Principals: Margery Kraus, president and CEO; Neal Cohen, CEO of Americas region
Offices: 29 wholly owned globally; 5 in the US
Revenue: Global: $100.3 million; US: $60 million
Headcount: 507 globally; 257 in the US
Although APCO Worldwide has moved into recovery – led by the firm's Washington office in Q3 2009 – it struggled in the first half of the year because of the tough economic environment.
Global revenues for the firm fell 10.8%, while revenues in the US dropped 3%, says Margery Kraus, president and CEO. She says it was the first time in 25 years that APCO hasn't recorded numbers higher than the year before.
"The economy threw everybody for a loop. It took us the first half of the year to figure out what was going on and what people were really looking for," she says. "Our second half of the year was extremely strong and exceeded last year in profitability [although] not in volume, which was about the same."
Kraus says APCO implemented a hiring freeze in 2009, which has since been lifted. It now hopes to expand its staff this year, as global headcount was down 10% over 2008. Key wins in the US include Edison International, MasterCard, the US Travel Association, and the Financial Services Roundtable, which it won earlier this year.
Kraus adds that crisis and government relations work "doesn't stop when there are hard times. Where people had discretionary income or discretionary spending, it probably slowed down a little bit."
Clients proceed cautiously
The agency expanded its work with Hewlett-Packard, Dow Corning, and eBay. Kraus cites slow-moving client RFPs and budget reductions as causes for the firm's tough first half.
"People generally feel that the market is going to allow a little room for growth, but there's a lot of downward pressure on price from a lot of the big clients," she says. "Clients are a little bit risk-averse and companies are focused a lot more on short-term results."
Moving ahead in 2010, the agency plans to focus on five core markets – New York, Washington, London, Brussels, and China – as well as maintaining its reputation as a crisis firm with a strong global network.
"That's probably the most significant change for APCO, the number of global relationships we have," says Kraus. "It's taken us a long time to get there, but I think that's a lot of our future."