Six new UK PR agencies to watch in 2019

Last year saw a return of some big hitters to the UK PR agency scene, as a number of interesting new ventures emerged. Here are six we'll be watching out for in 2019.

(Clockwise from top left): Govier, Moxham, Henderson, Metcalfe
(Clockwise from top left): Govier, Moxham, Henderson, Metcalfe

To be on the list, the agency must have been founded in the past 12 months or so.

We’re excluding upcoming but (at the time of writing) yet-to-be-launched ventures from experienced industry figures including former Sky director of corporate communications and campaigns Gavin Davies and ex-BT head of external comms Dan Thomas. We’re also excluding UK openings of agencies headquartered overseas.

This is not a particular endorsement of the agencies mentioned, but rather a list of those we think have an interesting story and are likely to have an impact in the coming months.

This year we see a determination among some on the list to reshape or redefine the PR agency model. For example...

1) Blurred

Breaking down the distinction between corporate and consumer comms is the vision for this new venture from experienced agency trio Nik Govier (co-founder, Unity), Katy Stolliday (ex-deputy MD, consumer at Brands2Life) and Stuart Lambert (former strategy and creative director at Weber Shandwick).

Govier said the aim is to build a cohort of deep specialists - drawn from "both Downing Street and FTSE boardrooms; from the worlds of photography and music and digital culture" - around a core team. It’s an intriguing prospect. The agency’s first announced client was StockX, the world’s first 'stock market of things', which it helped launch in Europe in October. (Pictured left to right: Stolliday, Lambert and Govier)

2) The Fourth Angel

Angie Moxham (pictured below), the charismatic PR force that founded 3 Monkeys and oversaw its sale to Edelman sister firm Zeno two years ago, is back with a new business. The Fourth Angel, with Moxham in the driving seat as its "arch angel", promises to take a "lateral approach to integrated comms for brands who crave smarter and better". Early client wins have included female health and beauty brand Woo Woo. Will Moxham’s angel dust propel the venture to greatness in 2019?

3) J&H Communications

Many would not have expected to see James Henderson (pictured below) reappear so quickly. He was CEO at Bell Pottinger when it collapsed in September 2017 amid the scandal around its activities in South Africa, which sent shockwaves across the PR industry. Henderson launched J&H Communications with little fanfare shortly afterwards, registering the business in December 2017 (his partner Heather Kerzner holds just under half the shares).

The consultancy helped with the Turkish prime minister’s trade visit to the UK in early 2018, although Henderson told PRWeek he would avoid "working for governments", per se, and instead concentrate on "corporate, financial, brand, regulatory and reputation management" work. PRWeek suspects Henderson is much happier advising behind the scenes than making headlines again.

4) The Agency Partnership

Another consultancy aiming to circumvent traditional agency models, The Agency Partnership is the brainchild of Blair Metcalfe (pictured below), former client director in MSL UK's corporate team.

It is billed as a London-based business with global ambitions, working with "a collective of hand-picked specialists around the world" alongside the core team (again, not unlike Blurred). Metcalfe said the venture "brings together the right team at the right time, whilst avoiding picking up any of the excess baggage of fixed networks". He is certainly not lacking in confidence, stating boldly: "We’ve shed the traditional agency model. It was broken, so we fixed it."

5) Eterna Partners

Putting the human into corporate communications – that’s the mantra of this consultancy. Eterna was founded in early 2018 by three experienced comms figures who know what it's like at the sharp end of crisis and reputation management: Nigel Fairbrass and Michael Baker – both ex-G4S – and former Lehman Brothers corporate comms chief Serra Balls.

Discussing the agency’s ethos, Fairbrass said: "We will be… recognising that people are making decisions at a more emotional level and social networks have an in-built bias towards content that has an emotional resonance." In practice, this means a particular focus on helping brands connect to people via social media, shunning language that is "almost designed to create distance between them and their audiences". (Pictured left to right: Baker, Balls and Fairbrass)

6) PaceUp

This PR agency, aimed at the cycling and adventure sport industry, launched last autumn by former British professional cyclist Tom Copeland (below right) in tandem (pun intended) with ex-Fusion Media PR manager Samuel Doll (below left). PaceUp will be looking to build on its fairly impressive agency roster already, which includes bike bag manufacturer SCICON, German cycling team Team Sunweb, Velusso cycling holidays, and, outside cycling, the Angling Trust.

Thumbnail image ©GettyImages

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