Top 25 Healthcare Consultancies

Healthcare PR agencies are being forced to diversify as proposed NHS reforms loom but the sector is still enjoying steady growth, finds Hannah Crown.

Scott Partnership: leaping to 11th position
Scott Partnership: leaping to 11th position
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The 'patent cliff', NHS reforms and restricted in-house budgets have forced agency healthcare PR professionals to create more sophisticated and diverse offerings over the past 12 months.

According to Justin Wilkes, chair of the CIPR's health and medical group, drugs coming off patent are creating a 'fear factor' that is forcing pharmas to diversify.

Tonic Group's CEO Scott Clark says: 'Patent loss is enough of a concern that companies are changing their entire strategies. You are seeing former arch rivals getting together to bring products to market, and to spread the risk. This has required healthcare PROs to look again at the skills we provide and to be more dynamic.'

One result of this, says The Scott Partnership's CEO Kath Darlington, is 'a real shift in focus from traditional awareness and education to engagement and relationship building'.

Just PR's MD Jennie Talman agrees. Her agency created a new political relations division at the end of last year. She says: 'Clients now have more sophisticated messages. The basic education has been done; now it's influencing the people in government who can effect change at policy level.'

NHS reforms, along with the decision to 'streamline' comms at the Department of Health, have meant a significant reduction in public health work. 'But this has presented new opportunities from private providers,' says Steffi Rucci, MD of Say Communications. Her agency's attempt to entice private health providers was written into its corporate plan.

Overall, growth in the sector remains steady. Wilkes believes part of this growth can be attributed to PR agencies winning more business from other marcoms disciplines. 'From the consumer side, PR is now leading the whole of the marketing strategy,' he says.

Edelman's COO and group MD of health Steven Spurr agrees: 'PR and comms are being taken much more seriously.'

TABLE ANALYSIS

  • Tonic Life knocked Chandler Chicco off the top spot, with a 31 per cent leap in fee income to £11.4m.
  • As in previous years the top five health spots remain largely static with Edelman third, Red Door fourth and Virgo Health fifth.
  • MHP Health Mandate is a new arrival in the table, in sixth position. It rebranded from Health Mandate in 2010 and last year appointed the Royal College of Surgeons' director of external affairs Alison Cook as a director.
  • Other notable new arrivals are Scott Partnership Holdings, which leapt into 11th position with 61 per cent growth, and WCG, which ranks 12th with 116 per cent growth.
  • Pegasus PR saw growth of 29 per cent and moved up two places while Munro & Forster fell six places to 21 with a 15 per cent drop in revenue.


SAY COMMUNICATIONS - 20

Joint MD Stefi Rucci

Healthcare fee income £1.06m

Growth 39%

What were the trends in the health PR sector in the past 12 months?

There is considerably more work in co-ordinating integrated programmes. In previous years, we were being briefed by ad agencies and digital agencies. Now we are the agency that co-ordinates campaigns with sizeable PR accounts. There was also a slump in international work with the economic crisis, but European briefs are returning.

What is the market like now?

The pace of work has increased dramatically. Four to five years ago we would be given six weeks for a brief. Now clients give you a brief without a pitch process but they want it within ten days. Clients are handing us KPIs.

What kind of work do clients want?

We are providing more senior level advice to chief executives to drive board strategy on how to organise comms functions. On digital, we're bringing in a more dramatic approach to websites, where we allow feedback, which is a massive change for some of our clients.

What will happen in health PR in the next 12 months?

It will be really important to understand the environment - both political and financial. Those agencies that take back ownership of content will do well. Digital agencies have been positioning themselves as creators of content but where they can fail is in making their content appealing.

2011 AT A GLANCE

High points Working on big multi-channel educational initiatives such as the nutrition website Feeding for Life Foundation.

Low points Complexity of online bids and procurement demands have taken up substantial time and resources.

Key client wins Additional domestic work in rare diseases from Swedish Orphan Biovritrum; product launches in paediatric and adult nutrition from Danone and Nutricia; international work from Abbott Medical Optics.

Best hires Annie Aulds, Red Door's senior account manager.

Strategy for 2012 Continue to balance our portfolio with investment in medical education, consumer health and health service provision.

Predicted fee income for 2012 £1.9 to £2m


SCOTT PARTNERSHIP HOLDINGS - 11

CEO Kath Darlington

Healthcare fee income £2.04m

Growth 61%

What were the trends in the health PR sector in the past 12 months?

The Health and Social Care Reform Act has thrown UK healthcare into a new situation. Public sector spending has flatlined. The market has opened up to any qualified providers, so it has become more important for people to have relationships with stakeholders.

What is the market like now?

We are seeing a greatly heightened demand for our employer branding and staff engagement initiatives in the public sector. We know this engagement is directly related to clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction. We have seen staff engagement plummet to worryingly low levels at some health providers.

What kind of work do clients want?

Campaigns around case studies and white papers is one growth area. Overall our clients are looking for more direct ROI and we are working with them on more tightly focused stakeholder engagement, particularly related to thought leadership initiatives.

What will happen in health PR in the next 12 months?

Clients are asking what impact their PR is having on the decision-making process. Healthcare PR will have to work harder for clients as they look to really influence thinking about alternative ways of working, with a clear focus on cost efficiency balanced delicately against patient safety.

2011 AT A GLANCE

High points The acquisition of both Phoenix MarCom and Kapler Communications. The adoption of a five-year growth strategy.

Low points Wading through treacle with the NHS and a couple of wrong steps in recruitment.

Key client wins Synergy Health.

Best hires Pat McLaren as director of health and corporate comms from Cube PR; Sion Ashley-Jones as general manager of The Scott Partnership from Golley Slater Cardiff; Maria McGeoghan as director of strategy and operations from Manchester Evening News.

Strategy for 2012 Continue to grow our network of offices based in the US. An office in India will be set up before the end of 2012.

Predicted fee income for 2012 £3.15m


TONIC LIFE COMMUNICATIONS - 1

Group CEO Scott Clark

Healthcare fee income £11.43m

Growth 31%

What were the trends in the health PR sector in the past 12 months?

Over the past 12 months we have witnessed a laser-like focus on campaigns to highlight the value of a medicine to society and healthcare systems. Showing that we can have measurable and tangible outcomes from our campaigns is no longer optional for the PR industry today.

What is the market like now?

As the world goes digital we are seeing a resurgence of traditional PR activities, such as face-to-face briefings and live media events.

Social and digital media represent a significant portion of our business but this needs to be balanced with the fact people still watch TV, read papers and attend events.

What kind of work do clients want?

The large RFPs are fewer and the new climate is project by project. That makes client retention and satisfaction essential to grow business organically. There is also increased demand from consumer brands that want to communicate the science behind a product claim.

What will happen in health PR in the next 12 months?

I see PR playing an even greater part in the marketing mix - we are uniquely placed to stimulate conversations, listen to consumers and tell compelling stories.

2011 AT A GLANCE

High points High employee and client retention rates while generating seven-figure new business and stellar organic growth.

Low points The economic environment making our clients' lives difficult.

Key client wins AstraZeneca, EC, Novo Nordisk, Novartis, Reckitt Ben Monsanto, Pfizer Animal Health and The Economist healthcare conferences.

Best hires Associate director Jim Baxter from Merck (Schering-Plough); acount director Hannah Macgregor from Athena Medical; account director Liz Wyatt and senior account manager Siobhan Reilly from Publicis.

Strategy for 2012 Continue to stay true to our 'lifesciences to lifestyle' positioning. Look at expansion on the west coast of the US.

Predicted fee income for 2012 £11m to £13m.


VIRGO HEALTH (just acquired by GolinHarris) - 5

Joint CEOs Sarah Matthew and Angie Wiles

Healthcare fee income £5.52m

Growth 17%

What were the key trends in the health PR sector in the past 12 months?

We saw a decline in pure prescription and brand comms and broadening of scope to areas like market access and policy comms. There has been an increase in corporate comms and internal corporate comms.

What is the market like now?

Our work is split between organic growth and new business. There is more understanding of PR opportunities. Clients are mindful of the importance of corporate reputation and of being seen to perform business with integrity.

What kind of work do clients want?

Medical education continues to grow. In parallel, clients see a bigger role for comms to support the navigation of increasingly complex access challenges for new drugs. There is less activity around disease awareness programmes. Now there is less money available, clients are spending where they think they will get returns. There was a real sea change from the beginning of last year in digital. Clients went from scepticism and suspicion to a cautious exploration of the possibilities.

What will happen in health PR in the next 12 months?

We're looking at global and digital as priorities. Social media are going to be interesting as people are able to create perceptions of drugs or health services online that the providers aren't able to address.

2011 AT A GLANCE

High points Our medical education division, which gained seven clients including Retigabine for GSK. In the second year of its operation, it doubled in size with £2.3m income.

Low points The consumer health marketplace has become more project based and everyone wants more for less.

Key client wins Voltaren for Novartis; Retigabine for GSK and Xeomin for Merz.

Best hires Rob Stephenson, account director in our medical education division, formerly account director at Ogilvy Healthworld.

Strategy for 2012 The acquisition by GolinHarris enables Virgo to launch in the US. It is to launch digital healthcare practice Go Digital Health.

Predicted fee income for 2012 £6m.

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