The UK's most successful financial PR consultancy by a substantial
margin, Brunswick has been shrouded in mystery since its inception 14
Founder Alan Parker and managing partner James Bradley have evolved the
agency along strict in-house policies on marketing with an ethos to
'never get between a client and the footlights'.
This lack of self-promotion means that marketing has been kept to a
minimum - the firm has no company brochure, no developed website and
staff do not give attributable quotes. But the air of mystery that has
for so long lingered around Brunswick is slowly beginning to
In the past few weeks, the agency has had its fair share of the media
spotlight. This was sparked off initially by the news that former Bill
Clinton aide James Rubin was joining the consultancy (PRWeek, 11
Then followed the embarrassing lapse concerning a confidential dossier
leaked to The Guardian, which forced the firm again out of the shadows,
albeit briefly. According to industry peers, the firm has followed the
crisis communications rules carefully, making itself uncustomarily
available for press comment, contacting clients and pledging to overhaul
The media, always happy to avenge the spin doctors who have spun them
for years, latched on to the stray dossier story with glee, despite
Brunswick's protestations that it was simply a press cuttings
Whether the mistake will affect Brunswick's pole position in the sector
is a moot point, and the answer will not be known until the results of
the Financial Services Authority inquiry.
Some argue the security lapse could give competitors the advantage they
need to take first place. One City source said: 'Investment bankers are
vital for the financial PR sector and they're key referrers for new
'They take security very seriously and are paranoid about it. If they
felt there was a lapse, they may have a problem working with
A former employee adds: 'If you are in a tough pitch and there's two
firms in the running with little between them, then it may influence the
decision in the other firm's favour, but it won't stop Brunswick being
the top firm.'
Whatever the outcome of the inquiry, Brunswick will almost certainly
find itself answering questions on security in future pitches. The
chances are the firm will take the embarrassment in its stride, as it
has before, notably during the Millennium Dome fiasco early last
The agency, then hired by Dome chairman Bob Ayling, was heavily
criticised in the nationals for its allegedly misleading spin
surrounding Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, when he replaced Jennie Page as chief
executive of the beleaguered attraction.
But Brunswick's position as the leading financial agency is unrivalled -
it's just topped rankings for M&A PR advisory work in April (PRWeek, 18
Brunswick advises nearly 30 of the FTSE 100, closer to 40 if you include
its other interests: media training venture Trinity, run by Parker's
sister Lucy; literature and advertising arm Merchant and research
consultancy SRU, acquired last September. Its client roster reads like a
City PRO's fantasy client list, boasting names such as Cazenove, EMI and
Former employees suggest the secret of its success lies in the quality
of its 35 partners and 280 staff. Parker's former right-hand man Lucas
van Praag, now Goldman Sachs European head of communications, says:
'Alan pulled together a group of people who had immense credibility. He
is not afraid to hire people who may well be brighter than him, and
that's an enormous part of their success.'
Working conditions at the agency's Holborn headquarters are said to be
buzzing - yet tough. The offices resemble a bustling open-plan newsroom,
with few shut-off rooms - not even a separate office for Parker. While
some former employees say the conditions are 'fun and mixed' others
One says: 'It's a culture that's propagated and pushed and quite
claustrophobic, with little out-of-hours socialising.'
Despite the criticisms, Brunswick is still attracting top staff -
Rubin's appointment is a major coup and follows just months after that
of former Independent City editor, Andrew Garfield. Its latest hire, the
firm's first marketing partner Rachael Melsom, illustrates a desire to
raise the agency's profile.
As Parker sets his sights on global expansion, the need to market and
push the brand overseas is becoming increasingly essential.
'We have never marketed conventionally in the past because we always
felt referrals from existing clients and investment banks was a better
way to get new business,' says a Brunswick spokesman.
With expansion plans for continental Europe, the US and possibly
South-East Asia, Brunswick needs 'someone dedicated to marketing, to
co-ordinate our efforts in that area'.
Speculation continues about whether the firm, worth some pounds 100m
according to industry sources, will sell or float. What is certain is
that Parker's empire will continue to grow and we may begin to see a far
more media-friendly agency in the process.