-performance-iconPerformance

Allison’s North America revenue last year hit $83.4 million, while global revenue was $113 million, fueled by particularly strong business in Asia. Allison saw new business from Athleta, AST Mobile, Brita, Ernst & Young, FICO, GNC, Revlon, The Halal Guys, Uncommon Goods and US Soybean Export Council, and existing assignments from AFLAC, Budweiser, Dexcom, Niantic, Qualcomm, Samsung, Seventh Generation and Tik Tok. New services include the firm’s alternative data source offering, which through partnerships blends real-world (external) and marketing (internal) data to give companies the most informed picture of their businesses. New AI services and solutions for client and internal use include policy writing and deployment, AI instance development, including access to PrivateGPTs, staff education, and training services and content development.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Allison has its own approach to building a strong culture: no single office is larger than 100 people (most are in the 40-50 range) and the firm is organized as a single profit center, eliminating any barrier to collaboration. The agency’s approach to DEI (called IDE+A - Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Allyship/Advocacy) is behind a culture of belonging by emphasizing collective and accountability, reshaping behaviors and mindsets to foster equity and integrating IDE+A into all operations. At Allison, social impact is about donating time, money and services to worthy organizations. The agency has developed campaigns for Big Brothers Big Sisters and AdoptAClassroom.org and developed curriculum for local universities. Allison’s global partnership with Special Olympics International promotes global inclusion and increase awareness of Special Olympics programming in sports, education, health and athletic leadership. 

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

Having earned accolades over the years, Allison’s most recent work for Budweiser involved distributing 1.2 million coupons for free beer to Argentinians in the two weeks following its 2022 World Cup win. Budweiser deliveries rose 400% and net revenue grew by double digits. The firm’s Stay Human Creator Collective for Kimpton, aimed at transforming travel content by diversifying creators, garnered 2.1B global media impressions and more than 700,000 organic influencer impressions. HPE CEO Antonio Neri lauded the company’s communications strategy, saying, “We showed up as ONE company, with ONE consistent vision and strategy that we have been executing on the face of all the uncertainties.” 

Diana Marszalek

Hahn (Independent) 

aoy-backstory-iconBackstory

Talk about Texan. In 2007, Jeff Hahn, then an account manager at Austin’s TateAustin, beat Edelman’s bid to buy the $2.6 million real estate firm by promising to make “Howdy!” the forever centerpiece of agency culture and approach. Since then, Hahn has grown his now eponymous agency into a $19.5 million business by serving the food and energy sectors — “heating and eating,” as they say, essentials of daily life. Highly focused on innovation, Hahn has made major investments in data, measurement and other technology, building in-house tools and making four acquisitions in six years (the latest was in 2021). The firm’s data practice, Hahn Labs, touches 50% of its clients. 

aoy-location-iconLocations

Hahn is based in Austin with employees in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Denver, Seattle and Provo, Utah.

aoy-performance-iconPerformance

2023 was Hahn’s 16th consecutive year of year-over-year growth, with revenue rising 10% to nearly $20 million. And that built on particularly stellar performances in 2022 and 2021, when fee income rose 34% and 43% respectively, making for the two biggest growth years in Hahn’s history. New wins fueled 73% of 2023 growth, with the addition of new clients including the Texas Department of Agriculture (shrimp), the Central Texas Food Bank, Novozymes and St. David's Foundation. Organic growth accounted for 37% of annual growth thanks to expanded remits from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Whataburger and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT. As of 2023, Hahn had six clients with budgets of more than $1 million. Four of them have been Hahn clients for five-plus years. Data science is Hahn’s No. 1 growth engine, followed by content and thought leadership.  Energy and utilities is  the firm’s fastest-growing practice as companies look to remain relevant in a net zero environment.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Hahn’s 52-person team is an eclectic crew made up of data scientists, campaign strategists, digital platform builders, social and paid marketers and PR experts who collectively tap capabilities from predictive analytics to creative.  Principal and CEO Jeff Hahn (whose childhood farming in Iowa primed him for his work in food and energy) is supported by leaders including chief innovation officer Tim Weinheimer, chief data officer Michael Griebe and managing directors Meredith Vachon (food & beverage) and Lindsey Gillum (energy & essentials). Hahn has doubled down on its work-from-anywhere policy, reconfiguring its Austin headquarters for a remote-first workforce, customize new parents’ return to work plans around individual needs and wants and quarterly profit-sharing. Nearly 20% of Hahn’s staff identify as people of color and 50% of its executive team are women — numbers Hahn plans to boost through hiring, training and promoting diverse employees.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

Hahn executives are prolific thought leaders. Jeff Hahn’s book “Breaking Bad News: 12 Essential Crisis Communication Tools” is the foundation of the firm’s crisis and issues practice. Tim Weinheimer’s 2018 ebook “The Robot Apocalypse | How Brands Can Survive and Thrive in the Age of AI'' fuels Hahn’s exercises building creative AI-generated campaigns to show how the technology can kickstart campaigns, albeit as a supplement, not a replacement, to human intelligence. Key work included supporting Beef Loving Texans with an original Hulu series, BBQuest, focused on Texas barbecue (and now in season three); and a rapping puppet campaign for Oklahoma Natural Gas that drove record rebate participation, boosting customer savings.  

Diana Marszalek

Highwire (Independent)

aoy-backstory-iconBackstory

Our 2023 Digital Agency of the Year, Highwire has established a solid reputation as a Silicon Valley PR firm known for consistently good work and strong leadership. Over its 15-year history, its three co-founders have been committed to constantly transforming its offerings around digital and content innovation and, in 2022, the firm secured a strategic investment from Los Angeles-based Shamrock Capital as a means of furthering the agency’s growth. Agency principals are Kathleen Gratehouse, Carol Carrubba and Emily Borders.  

aoy-location-iconLocations

Highwire has offices in San Francisco (HQ), New York, Chicago and Boston.

aoy-performance-iconPerformance

In a year when a tough economy hit tech firms particularly hard, Highwire continued to make gains by doubling down on its core commitments   innovation, DEI and empowering talent. The agency rolled out new services, investing in new digital capabilities, motion graphics and a new energy & sustainability practice. Highwire created a model for using AI in communications, including a framework to ensure ethical use of the technology. For the 138-person shop, revenue rose to $35.7 million from $34 million, fueled in part by growth of its digital (14%) and financial services (23% ) practices. In January 2024, Highwire acquired content marketing firm Candor Content in a move to strengthen the agency’s digital marketing offerings. New business came from major tech companies, retailers and the healthcare sector (Medically Home), joining longstanding clients including Rocket Lawyer, Twilio and Illumio.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

In 2023, Highwire expanded its team to 138 employees, including the firm’s first CFO, a new healthcare managing director, business development lead and VP of marketing operations. The shop’s commitment to DEI showed in its stats: 46% of staff and 26% of leaders are BICOP. Last year, Highwire hosted a series of public events highlighting BIPOC storytellers from CNN, Teen Vogue, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe. The firm partnered exclusively with local BICOP and LGBTQ+ businesses for its first all-agency live event since Covid. A focus on mental health continued with programs like no-meeting Fridays twice per month, and daily high-focus hours that are meeting-free agency-wide.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

While the industry still is coming to grips with how to handle AI, Highwire last year created a framework generative AI to communicate its policy and roll out training to clients and employees, thus mitigating risk. Highwire executive VP James Holland’s blog on how to responsibly leverage AI garnered industry recognition, resulting in 26,080 page views, 182 downloads and 35 MQL. Key work includes the agency’s three-fold media campaign to reinvigorate the Zocdoc brand.  Zocdoc is on track to grow revenue by 30%, has seen a 97% increase in total media mentions, 73% key message pull-through and 18% increase in positive coverage sentiment.

Diana Marszalek

KWT Global (Stagwell)

aoy-backstory-iconBackstory

Aaron Kwittken launched what is now KWT Global in 2005, some time after the dot-com bubble had burst but at a time when many legacy firms were still struggling to understand how digital and social media might transform the public relations business. The firm was acquired by MDC (later Stagwell) five years later, becoming a part of its kirshenbaum bond creative offer. It then became part of the group’s Doner Partner Network, and in 2018 rebranded as KWT, offering an interdisciplinary approach that blended PR, influencer engagement, social and digital media and content marketing. Today, the firm advises clients across a range of industries including technology and innovation, travel and hospitality, health and wellness, fashion and retail, financial and professional services, with a focus on being “intentionally creative.”

aoy-location-iconLocations

KWT Global is headquartered in New York City with has more than 90 people across offices in Chicago, Los Angeles and London. 

aoy-performance-iconPerformance

Stagwell’s individual agencies don’t provide financial information, but the group’s public relations businesses saw revenues decline by 3.5% in 2023. Last year may have been a challenging one, particularly for consumer-facing firms like KWT, but the firm has recorded impressive 70% growth over the past three years, developing new centers of excellence that offer clients enhanced strategy and insights and a wide range of creative content. The firm continues to work with clients including our Seasons Hotels & Resorts, NetJets, Ironman, L’Oreal, Lovesac, PODS, Deloitte, Liquid I.V., Tanger, and Laurel Road (Key Bank), while new business in 2023 came from Mount Gay Rum, Technogym, The Botanist Gin, Bruichladdich, Motive Health, MN8 Energy (a division of Goldman Sachs), Mohari Hospitality, Saucony, Jiffy Lube, and Redken.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Co-founder Gabrielle Zucker took over as CEO in 2020 and has led the firm since then. Last year, the leadership team expanded with the appointments of Jeremy Page, Dara Cothran and Dan Brady as EVPs. Page serves as global director of creative while Cothran leads global strategy and insights and Brady heads up the agency’s corporate practice. The firm also bolstered its employee experience with of initiatives focused on culture, philanthropy, mental health, while a DE&I committee strives to ensure that employee efforts are authentic and inclusive. A new internal education program called KWT U is focused on developing and refining core skills.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

KWT has never lost sight of the innovative focus with which Kwittken started the firm, even after his departure to launch PRophet, an AI-driven SaaS platform that predicts earned media interest, sentiment and spread. The two new centers of excellence, focused on creativity and strategy and insights, leading to the development of new products: one is geared toward elevating the role of the executive in brand communications through tailored persona mapping; another is the KWT Creator Collective, a vetted global network for generating quick-turn social content. The firms use of data and analytics as enhanced with Relative Insight, a language analysis platform, and increased use of Prophet. Examples of the client work include working with hydration company Liquid I.V., leading the amplification of its first-ever national brand campaign, Fuel Your Play; helping genomics pioneer Illumina reach a new audience on TikTok; and developing a scalable social media strategy for executive leadership at Goldman Sachs.

Paul Holmes

Prompt (Lippe Taylor/Twelvenote) 

aoy-backstory-iconBackstory

Prompt was unveiled last year as a joint venture between Lippe Taylor and its subsidiary Twelvenote – two of the most awarded midsize agencies in the US – using augmented intelligence to bolster earned creative marketing output. The new joint offer is based on the concept of “storymaking” – helping brands to transition from merely telling stories to crafting stories that are worth talking about. The venture is led by Lippe Taylor president and CEO Paul Dyer, one of the first practitioners to leverage social media for Fortune 500 companies, who followed up a two-year period of phenomenal growth with a period of taking a breath, restructuring the company from a practice-model into a portfolio-model, investing in operations and project management. 

aoy-location-iconLocations

Prompt’s headquarters are in New York City, with satellite teams in Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Atlanta, and an upcoming office in London. 

aoy-performance-iconPerformance

Having grown from $20m to $50m in just two years, Prompt’s leadership team determined that 2023 would be a quieter year that would allow its people to adjust to change and growth. Investments were made in process, structure, and back-end support systems and the agency walked away from new business opportunities that would have overtaxed the team. It accepted a year of roughly 5% to provide some balance against the previous years’ 60% and 40%. Nevertheless, revenue still grew by 5% to $51.5 million, with new work from the likes of SK Life Biosciences, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Daiichi Sankyo, Organon, Shionogi and UCB Pharma. The new clients joined a roster that includes AbbVie, Bayer, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Nestle Health Sciences, Sanofi, Citigroup, Galderma, Constellation Brands and Dos Equis.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Over the past three years, the agency has introduced several people-first initiatives that have contributed to the agency’s low voluntary turnover levels, including mental health days, free access to mental health resources and apps like Calm, enhanced training modules and clearer career pathing. The agency hired its first chief operating officer, David Marks, and introduced Coaching Circle, a program designed for more junior staffers to provide guidance for career growth and career management. The agency also runs internal training program +Labs. Other key hires last year included MD Corey Martin, EVP Doron Faktor and client experience MD Sarah Dembert. Departures included MD Aleisia Gibson Wright, president Tracy Naden and chief growth officer Stephanie Smirnov.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

Using Google's Vision AI, Prompt developed analytics tool Content IQ to offer insights into content performance, from imagery to TikTok videos. Other innovations included media analytics tool Earned IQ, which spots untapped coverage potential, and Dimensional Content Topic Modeling, with the agency adopting the HDBSCAN algorithm to help granular dissection of digital conversations and how topics interweave. The agency also continued its alliance with MedFluencers, amplifying its work in healthcare and pharma influencer marketing, and introduced CX2, a technology-driven approach to healthcare patient communication that harnesses data from search data, social media analytics, customer feedback, surveys and web navigation patterns. The agency had three SABRE nominations last year, including for work with Allergan and Bayer. Other standout work included ‘The DREAM Initiative’ (Driving Racial Equity in Aesthetic Medicine) for AbbVie, a campaign grounded in the insight that dermatologists aren’t trained to identify skin conditions on skin of color, and struggle to bring non-white patients into their practice. It included training programmes and royalty-free images and videos portraying diverse patients, which we distributed to 4,000 physicians to update their practice websites.

Maja Pawinska Sims