All firms will receive their trophies at the 2012 EMEA region SABRE Awards dinner, which will be held in Brussels on May 31, 2012.

EMEA Consultancy of the Year: Weber Shandwick

Finalists: Burson-Marsteller, Edelman, Fleishman-Hillard, MSLGroup, Weber Shandwick

In the context of a European economy that continues to struggle, Weber Shandwick’s healthy double-digit growth over the past 12 months (a little over 11 percent, to be precise) is impressive. Weber Shandwick has 40 owned offices in 26 EMEA markets, supplemented by affiliates and partners in 36 additional markets, with the UK operation still the most impressive, but strong growth in the Netherlands, Germany and Brussels. There was new business form US multinationals such as Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, Dow, Honeywell, Johnson & Johnson, and Kraft; regional giants including EDF Energy, Masdar, Nespresso, Rosneft and Shell; and some iconic British brands (Sainsbury’s, Warburtons). But perhaps the best news is the continued growth of the firm’s biggest clients, a group that includes Abbott, MasterCard, Microsoft, Nestle, and Samsung. The top 40 increased their spend with Weber Shandwick by a very healthy 24 percent, and the firm—once criticized for having few multimarket, multi-practice accounts than its competitors—now has more than 20 seven-figure clients in EMEA, up from a dozen three years ago.

African Consultancy of the Year: The Quadrant Company

Finalists: Arcay, Gina Din, Hill & Knowlton, Porter Novelli, Quadrant

One of the firms advancing the professionalization of the PR industry in Nigeria is The Quadrant Company, which was founded in 1989 and has spent two decades earning a reputation for top quality media relations and client service. The local affiliate of Fleishman-Hillard, Quadrant can offer both corporate and brand communications support and has expertise in public affairs, financial communications, special events, and crisis planning and communication—and last year launched a pioneering digital practice. Major clients include Nokia West Africa, British American Tobacco and Mouka Foam, while recent additions include Etisalat Nigeria, Guinness Nigeria, Standard Chartered Bank of Nigeria, Qnet, and the Bank of Agriculture Nigeria, contributing to growth in 2011, despite the difficult global economic environment. Interesting assignments include crisis management and corporate citizenship work for British Airways; corporate positioning support for Guinness Nigeria; and consumer outreach for Samsung.

Benelux Consultancy of the Year: Whyte Corporate Affairs

Finalists: Aspect, Bex, Interel, Whyte, Winkelman Van Hessen

Whyte Corporate Affairs, which launched in 2008 and has quickly established itself as a serious player, has enlisted a handful of senior practitioners to create an innovative alternative to the giant multinationals, focused on the convergence of corporate reputation, issues management and public affairs. Whyte was one of the fastest-growing European firms on our Holmes Report 250 list of the world’s largest public relations firms, ending 2010 with fees up by better than 30 percent to around €2 milion, and that growth has continued in 2011. It has picked up public sector work from NMBS/SNCB Logistics (a branch of the Belgian railways) and the government of Flanders; in the coalition-building arena from LAWG (a coalition of eight leading US pharmaceutical companies), Forum Woningbouw (home builders), and the Belgian chapter of FREE (the Future of Rural Energy in Europe); and in the stakeholder engagement arena, with a particular emphasis on helping clients overcome “not-in-my-backyard” objections. The firm’s largest corporate clients include Anheuser-Busch InBev, Holcim, IKEA, Media Markt Saturn and Danone, and there was new business in 2011, from Areva, Baxter, ELIA (Belgium’s electricity transmission operator), ExxonMobil, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and more.

DACH Consultancy of the Year: Farner Consulting

Finalists: Faktor 3, Farner, fischerAppelt, Grayling, Skills Group

Celebrating its 60th year in 2011, Farner Consulting is one of the oldest public relations firms in continental Europe, and one of the most respected, having established itself as the largest firm in the Swiss market during its early days and retained that position for most of the intervening years. Probably best known for its work in public affairs and corporate and financial communications, Farner now offers a wide range of services, with public relations expertise in the financial services, healthcare and technology sectors. With more than 70 employees in five offices (Zurich, Berne, Basel, Lausanne-Geneva, Lugano), fees held relatively steady in 2011 at around $13 million, making Farner about 25 percent larger than its closest Swiss competition, and the firm has a client list that is second to none: UBS, Credit Suisse, Marc Rich Group, Tyco, Dassault, Heineken, Novartis, Sanofi Aventis, Swiss Banking, and a number of regional and national Government agencies.

Eastern European Consultancy of the Year: Ketchum Maslov

Finalists: All Channels, Ciszewski, Ewing, Ketchum Maslov, Mikhailov & Partners

Maslov PR was the first independent Russian public relations firm—back in 1995—to sign a formal affiliation agreement with a US-based multinational, and in 2010, following a 15-year courtship, it formally became part of the Ketchum Pleon family, operating under the Ketchum Maslov banner. With a client list that includes Gazprom, Google, the Russian Government, Boeing, Western Union, and Philips (several of which it introduced to the broader Ketchum network, many of which it shares) and a reputation for integrity, it remains one of the leaders in the Russian market. The firm also picked up a SABRE Award last year for a campaign promoting a “virtual journey” from Vladivostock to Moscow showcasing the capabilities of Google maps, and has been earning plaudits for its creative work and burgeoning digital capabilities.

French Consultancy of the Year: Publicis Consultants

Finalists: Agence Elan, Burson-Marsteller, Hopscotch, Publicis Consultants, Wellcom

MSLGroup is a genuine leader in France, where its Publicis Consultants has come back strong after a couple of tough years, winning a giant road safety communications campaign from the French government as well as helping the network pick up the Invest in France campaign (a coveted €2.3 million campaign drawing on MSL offices in developing markets); growing its Nestle and Credit Agricole business; and reestablishing itself as a leader in the M&A space (the firm handled the controversial General Mills bid for Yoplait as well as the NYSE Euronext-Deutsch Borse merger.) Perhaps even more significant in the long run, however, is that fact that under the leadership of Fabries Fries, the Consultants operation is beginning to cooperate in a much more meaningful way with the rest of the MSL network, a fact that can only benefit the global operation—particularly given Consultants’ impressive content creation capabilities, which range from digital to collateral to advertising. A highlight of this year’s client was an initiative, at the behest of President Sarkozy, to bring together 1,500 business and opinion leaders for the e-G8 Forum.

Iberian Consultancy of the Year: Inforpress

Finalists: Inforpress, Lift Consulting, Marco de Communicacion, Torres y Carrera, Weber Shandwick

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 2010 was around €11.2 million and the firm was on course for a solid 8 percent growth rate in 2011, enough to ensure that it will continue to rank among the top 15 independent firms headquartered in continental Europe, and the top two or three in Spain. It employs a team of around 170 in its Iberian operations (offices in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Malaga, Seville, Valencia, and Lisbon and Porto) supplemented by a small Brussels operation and a growing Latin America team. The firm’s impressive performance was helped by strong client retention and some big new business wins. It continues to represent Sara lee, Lilly, Repsol, Telefónica, BP, Electronic Arts, IHG, Reebok, Kellogg´s, 3M, and Pixmania in the Iberian markets, and has picked up new assignments from McDonald´s, Rioja Wines, MD Anderson, Cintra, and a host of local companies. In 2010, the firm opened an office in São Paulo under the Audentia Comunicação brand, and it continues to expand its international capabilities.

Italian Consultancy of the Year: INC

Finalists: Barabino, Burson-Marsteller, Edelman, MSLGroup

Established in 1974, INC (Istituto Nazionale per la Comunicazione) is a midsize player in the Italian market, with a staff of 28 consultants across offices in Rome and Milan providing a range of services that includes communications strategy, media relations, digital PR, design and publishing. The firm stands out from its local competitors through an approach that ensures senior-level involvement in every account, an integrated and multidisciplinary team that is both passionate and committed, and a focus on business results. It was the latter that earned it a Global SABRE Award in 2011 for its “Le chiacchiere stanno a zero” social responsibility campaign on behalf of the Italian Brewing Industry Association. The firm also earned awards for its G8-related communications efforts for the Global Call to Action Against Poverty and its Italian Lifestyle campaign on behalf of Europcar.

Middle East Consultancy of the Year: Hill + Knowlton Strategies 

Finalists: Adalid, ASDAA Burson-Marsteller, Four Communications, Hill & Knowlton, TRACCS

There is no doubt that last year was a challenging one for companies operating in the Middle East, given that the protests associated with the Arab Spring effectively closed down several markets for long stretches. Hill & Knowlton, a longtime leader in the Middle East with eight offices reporting in to regional chief executive Dave Robinson, was not immune to the difficulties. There was political upheaval in Egypt and Bahrain and economic woes in the UAE, but strong growth in Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup, and the acquisition of leading Turkish firm Global Tanatim gave the firm an additional presence in a fast-growing market. The firm expanded its digital capabilities, bringing in Rishi Saha, who joined from UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s office, where he was head of digital communications, as regional director. It also continued to export major business to the global network, supporting the acquisition of GE Plastics by Middle Eastern petrochemical company SABIC, for example.

Nordic Consultancy of the Year: Pohjoisranta

Finalists: Diplomat, Hill & Knowlton, JKL, Pohjoisranta, Prime

Pohjoisranta attributes much of its success over the past 15 years to the fact that it doesn’t market individual products and services but rather a process—analysis, strategy, action—that encourages clients to take a long-term view of their communications and their reputation, and to an evidence-based approach that ensures a solid, empirical and pragmatic foundation for everything the firm does. It is a leader in Finland in terms of size (it currently ranks number three in the market, with fee income of €4.1 million last year); quality (it was ranked number the number one agency in Finland based on a survey by independent marketing research company Taloustutkimus Oy); and thought leadership (it was the first PR firm in Finland to publish its own corporate social responsibility report and has been a leader in the field of reputation measurement). Major clients include Finpro, Finnish Transport Agency, Fonecta, Pernod Ricard Finland, SAP and Stora Enso, with Metro the most high-profile new addition in 2011. Pohjoisranta is also an affiliate of international public relations firm Burson-Marsteller.

UK Consultancy of the Year: The Red Consultancy

Finalists: GolinHarris, Ketchum, Nelson Bostock, Red, Unity

Red has been the UK’s reigning consumer public relations leader for the best part of a decade, and continues to grow, with fees of around £12 million, up in the mid-single digits for the year despite being hit to the tune of around £2 million by the government’s spending cuts of 2010. One reason for the firm’s continuing solid performance is the impressive depth of senior management talent; another is strong client retention: several blue-chip clients Red picked up during its first few years—including Johnson & Johnson and McDonald’s—are all still with the firm more than a decade later, and have been joined over the years by the likes of Pfizer, Molson Coors, GlaxoSmithKline, Samsung, Cadbury, and Barclaycard. New additions over the past 12 months include Game Group, Carling, Boots, Symantec, Gatwick Airport, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Coca Cola and Adobe. Finally, there’s the blend of creativity and results (with a new bespoke evaluation system, InfraRed) that has made Red one of the most award-winning firms in the region.

Consumer Consultancy of the Year: Cake Group

Finalists: Cake, Cirkle, fischerAppelt, Pretty Green, Threepipe

It takes a special breed of agency to succeed in the UK’s hyper-competitive consumer agency market. It requires an even more impressive level of performance to prevail over the long-term. So Cake Group deserves plenty of recognition, not just for a stellar 2011, but for remaining relevant for a good decade and more. The firm has had its ups and downs in recent years, but soared again in 2011, delivering a string of new business wins. Chief among these was Sony, where the firm vividly brought its ‘ideas incorporated’ positioning to life, winning separate briefs for consumer, social media and experiential. Other new account highlights included Little Chef, London & Partners and Lego, as the firm successfully rebounded from the end of its relationship with Sainsbury’s. No discussion of the agency, however, would be complete without mentioning the work, which - for clients such as Nintendo, Orange, British Airways and Coca-Cola - continues to push the boundaries of modern consumer marketing. All told, there was strong fee income growth and a new office in Paris to boot.

Corporate Consultancy of the Year: salt

 Finalists: Blue Rubicon, Edelman, MHP, salt, TBWA Corporate

Three things stand out about salt. First, thought leadership: the firm has consistently been on the cutting edge of corporate reputation management, creating campaigns that blur the lines between the converging corporate and consumer realms, focusing on storytelling, conversation, and thought leadership. Second, the quality of its client roster for a firm of its size (£3 million, up about 30 percent last year): it is creating corporate brand platforms for clients such as Unilever, Royal Bank of Scotland, Tesco and new addition Carlsberg. And third, the quality of the work: headline campaigns include the MoneySense financial education campaign from RBS, which helped rebuild the company’s reputation at a time when banks are less than popular; a series of stories about Tesco’s individual food producers, who gave credibility to a quality message that the supermarket chain had been struggling to convey; and the massive, global World Menu Report series of Unilever’s food solutions division.

Financial Consultancy of the Year: Hering Schuppener

Finalists: CNC, College Hill, FTI Consulting, Hering Schuppener, RLM Finsbury

The largest and the best corporate and financial communications consultancy in Germany, Hering Schuppener has the expertise and depth of management to rival any firm in the world when it comes to providing high-level strategic public relations counsel, working as an equal partner with banks and law firms in providing counsel to corporate managements. It ranks in the top four in Germany in terms of fee income (€39 million in 2010) according to The Holmes Report’s Global 250 ranking; number one in terms of quality reputation according to survey by PR Magazin; and the clear number one among German firms in the mergers and acquisitions business according to mergermarket’s analysis of deals activity. And on the international front, Hering Schuppener is a member of the AMO network of corporate and financial public relations specialists, which includes Abernathy Macgregor in the US, Euro RSCG C&O in France, Maitland in the UK has established itself as the leading network for international M&A activity.

Technology Consultancy of the Year: Waggener-Edstrom

Finalists: Bite Communications, Brands2Life, Lewis, Octopus Group, Waggener Edstrom

After a couple of quiet years, Waggener-Edstrom roared back to life in 2011, growing its topline by by 35 percent across the region, with improvements in all markets, notably an 18 percent uptick in its critical London office (which accounts for around half of regional income), and 53 percent growth at UK digital arm Studio D. A strategy of revenue diversification is reaping rich dividends, with Wag-Ed solidifying its reputation in such sectors as healthcare and aviation, and starting to make a splash in consumer - showcased by its impressive win of the hotly-contested Panasonic EMEA mobile brief. The agency also demonstrated strong multi-market abilities - with 80 percent of its client work spanning more than one market. In addition, a well-developed ability to understand sales teams deserves recognition, evidenced by the ROI it has driven in such campaigns as Avanade’s ‘askavanade’ social media programme, which led to 35 sales leads and a seven-figure pipeline from a modest budget.

Healthcare Consultancy of the Year: Chandler Chicco Companies

Finalists: Chandler Chicco, Haas & Health, Pegasus, Red Door, Virgo

With the pharmaceutical industry facing dramatic changes, Chandler Chicco has been quick to identify the issues impacting its clients’ businesses and to expand its suite of services to provide solutions, from its groundbreaking market access specialist brandtectonics to its expanding array of digital and social media capabilities to its Allidura consumer health offer, which has helped to broaden its client base to include companies like Coca-Cola and Nestle. The firm’s diversification has paid dividends in terms of its performance over the past 12 months, with 31 pieces of new business (most of them additional assignments from existing clients) and four entirely new accounts contributing to growth of about 10 percent and revenues in EMEA of £12 million. The acquisition, late in 2011, of German healthcare firms Haas & Health Partner Public Relations and SanCom Creative Communication Solutions, expands CCC’s footprint, and more deals may follow in 2012.

Public Affairs Consultancy of the Year: Fleishman-Hillard

Finalists: Cambre, Fleishman-Hillard, Hanover, Interel, Open Road

Under the leadership of Caroline Wunnerlich, Fleishman-Hillard has established itself as the most consistently impressive of the giant multinational agencies operating in the Brussels public affairs market, and the past couple of years have seen it build on its traditional strengths there with a formidable digital capability and a new financial services expertise (timely, given the plethora of issues that industry is currently dealing with). To an already impressive roster of corporate and association clients, FH added the EuroAce “Renovate Europe” campaign plus work from the Federation of European Asset Managers, Thomson Reuters and Eli Lilly last year. The office has been particularly active on the thought leadership front, producing a new European Parliament Digital Trends Survey 2011, participating in events such as the AmCham Transatlantic Conference and the Competition Conference, and hosting a meetup for the Personal Democracy Forum.

Digital Consultancy of the Year: We Are Social

Finalists: Diffusion, Edelman, Storymaker, We Are Social, Weber Shandwick

We Are Social has prospered like few others from the business opportunities created by the game-changing emergence of social media. Even accounting for the natural growth within the sector, the UK agency’s 2011 performance was awesome, seeing it double in size to record EMEA fee income of £6.5m. The four-year-old firm cannot really be regarded as a flash in the pan any longer, particularly when you factor in geographic expansion, with a 70-person London presence now bolstered by operations in Paris, Munich and Milan, and other operations beyond Europe. There was plenty of new business growth, for Adidas, Tesco, Heinz and Unilever; and We Are Social also deserves kudos for its ‘conversational’ approach to social media, developing successful highly-awarded programmes for Heinz, Marmite and Tesco.

New Consultancy of the Year: First House

Finalists: Acumen, First House, Gartner, Seven Hills, W Communications

Full House started life on January 1, 2010, bringing together a team of senior counselors distinguished by its experience on the opposite side of the table from the traditional PR agency. Some team members were clients, holding senior corporate communications roles. Others had been on the receiving end of public relations pitches as editors, journalists or politicians. The new firm is a partnership of equals, with nine partners, and the depth of talent has helped First House establish itself quickly as a go-to agency in three areas: financial communication, corporate communications (including media relations and crisis and issues management), and public affairs and government relations. Entering its third year, the firm is already one of the top five independents in the Norwegian market, with revenue of around NOK 42 million (€5.4 million) and a client list that is known to include Microsoft, Norwegian kindergarten operator Espira, and financial institutions such as Danske Bank, SpareBank 1 Gruppen and Gjensidige.

All firms will receive their trophies at the EMEA region SABRE Awards dinner, which will be held in Brussels on May 31, 2012.