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

2024 North America Small 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

C+C (Independent)

aoy-backstory-iconBackstory

Founded 19 years ago by Julie Colehour and Bryan Cohen, C+C’s focus on social issues communications has delivered rapid growth in recent years, thanks to expanded capabilities in creative, content, multicultural marketing and market intelligence, including a proprietary research platform that has helped deliver game changing work for private and public sector clients. 

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C+C’s 104 staffers work from offices in Seattle, Boston and Portland, or remotely across 18 states, Canada and Mexico.

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In 2023, C+C grew 18% to $19.3 million, stemming from the consistently first-class work that earned the firm creative and boutique agency of the year honors in previous years. The agency intentionally has balance of private and public sector clients to promote stability. Notable 2023 wins include six new East Coast clients focused on energy efficiency and climate change — Mass Save, Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Eversource, National Grid (MA, CT, NH), Cape Light Compact and Liberty Utilities — worth a total of $3 million in revenue. C+C also won new business from Memphis Tourism, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Goodwill and Pew Charitable Trust, which joined existing clients including Billy Frank Jr. Salmon Coalition, Washington State Department of Health, Puget Sound Energy, REI, Google and the US Department of Energy.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Colehour and Cohen oversee a culture that aims to make the world a healthier, happier, more sustainable place to live, helping deliver a low staff turnover rate thanks to a fulfilling focus on purpose-driven work. Staff turnover has averaged less than 13% over the past four years and 11% in 2023. C+C also maintains a stable leadership team with only two departures since 2020, both due to retirement.  With a DEI plan and team dating back to 2016, C+C continues its pursuit of being a more diverse and inclusive firm.  Today the 11-person DEI team work with a consultant and  twice a month to guide DEI plan evolution and implementation. Members have reduced billability goals to allow time to focus on DEI work. This year, all staff are working with their managers to incorporate an inclusion and equity element into one of their 2024 goals.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

In 2013, C+C built a campaign for Memphis Tourism around Graceland’s themed Jungle Room, the decked-out space where Elvis recorded songs known as the Jungle Room sessions. Capitalizing on Elvis appeal, and the popularity of pop-up activations, C+C  recreated the Jungle Room in bars in New York, Chicago and Boston, drawing 1,500 in-person attendees and online, radio, print and broadcast stories garnering 679,000,000 total earned media impressions. C+C’s public service work included supporting the Washington State Department of Health in its effort to reduce opioid overdose deaths. After conducting research involving opioid users, C+C created a multi-fold campaign aimed at increasing the number of people who are aware of, carry and know how to use naloxone, as well as providing easy access to the opioid overdose-reversing medicine. Among the results: a 98% increase in naloxone orders in 13 targeted counties during the campaign over the prior six-month average. 

Diana Marszalek

Current Global (IPG Dxtra)

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Current Marketing was launched in 2006 as a boutique offering within the Interpubic family of agencies, and in 2019 merged with Creation, another IPG firm headquartered in the UK, to form Current Global. While Current was known primarily as a consumer marketing specialist—consumer still accounts for 50% of revenues—it had developed expertise in healthcare and technology before the merger with Creation, which significantly expanded its corporate capabilities (now about 30% of its business globally).

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Current Global has US offices in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and an international network that includes offices in London, Germany, India, China and Latin America.

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In the context of North America’s stagnant public relations business in 2023, Current enjoyed another strong year of growth, with fees up by about 10% to $40.7 million globally ($22.7 million of that in the US). Those numbers cap a five-year period during under the leadership of Virginia Devlin, during which the firm doubled in size globally.  The corporate practice enjoyed the strongest growth, while healthcare is contributing more than ever—although consumer remains the largest practice. The firm continues to work with Abbott Laboratories, Applebee’s, Bissell Homecare, FedEx Corporation, Microsoft, Novartis, Ono Pharmaceutical, Papa Johns, Richemont, Universal Studios and more, while there was new business from New Balance, Illumina, L’Oreal, Pfizer, Pullman Hotels, Eagle Pharmaceuticals, Riyadh Air, Shionogi, Sprinklr, Tata Communications, and Yamaha Motor Company.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

The big news on the people front came at the start of 2024, when it was announced that CEO Virginia Devlin would be retiring in March from the firm she launched 18 years ago. But Devlin had put in place an impressive leadership team and while the search for a new CEO is underway, Current appears to be in good hands, with co-CEO George Coleman in London and global chief client and growth officer Renee Austin leading the US. Significant new hires include Demar Anderson as EVP, marketing and business development; Mike Fair as EVP, strategy; Stephanie Shelton as EVP healthcare (supporting the growing Pfizer business). The firm’s culture emphasizes an inclusive, caring, flexible, and fun community designed to engage and empower employees—whether in a physical office or working remotely. A flexible time off policy went into effect in 2023 in the US, removing PTO limits for all, and a continued commitment to building and retaining diverse teams, including support PRSA Chicago’s DEI fellowship program.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

Current’s vision is “a better-connected world empowered by communication” and its mission is “to establish and foster meaningful human connections in a world where brands are competing for attention and relevance.” That’s a philosophical approach that manifests in Current’s own thought leadership: in particular: its “Accessible by Design” initiative to make all communication more accessible to people of various abilities (Current’s neurodiversity work for adidas is a great example) has become a n industry benchmark. Meanwhile, the firm continues to rack up awards domestically and internationally: eight Cannes Lions and two Clios last year, beyond the usual haul of industry awards. Its “Adopt-a-Stray” campaign for Fresh Step is a finalist for Best in Show at our upcoming In2 SABRE Awards while other notable work ranges from “Reframing MS” for Novartis to the “Banned Book Club” work for the Digitial Public Library of America.

Paul Holmes

French/West/Vaughan (Independent)

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French/West/Vaughan is the Southeast’s leading public relations, public affairs, advertising and digital media agency, a distinction the Raleigh, North Carolina firm has held for the better part of its 27 years in business. Run by chairman and CEO Rick French, FWV’s varied clients run from iconic brands like Wrangler and Guinness Book of World Records to Samsung and the American Pet Products Association. In 2023, the firm topped $40 million in revenue.

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In addition to its Raleigh, North Carolina headquarters, FWV has offices in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Tampa, Florida.

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F/W/V cracked the $40 million mark in 2023, having grown 7%, reflecting the sale of Boston subsidiary CGPR. Last year, though, also saw FWV continue its pursuit of growth through acquisitions (previous buys include FWV Fetching, Prix Productions and AMPR PR), picking up Detroit mobility and manufacturing agency The Millerschin Group in the process. The agency’s 147-person team handled new business from Crocs, Deep Eddy Vodka, Tepper Sports (Carolina Panthers & Charlotte FC), Bahamas Ministry of Tourism/Bahamas Air, Andrew Jackson Hermitage, Guinness Book of World Records, Pepsi Bottling Ventures, and Samsung (AMP3 PR) among others. The firm went into the year with long-term partners including Wrangler, Pendleton Whisky, ABB, Wilmington Beaches & Convention Center, American Pet Products Association, Concord Hospitality (Marriot & Renaissance Hotels), NC Department of Transportation, W.R. Case, and Mitsubishi Electric.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

FWV’s employees have a very much hands-on role in setting the tone of company culture. Staff sit on standing committees —  DEI, social, awards, agency marketing, philanthropy and HR —  that meet monthly to help shape agency policies, as well as how the firm engages with stakeholders and the larger PR industry. Employees also weigh in on how FWV can stay ahead of competitors, particularly when it comes to talent and clients. The firm surpassed its goal of doubling its percentage of diverse hires. Chairman and EO Rich French is supported by president & principal David Gwyn, COO & principal Jenny Pilewski and executive VP Leah Knepper. John Tews is Detroit general manager.

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FWV’s top 2023 work included supporting Pendleton Whiskey’s fundraiser for veterans/the Bob Woodruff Foundation through bottle sales, a particularly challenging prospect given the high percentage of veterans who struggle with substance abuse and alcoholism. After finding Mercedes Kirkland-Doyle, a retired US Army sergeant, to be the face of the campaign, FWV put Pendleton branding aside to focus on initiatives like the Good News Community Kitchen in Virginia, which Kirkland-Doyle founded and BWF supports. The 2023 Military Limited Edition campaign resulted in 2,959,753 impressions and 14,926 engagements. Rick French regularly is on SiriusXM Business Radio to discuss PR, and last year also appeared on CNN and Fox Business to discuss consumer behavior. COO Natalie Best serves an adjunct professor in the UNC Hussam School of Journalism and Media teaching senior-level courses on public relations and issues management. 

Diana Marszalek

Jackson Spalding (Independent) 

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Jackson Spalding ‘s client roster looks more like something belonging to a major global player than the small independent the agency is. In late 2023, AT&T named the Atlanta firm its lead PR agency, displacing FleishmanHillard. Other global companies including Chick-fil-A, Coca-Cola, Delta, Norfolk Southern, L.L Bean and Orkin also are partners. Launched in 1995, the $35 million firm is co-owned by eight shareholders, none of whom have a majority stake. 

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Jackson Spalding is located in the US, serving national and multinational clients from offices in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and Athens, Georgia. 

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Jackson Spalding hit a new high in 2023, closing out the year as a near $35 million company, thanks to an impressive 25% lift in revenue from the year before. The firm capped the year with a big win from AT&T, which named Jackson Spalding its lead PR agency. New business also came from Spelman College, Georgia Department of Human Services, The Carter Center, Ballad Health, Emory Brain Health’s Goizueta Institute and  EnviroSpark, which joined a client roster populated by the likes of  Chick-fil-A, The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, L.L.Bean, Orkin, Norfolk Southern and Piedmont Healthcare. The year also saw Jackson Spalding refresh its agency brand, adopt a new framework for consistently developing more strategic and creative work, invested in deeper subject-matter expertise and launched a new platform to help clients better gauge the impact of their PR investments.

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As one of the five pillars of the agency’s 2025 strategic plan, culture is a standing priority at Jackson Spalding, with an explicit goal to “protect the JS values-based culture to foster a unique, thriving and joyful workplace and establish generations of cultural torchbearers.” Those values include truth, integrity, respect and excellence among others. The firm’s DEI team consistently introduces new ways to cultivate a diverse, equitable and inclusive mindset across the agency. Jackson Spalding’s goal is to have its annual rate below 15% and average employee tenure at least five years —  both of which were exceeded last year. Key leaders include co-founder Glen Jackson, managing partner Trudy Kremer and Eric O’Brien, also a managing partner.

aoy-leadership-iconThought Leadership & Work

In 2023, Jackson Spalding produced an abundance of award-winning work including Coca-Cola’s “Make Some Noise” campaign featuring a music video created by Special Olympic athletes; the Georgia Department of Health Service’s “Stay Informed. Stay Covered” educational campaign for Medicaid recipients; fast-casual restaurant Mendocino Farms’ expansion into Seattle; and L.L. Bean’s mental health awareness campaign. Also last year, Jackson Spalding launched JS Tapestry, a proprietary analytics platform that uses AI-powered analytics tools. Co-founder Glen Jackson is author, speaker and consultant on leadership and preeminence. He serves on the boards of the Tull Foundation and Oglethorpe University.

Diana Marszalek

The Next Practices Group (Independent) 

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Launched by former Real Chemistry leader Bob Pearson in 2021, Next Practices Group (NPG) brings together a range of existing firms, including B2B stalwart Bliss Group, tech player NextTech Communications, consulting shop Brain + Trust Partners, social purpose firm Changex and numerous data/digital labs to solve problems and deploy emerging technologies on behalf of clients. In 2023, the firm also acquired Boundless Life Sciences and Fuse Health for its healthcare offering, along with 104 West to boost its tech capabilities. The breadth and depth of its offering gives NPG significant capabilities in data science, data security, digital media, public affairs and marketing communications.

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There are 275 executives spread across a variety of US locations, including Austin (HQ) and New York City, along with teams in Denver, Dallas, New Jersey and London.

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Assisted by acquisition, NPG grew fee income by 43% to $50.7m in 2023. Healthcare accounts for approximately 60% of fee income, thanks to such clients as Biogen, Johnson & Johnson, Houston Methodist Hospital, Ford Foundation, RELX, Hospital for Special Surgery, Delta Dental. Other key accounts include eBay, KeyBank and Nationwide.

aoy-people-iconPeople & Culture

Pearson brings considerable innovation experience from his career at Real Chemistry and GCI Health, along with client side roles at Novartis, Dell and Sanofi. He is supported by a leadership team that features Bliss Group CEO Cortney Stapleton, Next Solutions Group CEO Ray Kerins Jr, Boundless Group CEO Kerry Hilton, and Ringer Sciences CEO and chief data scientist Yash Gad. The firm’s hybrid work structure includes flexible working, strong supervisor mentorship and generous benefits, while NPG is also an active supporter of the Diversity Action Alliance and Lagrant Foundation. 

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Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of thought leadership activity and product innovation, including a new book by Pearson that features 100 insights for leaders. Stapleton and Pearson have also launched a podcast series called Firm Beliefs to accompany the book. NPG has a built a new ESG social radar tool to help companies align with the needs of the communities they service, and continues to invest in new analytics models for clients, along with a digital philanthropy service. Campaign highlights include nurse recruitment and employer branding for CareOne.

Arun Sudhaman