GolinHarris: Agency Business Report 2012

Fred Cook, CEO of GolinHarris since 2003, oversaw a shake-up last year that infused fresh talent at the top and sought to realign around skill sets that will carry the firm through a significant growth spurt.

Principal: Fred Cook, CEO
Ownership: Interpublic Group (part of Constituency Management Group)
Offices: Global: 34 wholly owned; US: 11
Revenue: Global: $150 million to $200 million; US: $100 million to $150 million

Fred Cook, CEO of GolinHarris since 2003, oversaw a shake-up last year that infused fresh talent at the top and sought to realign around skill sets that will carry the firm through a significant growth spurt. Cook wants to double revenues by 2020 through organic growth and acquisition.
 
Golin's global revenues are between $150 million and $200 million, the bulk of which are generated in the US, placing it squarely in the large agency category, but at about half the size of Fleishman-Hillard, Weber Shandwick, and Edelman. The firm reported 9% organic global growth last year, excluding its three acquisitions: S2Publicom, McDonald's agency in Brazil (in partnership with Weber); digital agency Fuse in London; and Nicole Weber Communications, a German consumer lifestyle firm.
 
“We would have liked organic growth of more than 10%,” says Cook, “but given the economy, we were pretty happy where we ended up. We didn't have any offices that did badly last year. That's pretty significant.”
 
The agency's largest accounts reveal its strength in consumer marketing, as well as corporate positioning: Nintendo, Dow Chemical, Unilever, and McDonald's. It also works with retail giant Walmart, primarily on Hispanic communications.
 
Golin continues to expand its work with Unilever, its fastest-growing account, recently picking up Bertolli and Slim-Fast. The firm now represents 20 of the CPG giant's brands. Other recent wins include OraSure Technologies, Equinix, and Navistar. A consolidation of PR firms at Nokia shut Golin out of the account, as did a consolidation by Underwriters Laboratories.
 
“We had a really good run in the last half of last year,” notes Cook. “We won a lot of new business that will be playing out this year.”
 
As Golin approaches its 60th birthday, the agency looks to increase international revenues, particularly in emerging markets such as China and Latin America. The firm also wants to increase the size of its corporate, tech, and healthcare practices, says Cook.
 
Three aggressive, young leaders were promoted earlier this year to achieve these goals: Gary Rudnick, who Cook credits with doubling the size of its Chicago operation, now runs the Americas as president; and Jonathan Hughes and Matt Neale were promoted to co-presidents of international operations, having already tripled London revenues.
 
“They're having a huge impact,” reports Cook. “And they're just getting started.”
 
The firm recently shuttered its two-person lobbying team. Last fall, Lane Bailey left his decade-long role leading Golin's public affairs practice. Industry veteran Joe Clayton replaced him. Public affairs remains a priority, says Cook.
 
Cook expects the g4 agency redesign introduced last June to facilitate growth. The new model did away with traditional PR titles in favor of organizing around skill sets – strategists, creators, connectors, and catalysts. It includes training for staff and The Bridge, a network of media monitoring and production rooms serving its offices, which won the PRWeek Award for PR Innovation of the Year.

Within 10 years, “we'll be a very different agency,” adds Cook, “one very well adapted to what's happening in the world.”

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