Principal: Luke Lambert, president and CEO
Offices: Chicago; New York; Raleigh, NC; and Basel, Switzerland (a joint venture with Int/ext Communications)
With a 13.1% increase in revenue, Gibbs & Soell had a third consecutive year of double-digit growth, a trajectory the firm has been on since it repositioned as a business communications firm. To cement the transition, the firm rebranded as G&S Business Communications in early 2015.
Its key verticals are agribusiness and food, consumer, financial services, home and building, and advanced manufacturing. New clients include GE Power & Water, Miele USA, Panasonic, and Stericycle. Its biggest account loss was Intertek, a multinational inspection, product testing, and certification company that internalized the PR function.
"It is an interesting journey when you tweak your business strategy. It requires a lot of risk and investment," says president and CEO Luke Lambert. "But it has paid off."
The agency’s three-year-old business consulting and sustainability practices were particularly high performers though Lambert declined to give specific figures.
To better handle growth, Kate Threewitts was hired in the newly created role of senior director, human resources. She has been tasked with providing employee performance and training development.
"If you are asking people to step out of their comfort zones, you need to provide the right amount of ongoing training," Lambert explains.
While G&S is based in New York, the HR function was relocated to its Raleigh, North Carolina office, which did the most hiring, including roughly a dozen staff in creative, digital, social media, and insights. There are now about 70 people in the office; 40 in New York. Employee turnover was 10%.
"We’ve found Raleigh is a great place to recruit creative talent; it’s an attractive place to live," he adds. "If we were going to build new teams, such as creative there, it made sense to move HR there, too."
Other key hires include VP Kiersten Williams, who is overseeing client work and cultivating business in the clean energy and financial services sectors.
New joint venture
To further branch into sustainability and CSR, last autumn G&S launched a joint venture with Miami and New York-based rbb Public Relations focused on helping food and beverage and CPG clients strengthen their relationships with what Lambert calls "conscious consumers."
The agency, referred to as Gibbs-rbb Strategic Communications, signed its first stand-alone client, a trade association, but was unable to disclose more at press time. Lambert forecasts more strategic partnerships in 2015.
"We’re looking closely at who we can partner with in the area of analytics and influencer analysis so that we can customize programs for clients," he says.