PRWeek's Top 150 Key performers

Who went up and who went down in the 2012 Top 150? Here's a snapshot of the key performers.

Fee income: £62,942,000 Growth: -7% Staff: 442

Kevin Murray, Chairman, Bell Pottinger Group

Chime Communications' PR division saw a seven per cent fall in annual fee income as the early cancellation of huge contracts with the US government bit into the top-line figures. It is understood the US work included a multi-million-pound contract for comms work in Iraq, which was wound down during the year.

Bell Pottinger was forced into cutting costs as a result of the work ending, but the division continued to grow once the impact of the US contract is stripped out.

Bell Pottinger chairman Kevin Murray says: 'The end of our US contract somewhat hid the fact that the rest of the business grew and improved.' He points to strong performance in consumer, financial, corporate and the Middle East. The group won top consumer names such as BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, Weetabix, Subway and TalkTalk.

Another notable event was the establishment of its dedicated healthcare practice, Open Health. The division already contributes four per cent of Chime's PR income and this is forecast to grow to ten per cent by year-end.

Also, the agency become the subject of fierce mainstream media scrutiny - first over its work for the government of Bahrain, and later as the subject of a newspaper sting on lobbying ethics.

The other elephant in the room is Lord Bell's ongoing attempt to take portions of the PR business back into private hands. No concrete news has emerged since the confirmation he and others were 'perusing the possibility', but the smart money remains on Bell Pottinger ending the year as a very different proposition.

2011 at a glance 

Three best campaigns Working with Airbus to launch a campaign on aircraft interiors of the future. The group also helped launch Nintendo's handheld 3DS in the UK and Pelham Bell Pottinger advised Universal Music on its high profile EMI acquisition

Significant hires Harvard appointed Octopus Communications' Louie St Claire as MD, while the group hired Claire Southeard as director of multimedia content and Marketing Week's Mark Choueke as a director

Predicted fee income for 2012 Unable to comment due to listing

Plans for the year ahead Much depends on Lord Bell's attempted MBO, but the group will grow its presence in sport, financial comms and health. It will continue building into consumer following the launch of Bell Pottinger Consumer earlier this year

Fee income: £35,186,000 Growth: 22% Staff: 320

Robert Phillips, CEO, EMEA, Edelman

Edelman's 22 per cent growth in 2011, reinforces its current status as the industry's star performer.

CEO of EMEA Robert Phillips is pleased the agency 'beat' the economy. 'Our independent status helped us with this because we were not weighed down by commitments to the City,' he says.

He believes the growth is the result of five years spent integrating working practices and embedding digital throughout the agency.

A commitment to innovation has also helped. Last year, the agency set up a studio in Brighton for app developers and hired a head of mobile. 'We want to stay ahead of the industry and continually show clients new ways of working,' says Phillips.

Major client wins included GSK, Autonomy, Kraft, Trip Advisor and The Economist. Edelman also won a clutch of awards, including PRWeek's Large Agency of the Year in the US and the UK, and gold in PRWeek's Global Agency Report.

But like other agency heads, Phillips says the economy has led to increased frustrations when negotiating terms. In January, the team won a major global brand and could not agree on terms with procurement.

Phillips believes 2012 could be tougher than last year: 'We grew 22 per cent against an economy that wasn't slowing - it is now. Many clients are reorganising themselves ahead of what they see as a tougher downturn.'

But he adds: 'We've got the skills, people and data to justify our presence at board level.'

2011 at a glance 

Three best campaigns Digitising the Bletchley Park archives for HP (won a PRWeek Award for best technology campaign); Captain Morgan's Island for Diageo; sustainability work for Unilever

Significant hires BBC's comms director Ed Williams as UK CEO; Lloyds Banking Group's retail comms director Nick Howard to head the relaunched employee relations practice in the UK; A&N Media's head of mobile business development Renata Nyborg as director of mobile

Predicted fee income for 2012 Phillips declines to give a figure, but says: 'We will never grow faster than our quality controls'

Plans for the year ahead Continue to build up speciality practices; be more data-driven using search and analytics; keep innovating

Fee income: £1,531,000 Growth: 16% Staff: 24

Kelly Luchford, founder, Luchford APM

At Luchford APM the plan for 2011 was simple - return to the income it enjoyed in 2008, when the luxury market, like many others, was hit by the recession.

'We achieved that,' says founder Kelly Luchford, adding that this year's strong growth figures are payback for investing in staff when times got harder.

'We're known as a luxury agency and post-2008 we made a decision to stay true to our word,' she says.

'We found the recession gave us an opportunity to hire brilliant senior people,' she adds. 'They started to help change our campaigns, and allowed us to think like a bigger agency while really staying focused.'

The agency's international design division, set up in late 2010, bore fruit early in 2011, as bigger clients such as Swarovski were drawn to the new offer.

The agency worked with fewer clients but brought in bigger retainers and covered a broader range of clients in its target sector, says Luchford.

Luchford APM was also able to compete with the big beasts of the PR world, winning pitches against some of the larger agencies.

And confidence may be returning to the property market at least. The agency has spotted a trend: high-end property developers are looking for more PR support.

This trend helped to produce Luchford's high point of the year, winning a brief with The Grosvenor Estate, a sizeable piece of London land owned by the Duke of Westminster.

2011 at a glance 

Three best campaigns Taking a luxury property development in Hyde Park called The Lancasters head-to-head with Hyde Park One; Marc Newson for Riva; work with Swarovski on the international design circuit

Significant hires Bolstering the residential property division with three hires; bringing Tamara Caspersz and Lindsay Castellana into senior design positions

Predicted fee income for 2012 £2m

Plans for the year ahead Continue as before; meet targets; deliver memorable campaigns

Fee income £3,291,000 Growth 45% Staff 70

Mitchell Kaye, CEO, Mischief

Mischief PR was chosen as a key performer in the Top 150 in 2010, and later that year became the youngest agency to win PRWeek's prestigious Consultancy of the Year Award. But as this year's table shows, Mischief has not rested on its laurels. It saw a whopping 45 per cent growth in fee income and an 84 per cent increase in staff numbers in 2011.

Mischief CEO Mitchell Kaye says there were two reasons for the rapid growth. 'First, it was a record year for Mischief in terms of organic growth and new business,' he says. Client wins included Virgin Atlantic, Jaffa Cakes (United Biscuits), Lynx, Sure Women and Impulse (Unilever), Aurasma and Dulux (AkzoNobel).

The second reason, he says, was being snapped up by the Engine Group and the subsequent merger with Slice. Discussions about the sale began in early 2011, were completed in July and staff moved into Engine's offices shortly afterwards. When the agency joined Engine, it was 45 strong. Now it has 70 staff.

Kaye names the high point of the year as signing new payment terms with LoveFilm, Mischief's first client. 'Client retention is the ultimate measure of success,' he says.

The agency continued to do creative work, including a third book for Heathrow Airport and streaming a football match live on Facebook.

The low point, says Kaye, was not retaining the PRWeek Consultancy of the Year crown, instead being highly commended. 'We hate coming second,' he says.

2011 at a glance 

Three best campaigns Publishing Departures: Seven Stories From Heathrow by Tony Parsons, the agency's third and most successful book for Heathrow Airport; streaming the world's first live football match on Facebook to mark Budweiser's sponsorship of the FA Cup; positioning the National Trust as family-friendly by inviting Dennis The Menace and friends to run riot through its properties

Significant hires Red Consultancy's Ben Dutton as director; Shine's Zac Schwarz as creative director; Lexis PR's Daniella Bertolone as associate director

Predicted fee income for 2012 More than £5m

Plans for the year ahead 'To do great work for our clients and be the best we can be - it's all about the work'

Fee income £1,968,000 Growth -28% Staff 26

Julie Flexen, MD, Munro & Forster

'Fiscally very challenging' is how Julie Flexen, MD of Munro & Forster, describes 2011.

Like many others with a large stake in the public sector, the agency was hit hard in 2010 by government cuts. The cuts had an impact on business that continued to resonate in 2011, a year that began well but started to turn as the economic situation in Europe worsened.

'Month after month projects were getting cancelled and things were delayed. The goalposts kept moving and it had become evident by late spring that things were volatile,' says Flexen.

However, the agency did win new accounts, which make up 35 per cent of its income. Major wins include pharmaceutical firm Janssen and, in Munro & Forster's traditional sector, the University of Cambridge International Examinations.

The agency had to adapt to an increase in project work and expand its focus in the hunt for new income streams. These include online PR, such as work on a UV alert app for those with melanoma, and wins in the fitness and leisure industry.

Flexen says the agency is committed to hiring senior staff and strengthening the healthcare team, despite the tough times. 'To come out of a downturn we need to not only retain our own people but also invest in specialist talent,' she says.

She says the year's high points reflect hard work, which has been recognised in the industry's awards schemes. The agency won the PRCA Health and Wellbeing award for its World Spirometry Day Campaign.

2011 at a glance 

Three best campaigns Helping promote efforts by the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV to bring in a vaccination for young girls; helping launch the UK's inaugural Climate Week; work to change teacher training policy and profile raising for the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers

Significant hires Strengthening the pharmaceutical, life science and OTC offering, including the hire of senior head of practice Stephanie Snow and Ben Hickey

Predicted fee income for 2012 £2m

Plans for the year ahead Continue the growth of political and stakeholder counsel; offer a more integrated public affairs and PR model in the healthcare sector

Fee income £4,834,000 Growth 26% Staff 59

Sandy Purewal, CEO, Octopus Group

2011 was a strong year for the Octopus Group, with fee income up by 26 per cent and a 55 per cent increase in staff.

The ten-year-old technology and consumer agency is already well established, with clients including Cisco, Verizon and Sony. The group consists of Octopus Communications, Rocket, Loudhouse and its international network ION.

The Windsor-based agency's CEO Sandy Purewal says: 'We expected 2011 to be a tough year, but because of our growth in 2010 we decided to continue to invest in the company. The area we needed to focus on was our back office functions like finance and HR because we'd grown too big for them to cope.'

A highlight of the year, he says, was the relative ease of monitoring value in digital campaigns, which has been instrumental in retaining clients and encouraging them to spend more.

But tough economic times meant clients took more time to sign off on budgets, ideas and contracts: 'They are under more scrutiny internally.'

Plans for the year ahead include the rollout of a more flexible pricing system for clients, a push to attract more consumer briefs and an increased investment in staff. The agency wants to make integration between different comms sectors simpler for clients.

The group has already seen a number of major client wins in the first three months of 2012 - including a six-figure account for German software firm SAP and others from Silicon Valley Bank, Entrepreneur First and Red Bee Media - which augur well for the rest of the year.

2011 at a glance 

Three best campaigns British Innovation Gateway for Cisco; Colleges Week for the Association of Colleges; the Digital Joneses for Trend Micro

Significant hires Graham Smith, Laura Slade and Duncan Chapel joined the Octopus Group management team, all were board directors in their former agencies; Tom Holland joined the management team from Iris Software; Emily Wearmouth was promoted to the group's management team

Predicted fee income for 2012 £6m

Plans for the year ahead Introduce services, revenue models and team structures to make comms integration simple for clients; grow digital and consumer business; continue to win brands with a desire for change

Fee income £2,533,000 Growth 56% Staff 22

Graham McMillan, CEO, Open Road

In 2011, Open Road celebrated its fifth year by experiencing a stunning 56 per cent growth - but CEO Graham McMillan remains cautious about the future.

'It's fair to say that 2011 and 2012 have not been easy for any agency,' says McMillan. 'It's hard to grow and you've got to work really hard on existing clients to make sure they're happy.'

McMillan attributes the agency's impressive growth to further developments in corporate comms, internal comms and digital, while building on its existing expertise in public affairs and focusing on creative and media clients. The agency also grew in healthcare.

The year's highlights include the release of the agency's first Influencing the Influencers report in conjunction with Populus, which identified the news sources people really trust.

The agency also published a best practice guide to internal comms and did a 'huge amount' of training.

McMillan says CSR continues to be lucrative for the agency. 'Companies still regard it as an important part of what they do,' he says. 'People want to trust their brands as well as having low prices.'

On public affairs, McMillan says he has seen a lot of briefs from companies that want to make government cuts 'more palatable'.

Despite the positive performance of the agency, McMillan says 'flat is the new growth'. However, he suggests the sluggish recovery has pushed more clients in the direction of mid-size shops such as Open Road because they give the impression that they are better value for money.

2011 at a glance 

Three best campaigns Resolution, to change the law to protect those who need legal aid; Airwave for the company that runs the telecoms services for the emergency services; Women in Sport and Fitness, dealing with issues around the Olympics to get women involved in sports at school age

Significant hires Associate director Andrew Hobson joined the healthcare practice from Insight Public Affairs

Predicted fee income for 2012 'Fee income will grow by 15-20 per cent'

Plans for the year ahead Continue to develop corporate comms, internal comms and social media practices

Fee income £8,274,000 Growth 24% Staff 58

Tim Allan, founder, Portland

Omnicom bought a majority stake in Portland in April, after the agency realised its tenth successive year of double-digit growth, taking revenues past £8m.

'The growth was quite balanced across all areas of the business, with digital being the fastest-growing practice,' says founder Tim Allan. 'There has also been a trend over the past few years for an increasing share of our work to have an international dimension.'

The agency's partnership with Omnicom-owned G+ Europe is expected to satisfy that need, alongside Portland's offices in New York and Nairobi.

The agency's tenth anniversary was a highlight of 2011. A low point was 'commuting between New York and London, with trips to Washington, Moscow, Astana and elsewhere thrown in'. Allan is now returning to lead the UK office, leaving general manager Charles McLean in charge of New York.

The agency has expanded its comms, public affairs and international teams - Mark Flanagan's digital team has grown from one to six people in 12 months. Allan says digital work is 'so core these days that it's rare for there to be no digital element in a campaign'. Headcount has grown to 58, and the agency has colonised the building opposite its office.

Significant client wins included AB InBev, BAE Systems, National Grid, the British Bankers' Association, the NSPCC, the UN Population Fund and VTB Capital. Also, Portland helped former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet launch the UN Women agency, and helped Britain's solar power industry 'win its fight for survival'.

2011 at a glance 

Three best campaigns Cut Don't Kill, saving Britain's solar power industry; Don't Raise our Rents for the Scout Association; Getting British Business Online for Google

Significant hires Partner for public affairs Oliver Pauley joined from Fleishman-Hillard; head of comms Adrian Warr joined from Freud Communications; Jimmy Leach joined the digital team from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; chief policy adviser James O'Shaughnessy joined after four years working for David Cameron

Predicted fee income for 2012 Allan says: 'We have managed double-digit growth for ten years, we hope 2012 will be no exception'

Plans for the year ahead Following the Omnicom acquisition, to offer clients 'a truly global service'

To read more on the PRWeek Top 150 click here

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