African Consultancy of the Year: Gina Din Communications

While the African public relations business has developed most prominently in prosperous South Africa and francophone North Africa, multinational corporations are beginning to pay more attention to the populous markets in the East and West of the country, and are beginning to discover that a wealth of PR talent exists in some of those markets. Gina Din Corporate Communications, one source of such talent, has earned recognition as one of the best in East Africa since its inception a little more than a decade ago, picking up the Public Relations Society of Kenya’s Agency of the Year Awards for three consecutive years and becoming the first firm from Kenya to earn recognition in the SABRE Awards. With a team of close to 70 staff—up by about 20 over last year—the firm added new business from Old Mutual, Kenya Commercial Bank, CIC Insurance, and two public sector initiatives: the Police Reforms Programme and the Privatization Commission. They join a roster of clients that includes Safaricom, GlaxoSmithKline, and General Motors EA.

Benelux Consultancy of the Year: Bex*communicatie

With more than 70 professionals in offices in Eindhoven and Amsterdam and estimated 2009 revenues of around €5.5 million, Bex*communicatie is one of the largest and most prestigious corporate communications consultancies in the Dutch market, enjoying an especially strong reputation in the change management and crisis and issues communications categories and boasting expertise in multiple sectors, most notably healthcare, technology, professional services and government. But the Bex family also includes a crisis management consultancy that provides risk assessment, crisis training (including simulations) and crisis support (that past year saw Bex negotiating with kidnappers and pirates); and a training business that conducted more than 150 media trainings for clients last year. Major clients include prominent Dutch private and public sector organizations and major multinationals, including ASML, DSM, Ernst & Young, De Floriade, Essent, KPN, Logitech, MARS, Philips, Rabobank, Visa, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Ministry of External Affairs.

Eastern European Consultancy of the Year: M3 Communications Group

You don’t have to spend very long in the company of M3 Communications Group founder and chief executive Maxim Behar before it dawns on you that he be the best-connected man in Bulgaria. When he claims that he is personally involved with every client of his firm—currently there are about 60 of them—you don’t doubt it, because there is no limit to his energy and enthusiasm. His firm, which has been the Bulgarian partner of Hill & Knowlton since 2000, now operates eight distinct companies specializing in public relations, digital and social media, branding, events, graphic design, media monitoring and education (the latter though M3 College, a fully-licensed private college focused on PR and marketing. The PR team numbers about 60, and has experience in media relations, crisis management and public affairs. The recession appears to have had minimal impact on M3’s business, with continued growth over the past 12 months. It continues to work for a mix of Bulgarian leaders and multinational clients, including Danone, Michelin, Postbank, Alpha Bank, Lockheed Martin, IBM, Intracom and Tishman International

French Consultancy of the Year: Wellcom

With fee income of about €6.7 million and 75 full-time employees, Wellcom is one of the largest independent public relations firms in France—as well as one of the most respected. The firm regularly leads the Limelight client survey and is also particularly well-marketed. In addition, the agency has a pragmatic streak that has served it well, ensuring that execution is as flawless as its strategic counsel. Fee income grew by 10 percent in 2009, and by the same proportion during 2010—impressive figures during some tough years for the French PR market. This year’s growth was helped by the acquisition of PresseVous, a firm that focuses on public sector, economic projects - such as government tenders and public-private partnerships. New clients included one of the year’s biggest account wins. GDF Suez, along with TNT Express France, Turner, Syndicat Francais dest Osteopathes, Argon Consulting, Rail Europe, Arborus and SNITEM.

German Consultancy of the Year: fischerAppelt, relations

Founded in 1986 by brothers Andreas and Bernhard Fischer-Appelt, the firm that bears their name now has six offices in Germany and Austria—Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart and Vienna—and has grown to become one of the three largest public relations consultancies in the German speaking world and with fees of around $36 million one of the top 12 independent PR agencies in the world. Last year saw new assignments from the WWF, smart, the German Ministry of Finance and Olympus, which join a client list that includes Pfizer, Mercedes-Benz and Bacardi. The firm also added senior staff, bringing in BBDO and Jung von Matt veteran Bil Yom as creative director on the advertising side of the business and Anne Malin, formerly of Burson-Marsteller and Heye, who will lead the health and brands team in the PR business. And early in 2011, former Pleon Germany chief executive Frank Behrendt will join as a member of the executive board.

Iberian Consultancy of the Year: Inforpress

While the global economic crisis hit the Spanish market particularly hard, local market leader Inforpress has continued to outperform the sector as a whole. Fee income for 2009 was around €11.6 million and a team of 167 (enough to rank among top 12 public relations firms in Europe) and the firm expects to report around the same level in 2010. One reason for the continued success is the firm’s willingness to innovate: it launched Breathe, a new advertising, creativity and marketing services division; and audentia personas, a new division focused on internal and human resources communications; and expanded its public affairs division, Agenda, and its digital and e-communications practice. And in 2010, it extended its reach beyond the peninsula, opening an office in Brussels and another in São Paulo under the Audentia Comunicação brand. New clients such as TomTom, Gamesa, Alcatel-Lucent, BBVA, beverage trade association ANFABRA, Renova, FolRx, Alexion, Homeliday´s, Transdev, Sendys, Yamaha, Bene Farmacêutica, European MonitoringCentre for Drugs & Drug Addiction and the European Maritime Safety Agency joineda roster that includes Sara Lee, Lilly, Repsol, Telefónica, BP Oil Spain, Electronic Arts, Intercontinental Hotels Group, C&A, Reebok, Reebok, Gaes, DKV, Pernod Ricard Spain, Boiron laboratories, World Wrestling Entertainment, the California Walnut Commission, Goodyear Dunlop, Kellogg´s, Securitas, 3M, Cepsa, Pixmania, and Páginas Amarelas.

Italian Consultancy of the Year: Business Press

In a market that can sometimes strike outsiders as a little insular, Business Press stands out as an Italian public relations consultancy with strong international credentials. It has worked for a host of American and other multinationals (Apple, Google, Kodak, LG, Philips); it has played a leadership role in Worldcom, the global network of independent firms (Business Press founder and president Diego Biasi recently completed a term as chairman of the group); and is the preferred Italian partner for several other U.S. and European agencies. It comes as no surprise, then, to find that Business Press has also been a leader among Italian firms in adopting and integrating digital and social media into its campaigns, developing several specialist offers, including WebTalk, a system for monitoring online conversation about brand and products; the SmartRoom, a proprietary tool to convert online press rooms into social media platforms that can engage directly with online influencers and bloggers; and Blogger Mapping, which supplements traditional PR mailing lists with relevant blogger contacts. The firm picked up new clients such as Givenchy (part of the LVMH Group, Nestlé, Facebook, QVC and Prima Electronics and continues to work with a host of blue-chip brands, including Sca Hygiene Products, Siemens, QVC, Cotton Council International, MediaWorld, Panasonic Toughbook, the Italian Pavillion at the Expo 2010 Shanghai, and Coreve (glass recycling).

Middle Eastern Consultancy of the Year: TRACCS

Trans-Arabian Creative Communications (TRACCS) refutes the notion that multinational clients requiring strategic public relations services in the Middle East and North Africa need to seek out multinational PR agencies. With a network of more than 200 professionals in 13 countries across the region, TRACCS is more than capable of providing coverage of all the major markets, and its thought leadership demonstrates a viewpoint on the role and potential of the public relations function as sophisticated as many western firms. Fee income in 2009 was just under $7.5 million, making TRACCS the only Middle Eastern firm to rank among the world’s top 100 independent, and the firm is on track for growth of about 30 percent in 2010, with travel and tourism work leading the way. Major regional clients include Saudi Telecom, Beiersdorf, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, UAE Government Communications Office, Amouage, Dubai Cares, and NCB Capital, while new business over the past year gas come from Oman Air, Toyota Motor Corporation, flydubai, HSBC Oman, Four Seasons, Rotana Hotels & Resorts, and King Abdul Aziz International Airport, among others.

Nordic Consultancy of the Year: Jung

Jung defines PR as “personal relations,” an approach designed to help brands establish intimate and lasting connections with their consumers via a range of tactics that includes both traditional and digital media relations, social networking and experiential marketing. It’s an approach that demands high levels of audience insight and innovation, which Jung has demonstrated to great effect in recent years, earning SABRE and other awards recognition, most notably for its work on behalf of flagship client Absolut, for which it is global agency of record. The firm has also attracted a portfolio of clients that spans consumer goods categories from food and beverage to electronics to fashion, entertainment and the arts, including Absolut Vodka, Sony Ericsson, Electrolux, Microsoft and Spendrups, with new additions over the past 12 months including Telia, Hyper Island, X-box, Procordia, and Lambi. In addition to growth in digital and social media, Jung has increasingly found itself being selected to provide broad corporate and marketing communications support to clients.

UK Consultancy of the Year: Nelson Bostock Group

When was looking for a U.K. consumer agency, several sources suggested it talk to Nelson Bostock Communications. But the company was reluctant. It didn’t want a “technology” agency, and so NBC did not make the initial shortlist. It was only after one of the original finalists dropped out that the firm was brought in to the competition—and it promptly demonstrated sufficient strategic and creative thinking to win the business. But the fact that its technology heritage was still overshadowing the firm’s successful diversification into the consumer category prompted a rethink of Nelson Bostock’s branding strategy and led to the launch of the Nelson Bostock Group. The new structure will see Nelson Bostock Communications continue to focus on business-to-business and technology clients, while two new brands—Fever PR and Things with Wings—focus on consumer public relations and digital conversations respectively. If the early indications are anything to go by, the new strategy is a success. The group expects growth of around 20 percent in 2010 and has won some of the year’s most sought-after accounts, including Facebook, CA Technologies, WDS Global, DivX, SurveyMonkey and the U.K. Hydrographic Office, while Fever has picked up assignments from BBC Worldwide, JackpotJoy, Warner Digital and American Express.