Principal: Fred Cook, CEO
Ownership: Interpublic Group
Offices: 31 wholly owned globally; 13 in the US
Revenue: Global: more than $100 million; US: $50 million-$100 million
GolinHarris is known largely as one half of the PR success story that is McDonald's. However, 2009 demonstrated clearly how the agency continues to expand its reputation and win new accounts.
Honored as Large PR Agency of the Year at this year's PRWeek Awards, the Interpublic Group agency had a flat year overall, with both its headcount and revenue staying the same in 2009 as it was in 2008, reports CEO Fred Cook.
A profitable year
"That's what we had planned given where the economy was," Cook explains. "Everybody was expecting the worst, but we had our most profitable year in probably 10 years."
The agency does not provide exact profit numbers, but parent company IPG consistently highlights GolinHarris as a solid performer among its PR firms. The agency credited its success in 2009 to strong client relationships and several new business wins.
It also achieved a profitable year with strict cost management and by cutting non-essentials, including travel and meetings, Cook explains. Some of the major account victories, which helped to offset cutbacks in client work, included Wal-Mart, Playtex, and Princess Cruises. In addition, GolinHarris expanded its work with Unilever.
Additionally, Cook says, "We had some clients that grew last year – clients such as McDonald's and Nintendo, which were both very big clients that did really well during the recession, so their budgets grew."
One client did cut back on its work with the firm enough to cause four layoffs in a Texas office, Cook says. He declined to name the specific office or the client, but did refer to it as "one of our larger clients based in Texas."
Yahoo, which GolinHarris won in late 2007, also reviewed agencies this year, and decided on a combined team from Porter Novelli and Voce Communications. GolinHarris did not pitch for the business and finished up its contract through 2009. The loss "hasn't impacted us this year either," Cook adds.
"We're really focusing this year on building out our practices... putting a lot more investment in terms of research, staffing, and resources behind our key practices," he says, noting the growth in its public affairs practice. "We want to strengthen our technology, healthcare, and digital practices."
Cook notes that the agency's domestic offices were consistent and profitable in 2009. Looking forward, as it pertains to geographies worldwide, the agency will be focusing on China and Europe. Despite its continuing plans for growth, however, GolinHarris will remain cautious due to the recovering economy.
"We will still be keeping a close eye on our costs, but we won't be as strict as we were last year," he adds. "We'll be able to make some key investments for the company in different geographies, different offices, and different practices."
Cook says the agency's culture also contributed to its success. Its approach is "defined by an unbelievable level of collaboration among our offices. Particularly in a tough economic environment, your willingness to help one another is a big factor."