FULL SERVICE - Fleishman-Hillard (UK)
Fleishman-Hillard has long been a major player in the US market, but its
performance in the UK has been somewhat lacklustre - lurking around the
40s mark in the PR Week Top 150 for some time and not increasing fee
income by a significant amount.
In fact, in September last year, Jack Modzelewski, European president
and chief operating officer admitted to PR Week: ’The management of F-H
is not happy with us in London. We have underperformed compared to the
But this year could be the turning point for the Omnicom-owned agency,
with a new MD on board. Paul Blackburn joined this month from Ketchum
and, although it will be his first time managing his own agency, his
past history bodes well. At Ketchum he helped build the healthcare
practice to a pounds 2.5 million-fees-a-year concern from scratch in
only four years.
A raft of senior appointments have been made by F-H in Europe over the
past few months. These include Modzelewski himself, who joined in
January 1999 from F-H’s Chicago office; Matt Fearnley, formerly a
director of Larkspur, who was lured away from an internet venture to
join as a director last year and Grazia Immediato, who came in this year
as a director from hi-tech specialist Copithorne and Bellows (now known
as the Porter Novelli Convergence Group), where she was MD of the French
Then there is the increase in F-H’s blue-chip client base. Already this
year, F-H has added Nortel and Procter and Gamble to its European client
roster. Finally, there are the planned acquisitions. Money for
acquisitions isn’t what is limiting F-H - it’s finding the companies to
buy. This may be a common problem in the UK PR industry, but don’t
forget that much of Modzelewski’s time since his appointment has been
taken up with looking after the London office while it sought a
replacement for Deborah Saw, who left as managing director in September
Now that Blackburn has taken the job, Modzelewski can focus on his real
purpose, which is to build F-H in Europe. He has already overseen the
acquisition of healthcare specialist CPR last year, and now has his
sights set on the financial and hi-tech sectors.
Blackburn also has plenty of ideas about the structure of the
With his philosophy that people are the key to success, he plans to
implement a ’participative design’ structure. ’We’re about achieving
objectives and developing the right team to achieve these objectives,’
With a new, object-oriented structure, and a fresh young team in place,
Fleishman-Hillman (UK)-watching could prove to be an interesting sport
HI-TECH - Lewis
The working culture at hi-tech specialist Lewis demands an early start
and a late finish from employees. As Chris Lewis, president, CEO and
founder of the agency says, ’If you’re going to have credibility as far
as clients are concerned then you need to work very hard.’
Financially, Lewis says the agency is looking closely at following the
Text 100 route and floating on the stock exchange. The company’s
expansion thus far has been achieved without any form of borrowing.
Lewis believes that the agency’s financial strength is in its lack of
bureaucracy. He also believes that ’whoever’s got the staff can get the
business’, and so to retain people, especially in what he reiterates is
a hard-working environment, it is important to offer them stock options
and other benefit packages.
With offices in London, Munich, Paris and San Diego, Lewis has
positioned itself as an international media relations and marketing
consultancy that specialises in technology companies. Vice-president and
chief financial director Simon Hill has a financial background and is
heavily involved in leading the agency’s overall corporate strategy.
Vice-president of operations Ilona Hitel studied PR and concentrates on
client servicing and looking at international strategy and
In terms of technological innovation Lewis is at the forefront. A new
service currently being piloted is the agency’s digital press room. It
will eventually enable journalists, clients and agency employees to
access information - in the form of press cuttings, case studies and
white papers - on a particular client.
Another digital service the agency will be fully launching in the coming
months is Lewis’ virtual press room. When employees come into work every
morning they can download a five minute Realplay video, which briefs
employees on the agency’s client press coverage. Clients will also be
able to access the service.
Lewis also believes that the agency has strong prospects
Having offices in Europe and the US ’pays dividends,’ Lewis says, and
offers potential clients a ’centralised service.’ The agency intends to
establish a ’seamless culture across the globe.’ This will enable it to
attract more international business - especially by maintaining the
hi-tech culture as it grows internationally.
CONSUMER - Joe Public Relations
With Joe Public Relations starting the new millennium by winning PR
accounts for Umbro, Ask Jeeves UK, AOL UK, and a number of other dot.com
ventures, the agency is looking likely to have another productive
JPR was set up in August 1998, hived off from the Text 100 group. It is
primarily a consumer PR agency but it also has a number of
Managing director Matthew Wood, and eight others from Text 100 came from
a consumer technology background to set up the agency. ’It is a good mix
of people well versed in consumer PR, married with experience of
dot.coms,’ says Wood. In the short time since its launch the agency has
grown from nine to 35 staff. It entered the Top 150 in its own right
this year, coming straight in at 78, with fee income of pounds
There are plans to move to new premises in September to accommodate
further expansion. There are also plans to expand internationally and by
setting up branded specialist divisions. Wood says that in the spirit of
Text 100 the agency foresees international expansion, not only through
forming partnerships with overseas affiliates, but also by opening new
offices abroad. A New York office is planned for October and Wood
believes it will go down well. ’There is an ethos of cool in New York
which fits in well with Joe Public Relations,’ says Wood. If the first
international office proves successful then the agency will look at
further expansion in the US over the next five years or so.
Since its launch the agency has acquired a fair share of dot.com
business, not least Amazon’s 1998 launch in the UK. Unlike some other
agencies, Joe Public Relations has no intention of hiving off its
dot.com business into a separate division, because it counts dot.coms
essentially as consumer brands.
The agency has three business-to-business accounts at the moment and, as
it is an area it sees itself as being strong in, there are discussions
underway about creating a separate business-to-business division later
in the year.
One of the strengths of Joe Public Relations is that it is a brand that
has quickly gained a name for itself by word of mouth. In the past it
has been approached by global companies which have heard of the agency
through the grapevine and invited it to pitch.
Schemes in place to keep staff loyal and productive include taking
employees to Barcelona this May. There are also share-option schemes in
place for some staff and rewards for good performance. Wood says it is a
’fun and relaxed place to work that gives people the freedom to play to
their own strengths’.
The agency has displayed a creative edge in an increasingly stunt
fuelled market place with ideas such as its Cristo-style launch of
Orange’s new call centre in Darlington - JPR draped the building with a
200-foot high curtain, which was drawn to unveil the call centre to the
JPR’s consumer work has earned it the accolade of being an innovative
user of PR. It is hoped that this reputation will continue to pull in
NEW MEDIA - Gnash Communications
The boom in e-commerce clients has lead to the creation of dot.com as a
specialist PR discipline in itself.Of the specialist new media agencies
coming to prominence Gnash Communications stands out as a dynamic
communic-ations agency mixing specialist knowledge and traditional PR
The agency lists among its clients several major dot.com ventures -
lastminute.com, internet portal Excite UK and First Tuesday the monthly
gathering for e-ntrepreneurs.
Since becoming a limited company in April 1998 Gnash has grown its total
fees to pounds 1 million from 20 clients. Over the next 12 months,
founder Nada Shirley predicts further growth to come from a ’mixture of
organic growth in the UK and through acquisitions abroad.’
At present the agency carries out a mixture of corporate, business to
business and consumer PR, although not financial. This is one key area,
however, where Gnash is looking for growth. ’The speed with which
dot.com ventures can move from funding to IPO make a financial offering
the next logical step,’ says Shirley.
Gnash uses both traditional media relations and, increasingly, viral
internet PR direct to the wired consumer. It is also one of a handful of
UK early adopters accepting shares as part payment from clients,
although the unsettled nature of these shares means the agency has as
much chance as making a loss as a profit off some clients.
The other major growth area for Gnash over the next 12 months will be in
Europe. ’We are currently formalising arrangements with our French
affiliate Eurotandem,’ says Shirley. Clients such as First Tuesday and
LetsBuyIt.com have already handed Gnash the brief to manage their agency
networks on a pan-European basis.
Gnash was set up by founder Shirley together with Nancy Prendergast, a
former freelance FT.com PR manager.
Shirley’s previous professional life in sales at IT Gartner Group gave
her an early insight into the potential of the internet. After a short
spell at a small generalist agency she decided to setup a specialist
agency which would allow her vision of media and technology to collide.
To date, all of the clients on Gnash’s books have come via personal
’At this moment in time we don’t pitch. It is my belief that the
creativity used up on pitches should be kept for clients,’ says
The relationship with First Tuesday, the networking event for new media,
highlights the kind of foresight and opportunism that is keeping Gnash
ahead of the pack. ’It started by me attending meetings and I asked if
they needed someone to help out with the PR,’ says Shirley.
A lot of generalist PR agencies are quickly building their own dot.com
offering, but Gnash has shown enough innovation and determination to
suggest that it will stay ahead of the pack.
LOBBYING - PoliticsDirect.com
There is no shortage of ambition in the offices of PoliticsDirect.com.
’We want to be judged this time next year according to how far we have
delivered services which change the way public affairs is done,’ says
founding director David Beamer.
The former head of home affairs at the Conservative Party research
department has spent the six months since his agency was founded
thinking of ways to change his industry. He has been indulged in this by
the fee-earning mainstream consultancy work of his co-founder John
Arnold, an ex-head of Scottish Labour students whom Beamer met when
working at The Communication Group. Both left last summer to launch what
they consider to be the first dedicated dot.com lobbying shop.
The agency’s foundation was a risk, as both principals were
contractually prevented from bringing clients with them. A respectable
client list has, however, been built up in the intervening six months.
With freelance help when needed, Arnold has serviced accounts for drinks
company Allied Domecq, the Society of Black Lawyers and, unsurprisingly,
a raft of dot.coms.
Plans for the coming year fall into three categories. First, since fees
for the 1999-2000 year are projected to be in the region of pounds
100,000, more off-line consultancy clients will need to be won. This is
certainly the case if the pair are to avoid, as they hope, the need for
external investors to subsidise the technology work.
Second, and as a sign of the forward-thinking which has come to
characterise much of what they do, Arnold and Beamer hope to profit from
owning more than 30 internet domain names. Some, such as hotbook.com or
letsconsult.com just seemed a good investment last autumn and are now
being auctioned off to generate further cash. Others, including the
priceless e-politics.co.uk or e-lobbying.co.uk are earmarked for
specific new business ideas. E-politics is pencilled in for WAP content,
a project Beamer is in the process of putting together.
The content on PoliticsDirect’s web site is free to use. This remains
true even of labour-intensive consultations. Money is expected to come
from a combination of banner advertising, retail sales opportunities on
the site from which they will then get a cut, and ’opening up new
markets which simply do not exist yet’. It is yet to be seen whether
they have misjudged their ability to turn a profit from selling things
they began giving away free. ’As well as offering regular consultancy
and monitoring on-line like most public affairs consultancies, we also
want to prise open new markets for products which only we will be
It is too early to align them with the Amazons and Yahoos of the modern
marketplace, but if the market capitalisation tops pounds 1 billion by
April 2001 and commentators praise their vision and skill, remember
where you heard it first.
FINANCIAL - Cubitt Consulting
Cubitt Consulting is an agency that could not have existed even a couple
of years ago. The hybrid of financial and new media PR is a perfect
reflection of the new economy, where the lifecycle of a dot.com from
conception to flotation is a matter of months, rather than years.
The agency has a convincing financial pedigree. It was set up in
December 1998 by Simon Brocklebank-Fowler, who was previously group MD
His partners are Noga Villalon, formerly director of European investor
relations at Citigate Dewe Rogerson, and Fergus Wylie, who headed
Citigate’s South African operation. Martin Forrest, former director of
hi-tech specialist Banner PR, was brought on board last year to head the
new media arm and Andy Berry joined as a director from Brunswick in
February this year to manage hi-tech IPOs.
The agency’s aims for the coming year are threefold: to continue to
establish a branded position in financial communications to the new
media sector; to crystallise the international network, and to continue
to build its service to ’old economy’ stocks which are in need of new
media communications effectiveness. The agency had fee income of pounds
890,00 in its first year, and the forecast is for pounds 2.1 million for
this year. Internationally, the agency will be hosting a new media
conference for its international partners in the autumn, and
Brocklebank-Fowler says he is looking at a ’joint venture international
office investment in at least one major market’ in the next 12
Brocklebank-Fowler says there are a number of things which are ’slightly
odd’ about Cubitt, but says clients seem to like these oddities.
Firstly, ’we are the only company in the financial PR community which
was set up with the requirements of the new media sector in mind, which
makes us fundamentally different from the old school of financial
In addition, from the day the agency opened for business, it had a fully
functioning global network of 22 affiliates, which had signed up in
advance so Cubitt could hit the ground running. Even as a start-up, a
third of the company’s revenue came from outside the UK.
Clients are a mix of new internet companies, such as incubator
antfactory, and quoted e-businesses like Ci4net.com, as well as more
traditional companies, such as Somerfield and cigarette manufacturer
Gallaher, which are looking at the effect the internet is having on
their business. The agency has also had considerable success in
representing financial institutions across Europe, such as UniCredito
Italiano and Merrill Lynch, and and has undertaken strategic positioning
projects for FTSE 100 companies like internet company Energis.
Cubitt is extremely choosy about who it takes on - Brocklebank-Fowler
even says ’elitist’ - and graduates tend to come from Oxbridge and
Sheffield’s highly-rated multi-media communications course. ’We promise
intellectual and professional stimulation - we want people we can take
to Merrill Lynch and say, ’these are people you might have taken on’,’
he says. The agency now has 20 staff, with an average age of 27, and is
budgeted to have 40 on board by the end of this year.
Cubitt has already been a finalist in the 1999 PR Week Best New
Consultancy awards, and looks set for further gongs as the new economy