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

2024 Healthcare 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

Chandler Chicco Agency (Syneos Health)

aoy-backstory-iconBackstory

Chandler Chicco Agency was founded in New York City nearly 30 years ago by Burson-Marsteller healthcare veterans Robert Chandler and Gianfranco Chicco as a healthcare-first firm with no walls and no titles, an unusual entrepreneurial approach that aimed to give people “the freedom to see, the power to do.” In 2017, CCA—along with sister healthcare PR agencies Biosector2 and Chamberlain Communications—became part of Syneos Health, a fully integrated biopharmaceutical solutions organization spanning more than 110 countries across six continents. In September, Syneos was acquired by a consortium of private investment firms including Elliott Investment Management, Patient Square Capital and Veritas Capital, becoming a privately held company. 

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Chandler Chicco itself has close to 50 people working in New York, Los Angeles, and London, but Syneos has 14 offices in North America, another 20 in Europe, and a reach that extends into Asia and Latin America.

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 CCA’s path post-Syneos has not always been smooth, but the past couple of years have seen a greater emphasis on the values on which the firm was founded and a corresponding return to growth: CCA is up by more than 38% over the past couple of years, including a 10% increase in 2023 despite the fact that the healthcare sector as a whole was not exactly surging. With healthcare clients more likely than others to avoid the spotlight, CCA doesn’t talk much about its clients, but it has been working with industry leaders like Genentech and Boston Scientific for more than a decade because. Last year, the firm expanded its work with anchor clients Genentech and GSK, and added a total of 11 new accounts in disease categories that span food allergies, oncology, gut microbiome health, mental health, neurology and immune deficiencies.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

In May, 16-year CCA veteran Anna Khersonsky assumed the role of managing director—after previous incumbent Andrea Dagger took on a newly created role as head of strategy for Syneos Health US PR— and rallied the agency around a “big little things” identity that emphasized leading with heart, being intentionally creative and fostering connectivity. Other agency veterans occupy key roles: Alison Aromando, who started at CCA in 1997 as the agency’s first intern, was named its first head of client service; Edie Elkinson, EVP of media, is a 26-year veteran. They understand the culture and are committed to cultivating a fun and welcoming employee culture that remains more democratic than most. A DE&I Council advocates for underrepresented voices and provides strategic guidance on our diversity programs and the firm has a workforce that is about a third BIPOC.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

One area of growth in the healthcare space is clinical trial recruitment, and CCA has launched its StudyKIK service, which includes a social media platform that the firm is also using to engage patient spokespeople. The firm also rolled out a one-stop-shop dynamic metrics dashboard to track coverage, share-of-voice and sentiment against sales data and brand KPIs and executed influencer or digital opinion leader) activations for nearly three-quarters of its clients—an impressive number in the healthcare arena. The firm’s creative credentials also shone through in work for Genentech in the spinal muscular dystrophy category, working with patient groups to write, produce and perform a play aimed at addressing preconceptions about the condition. To encourage meningitis B vaccination, meanwhile, CCA worked with GSK to produce a short educational film collaboration with Lifetime.

Paul Holmes

Crosby (Independent)

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Named our 2021 Small Agency of the Year, Crosby is as rooted in the community as it gets, starting with its inception in 1973 when Ralph Crosby bought three small tourist guides and grew a communications agency serving clients in his hometown of Annapolis, Maryland. Some 50 years later, and under the watch of Ralph’s son Raymond, Crosby still has all the makings of a neighborhood shop, driven by a mission of serving healthcare and nonprofit clients dedicated to serving families — Kaiser Permanente, Shriners Hospitals for Children and DAV (Disabled American Veterans) among them  — with specialized practices in healthcare, federal government, nonprofits & causes, and military & veterans.

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Crosby’s has offices in its hometown, Annapolis, Maryland (HQ) and Washington.

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In 2023, Crosby’s 50th year in business, the agency’s fee income jumped more than $6 million, from $30.3 million in 2022 to $36.5 million in 2023 — a very healthy 20% year-over-year lift. A major player in healthcare, and one of only a handful of agencies in the country with a dedicated military practice, Crosby last year was ranked the No. 1 PR firm and No. 1 ad agency in the region by the Baltimore Business Journal. When it comes to new business, Crosby saw big wins in 2023 including a $15 million contract with USDA Food & Nutrition Services to launch a new national benefits program to combat childhood hunger during summers; and a $1.9 Million contract with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to promote Telehealth.HHS.gov to spur greater adoption of telehealth best practices by providers and consumers. The ‘s 116 employees also service the Peace Corps, Kaiser Permanente, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), DAV (Disabled American Veterans), USAA Educational Foundation, Organdonor.gov, Department of Defense Military OneSource, U.S Preventive Services Task Force, Social Security Administration and Wallace Foundation. 

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

No one can better attest to a company’s culture than its employees, who, in the case of Crosby, continue to give the firm exceptionally high marks for its commitment to culture, staff and DEI. In 2023, the agency made The Washington Post’s top workplace list for the seventh consecutive year based on an anonymous staff survey. Staff turnover was a low 10%. And, Crosby has a 4.3 overall score on Glassdoor, the highest of any PR/ad agency in the Baltimore/Washington metro area. President Raymond Crosby has a perfect 5.0.  A longtime champion of DEI, Crosby created an annual affirmative ction plan to track progress; earned the “Enlightened Workplace” certification through the 4As, with every staff member completing a six-part diversity & inclusion training program; and is a member of the Diversity Action Council and report our diversity data to improve industry transparency. Open positions are promoted on key websites such as BlackCareers.org, AllHispanicjobs.com, AllLGBT.org, and Crosby recruits from HBCUs, resulting in new hires. In 2023, the first cohort of students completed the Crosby Scholars program, which provides $100,000 in scholarships to support underserved PR/communications students at Anne Arundel Community College Staff collectively did 600 hours of volunteer work to refurbish the Boys & Girls Club of Annapolis. Crosby was named 2023 Community Partner of the Year by the Food Bank of Anne Arundel County. 

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Crosby’s hallmark 2023 work includes a robust campaign for the Peace Corps aimed at filling a post-Covid deficit of volunteers — the largest since the program launched in 1961. Launched in March, the campaign included a mix of earned, PSA, paid, shared and owned media targeting young, diverse adults. Within six months, the campaign saw more than 105 million views of videos featuring real volunteers in service; 4+ million total visits to PeaceCorps.gov; and 73,894 high-value actions such as talking to a recruiter, attending an event, signing up for emails, and starting an application. Crosby and the Health Resources Services Administration’s campaign to increase the use of Telehealth.HHS.gov dramatically exceeded all objectives, more than doubling total web sessions from the prior year.

Diana Marszalek

GCI Health (WPP)

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Initially reporting into WPP’s Cohn & Wolfe, GCI Health was able to build a strong identity for itself as the giant holding company’s only healthcare-focused public relations firm, and—now reporting to BCW—has established itself as a global leader in healthcare PR. GCI Health is focused exclusively on healthcare communications, but that hasn’t prevented the firm from diversifying its operations in recent years, as health PR has taken on new challenges, including more integrated digital and social campaigns, content creation, and more public health, social impact work, the need for greater equity in delivery and outcomes, and public affairs and corporate reputation assignments.

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Headquartered in New York, GCI Health has a strong national network (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, DC) as well as a Toronto office, an established presence in the UK and Germany, and a growing Asia-Pacific operation. In total, the firm has about 530 people across 26 offices.

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After several years of consistent double-digit growth, GCI Health saw that slow to the low single-digits in 2023, a reflection of the sector’s relative softness, while maintaining a headcount of between 350 and 400 people in North America. The bulk of the firm’s growth came from existing clients—a portfolio that includes industry leaders like Abbott, Bristol Myers Squibb, GSK, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Regeneron, and Sanofi. Much of that growth was driven by newer offerings, with clinical trial recruitment up 63%, design up 31%, research and analytics up 19%, and public affairs up 12%. On the new business front, GCI was able to capture 35 new pieces of business, with 23 clients new to GCI. Highlights included GE HealthCare, the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, the National Organization for Rare Disorders, and the Global Institute for Disease Elimination.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Kristin Cahill, global CEO, leads a team that includes Sherry Goldberg, president, North America; Eleanor Petigrow, global chief growth officer; Amy Inzanti, global chief insights and strategy officer; David Chadwick, global chief content officer; and Dante Cunningham, head of diversity, equity and inclusion. New additions last year included Lilit Bargar, EVP and corporate practice lead (formerly with Weber Shandwick); Daniel Oh, group creative director (from Edelman); and Stephanie O’Donnell, managing director (from MSL). The firm’s DE&I initiatives include a new Diversity Recruitment Plan and a partnership with Paradigm Blueprint to ensure accountability in creating an inclusive culture. To accommodate those who prefer to work remotely, the firm  launched two virtual markets in 2023, East Coast & South and Midwest & West, each with their own market leads. Employee Resource Groups offer support and community for parents & caregivers, outs & allies and people of culture, with a group for Jewish Faith and Friends added in 2023. Finally, the firm conducted 44 learning and development sessions in 2023, a 42% increase.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

The firm’s focus on health equity, to the fore in recent years, was expanded in 2023 to include an emphasis on diversity in clinical trials, with a report that examined black women’s perceptions of clinical trials. GCI Health has also expanded its investment in data and  AI, with an increased focus on predictive analytics for measurement and issues management. As for the work, the firm’s Curation Communications subsidiary was SABRE nominated for its crowdsourcing & co-creating work with Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine, and for the Narcana Nasal Spray campaign, on behalf of Emergent BioSolutions, which worked with former NFL star Emmitt Smith and sought to get the opioid overdose product onto college campuses across the country. For ViiV, meanwhile, GCI produced “Science on the Sofa” a campaign to prevent HIV in Black Women, while for GSK, it brought together eight influencers representative of the diverse lupus patient population to inspire lupus warriors.

Paul Holmes

M Booth Health (Next Fifteen)

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One of the leading independents on the New York marketplace for many years, M Booth was acquired by Next Fifteen (best known for its technology and digital capabilities) in 2009 and has been growing rapidly ever since. In 2019, Next Fifteen also acquired the US operations of healthcare specialist Health Unlimited (previously known as Cooney Waters), which rebranded as M Booth Health, and combined the two businesses to create the Booth Group. The firm has a focus on issues that matter—to both the audience and the firm’s own employees—and turns down about 75% of the RFPs it receives as a result. Whatever the cost may be in revenue opportunities, it seems to have paid off in terms of focus.

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M Booth Health is headquartered in New York and provides communications support across the US.

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M Booth Health enjoyed modest growth in 2023, with fees up by 6% to end the year at the $23.2 million mark, marking a historic growth rate of 42% in the past three years. Growth came from three areas: first, public affairs, with issues-oriented work for the CDC, the World Health Organization, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and others; second, purpose-driven campaigns for the likes of UNICEF USA and the International AIDS Society; and third, end-to-end communications for pharmaceutical, biotech and device companies such as Gilead, Organon, Tandem Diabetes, and—new in 2023—Aurinia Pharmaceuticals and BioMarin.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

CEO Stacey Bernsteink joined in January 2022, after nearly 12 years at Weber Shandwick, and has accelerated the firm’s growth with the aid of a leadership team that includes chief impact officer Peter Matheson Gay; Tayla Mahmud, EVP, Health equity and multicultural strategy; Chaz Cox, managing director, marketing communications; and Karen O’Malley, managing director, public affairs. Bew in 2023 was Darcy Sawatski, EVP public affairs, who joined after serving as Evoke kyne’s head of public health, andMichelle Webb, EVP marketing communications, from Allison+Partners. The commitment to work only the most meaningful assignments is at the heart of the firm’s culture, as is a challenger mentality and a commitment to building and sustaining a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace, which last year was bolstered by the creation of employee resource groups and phase 2 of the Accelerate program for BIPOC staff, providing executive sponsors for talent seeking mentorship, opportunity and guidance.

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Action on DEI has translated into leadership on health equity issues—a priority for almost every healthcare client these days—and in 2023 M Booth Health released “Chosen Circles,” a bespoke survey offering critical insights on how Black and LGBTQ+ Americans navigate health decision making, and how health communicators can better serve the needs of these communities. The work last year included championed global youth by showing how they’re turning eco-anxiety into eco-optimism in a campaign for UNICEF USA; working with DASH to promote its Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which an alarming rise among teens—especially girls—experiencing increased violence, poor mental health and suicide risk; and work with the World Health Organization to stave off a new mpox epidemic.

Paul Holmes

MMC (Omnicom PR Group)

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From its origins in 1983 as a fashion and beauty specialist, the former Marina Maher Communications has grown to be one of the nation’s largest brand-building agencies, with strength in both consumer and healthcare. It has remained a standalone agency within Omnicom since its acquisition a decade ago, and after some major changes over the past two years—president Rema Vasan left to join TikTok as head of business marketing, founder Marina Maher stepped down after more than two decades at the helm’ a complete rebrand adopted the MMC name in May of last year—the firm seems to have a clear vision under new leadership. In part, that’s a result of the increased focus on healthcare (with a significant contribution from its RxMosaic subsidiary), and growth into data, digital and influencer that gives the firm a renewed sense of direction.

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From its headquarters in New York, MMC handles national work, and through a partnership with sister agency Ketchum it can provide international support.

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As part of OPRG, MMC is reluctant to provide financial information, but the firm employs approximately 170 people and grew by low single digits last year, with the healthcare practice (now about two-thirds of the revenue total) leading the way. MMC represents seven of the top 10 Pharmaceutical companies in the world, a mix of longtime clients—Merck for 17 years, Eisai Pharmaceuticals for 15, Pfizer for 11—and new additions such as Karuna Therapeutics (now part of Bristol Myers Squibb) and SK Life Sciences. In the consumer space, meanwhile, MMC was part of three-agency Omnicom team that picked up the Discover Puerto Rico account at the end of the year, and of course continued its marquee partnership with numerous Procter & Gamble brands.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

The new leadership team is helmed by CEO Olga Fleming, who previously led the healthcare and corporate practices, supported by chief growth officer Courtney Walker, chief client officer Ivette Sanz Osso, chief people officer Jennifer Schwerin, and chief creative officer James Ferber. Kavin Shah serves as executive director of healthcare, medical and corporate strategy, Sara Baker as MD of global media, and John McInerney is exec director of global digital health. New in early 2024 is Christine Meberg as chief strategy officer from Ogilvy. After the cultural disruption of the pandemic, MMC created the U Matter platform as a way of bringing its people together in a more flexible, hybrid approach to office work. The firm expanded its wellness program, and ensured that its diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging initiatives were systematized and intentional and Christie Sithiphone was named VP of inclusion and engagement to lead these efforts.

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Creative lead Ferber led the firm’s new branding from in-house—a process that involved the entire agency—introducing a new visual identity that builds on the firm’s heritage and creative focus and a new tagline that positions the firm as “artfully disruptive.” Additionally, MMC struck a partnership with nonprofit ProVention Health Foundation with an eye on improving healthcare through a range of community initiatives addressing chronic diseases. And the firm’s access to the groundbreaking omniearnedID data set gives in an edge in strategy and evaluation. In terms of client work, MMC partnered with Pfizer Rare Disease leadership to integrate a new acquisition into the portfolio; developed a children's book for Sanofi Regeneron to educate about atopic dermatitis; and worked with Eisai to create Made of More, a resource for people affected by head and neck cancer. In the consumer realm, the firm worked with science guy Bill Nye to explain the science of dandruff for Head & Shoulders and tested the science of fabric care for Tide.

Paul Holmes