Principals: Charles Lewington, Managing Director
Offices: London, Brussels
Revenues: UK £8.3m, EU €1.3m
Hanover Communications has evolved over 18 years to become one of the largest independent corporate communications and public affairs consultancies in Europe. With an impressive 23% organic growth in 2015, and 85% organic growth over the past three years, the agency is on track to deliver its ambitious five-year business plan to double the size of the company by 2018.
Its mission is to become the dominant independent player in Europe by 2018, growing the depth of its expertise in healthcare, financial services, energy and FMCG, as well as creating new service offerings that meet the changing needs of its major corporate clients. Hanover shareholders have regularly reinvested more than 80% of profit after tax. This has enabled the agency to maintain a consistent quality of standard for customers, as well as investing heavily in people, innovation, brand and creativity.
Its core value is transformational – representing both the creative strategies we design for clients as well as the bottom line deliverables. Staff churn is below 20% and Hanover applies its transformational thinking to help, pro bono, four major charities in London and Brussels.
Hanover has offices in London and Brussels, and plans to extend its geographic presence in the next two years.
In 2015, as a response to a growing demand from existing clients for more robust international capabilities, Hanover has launched its own independent network of corporate communications and public affairs consultancies called The Ecosystem (www.theecosystem.org). The Ecosystem is a collective of fiercely independent agencies with undisputed expertise in their service offering and a stellar reputation in their home markets. Ecosystem’s founding members are: akkanto (Belgium), Atrevia (Iberia and Latin America), Dortok Communications (Turkey), ipse Communication (Germany), Narva (Sweden and the Nordics), Noesis (Italy), SPN Communications (Russia and the CIS), Thomas Marko & Associes (France), and Vising Group (Poland). In early 2016, The Ecosystem began its expansion outside of the Europe with the addition of Navigator Ltd in Canada and GGi Communications in South Africa.
With its emphasis on shared values, international training development, excellence in client services, commitment to measurement and evaluation and giving back to the local community, The Ecosystem stands out among other independent networks. Member agencies jointly employ 826 consultants and bill over $85m in fees with a client list that includes most of the 50 largest global companies.
In 2015 the major challenge for Hanover was to maintain a consistent quality standard for customers as well as investing heavily in people, innovation, brand and creativity, anticipating the changing needs of their major company clients. With shifting business priorities across our specialist sectors, such as the M&A activity in telecoms, the dash for gas across energy and resources, and the shifting market access models across healthcare, innovation is a ‘must have’ not just a ‘nice to do’.
This challenge was successfully addressed with the creation of five new practice areas, including sport, cybersecurity and healthcare communications, and investment in Hanover’s own brand to effectively signal its enhanced integrated communications capabilities.
In corporate and consumer, Claire Furlong, who was previously Head of Marketing and Communications at UK Athletics and Head of Media for England's Athletes at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, was brought in to run the newly launched Hanover Sport and Leigh Ireland, previously UK PR lead for global training Brand, Under Armour, was appointed as Head of Brand Activation.
The agency’s brand communications competence was also boosted with the appointment of Frances Beves, former Director of European Communications at Lilly, as Director of Healthcare Brand Communications.
Hanover’s technology capabilities were reinforced by the with the appointment of The Centre’s Claudia La Donna as Head of Digital Policy in Brussels, and Emma Carr, former Director of Big Brother Watch, as Head of Technology in London.
In addition to bringing new skillsets into the company through hires and service innovations, the agency has invested heavily in training existing consultants. In 2015, over £80k of training budget went towards innovative training programmes designed to upskill consultants in areas like social media, SEO and creativity in addition to the regular "soft skill" courses.
These capabilities were enhanced by a majority investment in a new growth-hacking consultancy, Multiple, headed by tech industry experts Gabbi Cahane and Katy Turner, advising fast-growth tech companies and pioneering corporation on purpose, people and platforms.
As a direct result of the focus on customer service excellence, Hanover consistently achieves average Net Promoter Score of just under 9 out of 10 in client feedback.
In 2015, Hanover experienced 23% top-line growth with the addition of new global clients such as Celltrion, De Beers and The Asian Football Confederation, as well as scaling existing client relationships to create a portfolio of sizeable multi-disciplinary accounts. For example, Lucozade Ribena Suntory, originally a pure policy brief, grew into an integrated communications account consisting of public affairs, corporate communications and digital, leveraging cross-business capabilities and positive client relationships.
As a result of introducing new management tools across the company alongside KPIs tailored to promote efficiency, the business is consistently delivering EBIT in excess of 20%. This has resulted in 30% bottom line growth which puts the business in an excellent position to promote organic growth.
In 2015, Hanover successfully expanded existing client relationships across business practices. Lucozade Ribena Suntory, originally a public affairs client, turned into an integrated corporate communications brief. Likewise, the Cuadrilla & Tata Steel policy briefs grew into corporate communications programmes. In healthcare, Shire added EU and UK policy work to the existing communications duties.
Throughout the first half of 2015, Hanover’s Corporate and Consumer team worked in multiple languages across nine global markets to provide strategic communications and digital support for the first-ever European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan in June. Delivering over 2,500 positive pieces of coverage on the Games and Azerbaijan, including global print and broadcast, the campaign reached an estimated 4.5 billion people globally.
The team’s delivery of thought leadership events, with substantial media coverage, for De Beers Group in Hong Kong, India and Botswana, also added firepower to Hanover’s global corporate credentials, as did the Healthcare Communications team’s work with their new South Korean pharmaceutical client Celltrion. The team worked with Celltrion to launch its infliximab biosimilar a week after its distribution partner announced the launch of the same product. Hanover developed a targeted media outreach strategy resulting in 89 articles, with 612,154 OTC (print) and 438,680,427 UV (online) with coverage including The Financial Times, WSJ, Daily Mail and Reuters. The tone of coverage saw a shift from limited awareness of biosimilars among media to greater acceptance and understanding of this new type of treatment. The year culminated in Celltrion’s president giving a keynote address at FT Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Conference.
Hanover’s Advocacy team significantly added to their public affairs retained client base as a result of the 2015 election with client wins including Camelot, with whom they work across every aspect of their political relations. The teams across London & Brussels also worked with clients to grow their pure policy accounts to cross business accounts. For example Shire, originally an EU account grew to incorporate UK public affairs support leveraging cross-business capabilities and positive client relationships.
An impressive senior leadership team includes Charles Lewington, a former Executive Editor of the Daily Express and Press Secretary to John Major; Andrew Harrison, Director and Global Head of the Healthcare practice, previously a media spokesman at the Department of Health; Laura Swire, Director and Head of Hanover’s Advocacy team, previously Head of the Home Affairs Section in the Conservative Research Department; and Director and Head of Hanover’s Corporate and Consumer practice, Gavin Megaw, former Director of Marketing and Communication at The Football League; and Christian Hierholzer, Brussels Managing Director, who was previously Head of the Public Affairs and Healthcare practices at Weber Shandwick.
In addition, Katie Blower, Head of Retail, was promoted to Director after starting her career at Hanover 9 years ago as a researcher, making over 50% of the company’s C-suite female. Over 20% of Hanover’s current permanent team originally joined the agency as interns and have progressed through the team.
Hanover’s corporate communications practice grew 40% in 2015 and now generates 30% of the company’s London revenues. To accommodate an expanding team, the agency added 3,000 sq. ft. of office space with the creation of a Newsroom featuring media training studio, editorial suite and a digital hub. The main service innovation in the corporate area was the launch of Hanover sports practice.
Collectively these initiatives play towards Hanover’s globally ambitious five year business plan. Founder Charles Lewington recognises that in the age of challenged budgets, this long-term growth strategy will only be sustained by innovation, investment in great people, strident brand positioning and smart cross-sector acquisitions to futureproof the agency’s offerings and anticipate the commercial goals of their clients.