Profiles: Tech PR Profiles

Some agencies found the technology market slipping, but others are riding high.

BERKELEY PR INTERNATIONAL 19 - POUNDS 1,170,091 G

A company restructure and a more stable tech sector are the reasons for Berkeley PR's 26 per cent growth in tech fee income in 2004, says MD Melanie Kanarek. It is a welcome rise compared to 2003's 17 per cent drop on 2002.

The restructure resulted in MD Chris Hewitt becoming chief executive, and Kanarek, who ran the Midlands operation, being promoted to MD. 'The restructure helped us focus on how we communicate to clients, and our services,' adds Kanarek.

That has been proved with an account win with web content filtering firm SurfControl, and repitching and winning business for one of the UK's largest retail technical specialists, Torex Retail, which helped to boost tech fees back up to around 2002 levels. Also, previous work for the Federation Against Software Theft's corporate business has been upgraded to the whole group.

The return to fee income of more than £1m was complemented by the opening of a Bristol office, which is headed by associate director Sara Lewis.

'We chose Bristol because we have a couple of clients there,' explains Kanarek. 'Plus there is a large pool of tech clients in the South-West, and our priority is to expand our regional offices.'

For Berkeley, wireless technology, security and compliance will be big business. 'The tech industry is recovering, but it won't return to what it used to be,' adds Kanarek. 'There's now a different way of marketing technology. Integrated marketing is evolving and campaigns are becoming more sophisticated.'

BITE COMMUNICATIONS 4 - POUNDS 2,994,319 H

A six-figure account win from IT consultancy Gartner, new business from pay-as-you-go IT system provider Star and audio content provider Audible.com, plus a win from Samsung, enables Bite group chairman Barry Leggetter to talk optimistically about 2004, despite a two per cent dip in fee income on 2003.

'As our calendar year end is July, it was probably at the end of the slow period of the tech sector, but we've since had a strong run of wins,' he says.

The league tables show that Bite's tech fee income now accounts for 71 per cent of its total revenue, compared to 77 per cent in 2003. But in September 2004, the agency restructured its UK operation and formed two practice groups: a B2B group, including IT, run by Bruce Oldworth and supplemented by senior IT director Paul Mackender, and a consumer practice run by Sheryl Seitz. As a result, some BT business was recoded from tech to consumer.

'Winning Audible.com is an example of our tech practice getting together with our consumer practice; for tech clients, brand is king,' says Leggetter.

'We've been looking for business where we can present an integrated proposition.

It is less solely focused on explaining IT/tech to the target audiences and is now looking to build brands.'

One major hire was made on the tech side in 2004. Annette Ryszkowska joined from Lewis as an associate director. But Leggetter believes there is still a lack of talent in the tech sector, particularly candidates with three to five years' experience. 'The industry should be doing more than it does on staff development and commit to taking on graduates. We'll be taking on three this summer,' he says.

KAIZO 23 - POUNDS 938,204 H

Redefining tech PR is an issue familiar to Kaizo and Crispin Manners, the CEO of its parent firm Argyll Consultancies. He says that in 2004 the agency reclassified some of what was traditionally labelled tech PR into its consumer and corporate divisions. 'A realistic figure of fee income decline in tech business for 2004 stands at ten per cent,' he says.

But the tech league tables show that Kaizo's tech fee income dropped by 24 per cent, from £1,244,829 in 2003 to £938,204 in 2004. Manners explains that the latter figures are analysed as 'what you do' figures, whereas the ten per cent decline he refers to is 'what you do it for'. 'We're increasingly running campaigns that are addressing human and business issues around a product, rather than concentrating on the strict technical aspect,' he explains.

One such example is work that Kaizo carried out for client RSA Security over the past year, running an issues-led campaign on trust in the internet. New accounts encompassed projects for the Local eGov National Project Programme run by Newham Borough Council, while other public sector business came from a tech company involved with the current NHS IT system revamp. Already, 2005 has seen Kaizo win a competitive pitch against Brands2Life and Weber Shandwick for Anite, an IT services company that specialises in the government arena.

While Kaizo's team has grown by two account directors in the past six months - Richard Cook joined from the Big Group, while Fay Bosworth ran her own small consultancy for 18 months following stints at Lewis Communications and Harrison Cowley - the evolution of tech will also lead Kaizo to cast its recruitment eye on talent in other sectors. Industry consolidation will be a key area affecting the tech PR sector over the next 12 months, claims Manners. 'We are also seeing a resurgence in mid-sized American tech firms wanting to expand into Europe, so there's potential business to be had there.'

LEWIS COMMUNICATIONS 1 - POUNDS 6,260,305 G

Heading up the tech league tables once again, Lewis boosted its UK tech fee income by a healthy 13 per cent in 2004 to break the £6m barrier, an improvement on the one per cent growth it recorded the year before. According to vice-president Ilona Hitel, the increase is largely thanks to ploughing profits back into the firm year on year so as to continually improve its service to clients.

'We also put our success down to being a privately owned firm and the strength of our international work. The UK arm is getting referrals from clients in the US, the Netherlands and Germany, plus we've added offices in Hong Kong and Washington DC,' she says.

One win was generated from US-based email security company Postini for its work in the UK. Other 2004 business came from e-commerce firm Build Online, on-demand spend management specialist Marrakech, one of the UK's largest IT services providers, SCC, and application server software company Citrix.

An influx of business resulted in growth of its senior team. Mark Street, former news editor at ITWeek, joined as associate director, while in-house expertise comes from Lucy George, former corporate comms manager at FTSE-listed Parity - an ongoing client of Lewis - as senior consultant. Former T-Mobile marketing manager Catherine Jankowicz was also appointed, as head of marketing.

Hitel ranks the current weak dollar against the pound as one challenge the sector will have to face in the coming months. 'The strong euro should help to generate more European business,' she adds. And 2005 has started off well; six pitches were won between January and April, including electronics giant Sanyo, which appointed Lewis to publicise its 3G mobile phone handsets in the UK and France.

MULBERRY 35 - POUNDS 463,637 G

Mulberry had a storming year in 2004, as it recorded the biggest percentage change in fee income over the previous year in the tech league tables, up 47 per cent from £245,251 to £463,637.

For the consultancy, founded in 1995 by chief executive Chris Klopper, the tech sector is its fastest-growing market. It picked up some good clients last year, with Riverbed Technologies, Systinet and Systems Solutions now part of its portfolio.

'Our existing clients have also driven our growth; we've had more business from supply and demand chain software company Manugistics, as well as from Intermec and Digi,' says Klopper.

While the team reduced in size from 11 to nine in 2004 - losing an account manager and an administrator - Alison Joyce joined from Ogilvy as account manager. Klopper describes this appointment as a big step, as it is the first time the agency has lured someone from a major PR consultancy.

Last autumn, former Sunday Times business desk journalist James Hughes also joined the team. And the team's international expertise expanded after taking on account manager Alison King from US agency Trone, and account executive Paul Manser, who previously ran his own consultancy in Melbourne.

Mulberry already has offices in Chicago and New York, as most of its tech clients are headquartered in the US. 'The world of PR is becoming more international, and with technology adoption running at different rates, having international staff gives us a wider perspective,' adds Klopper. He is optimistic about the future of tech, too. 'We're looking to expand further in the US because clients are giving us strong buying signals, plus the mature Asian market is growing rapidly and emerging markets offer great growth potential,' he adds.

SIX DEGREES 20 - POUNDS 1,076,911 G

Six Degrees is the result of a merger between Roger Staton Associates (RSA) and Marbles, and it celebrates its first birthday this month. The Buckinghamshire-based firm also celebrates winning eight pieces of business since coming together.

Run by joint MDs Jan Stannard and Sue Beard, with RSA founder Roger Staton as chairman, the agency's priority during the first eight months of trading was not to lose any clients or staff, an objective it achieved.

'Since the merger we've seen steady growth in business leads, particularly in consumer technology,' says Stannard. 'But the outlook for the tech sector remains cautiously optimistic. Tech companies are blinking in the sunlight, but budgets are still under pressure. And if the clouds start to darken, they'll go indoors again.'

For Stannard, the challenge the sector will have to be aware of is how integrated campaigns will have an effect on business. 'Where do you put your website work or merchandising of White Papers? Do you give it to your PR or your marketing agency?' she asks.

Yet significant account wins in 2004 means that the agency's client portfolio now comprises Inner Vision Research & Development, American company PolyVision and European company Captor Group, a time and attendance software company.

'The win from Captor has allowed us to develop our creative edge,' adds Stannard. 'We developed the Desk Skiving campaign for it, which has so far reached ten million people. Working for technology companies is now much more about raising brand awareness.'

A similar focus will be used for long-standing security client Symantec, as Six Degrees was taken on to also work for its consumer side. 'As well as consumer tech, we're focusing on expanding into software and, potentially, hardware. And as we have people on the team with science degrees, science is also an area we want to develop,' Stannard adds.

KEY

X Top 50 ranking

G Income growth

H Negative income growth.

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