FTSE 100-listed DS Smith chooses global comms partners

The international packaging business has appointed Hill+Knowlton and Brunswick as its global communications partners, with a brief that includes “redefining packaging for a changing world”, PRWeek can reveal.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies (H+K) has been appointed as global agency of record for sustainable packaging provider DS Smith.

The global consultancy will provide strategic counsel, creative campaigns, media relations and public affairs support across Europe and the US. The account will be led by H+K London, with hubs in New York and Brussels.

Brunswick has been appointed as DS Smith’s global financial communications partner.

Both appointments are the result of a strategic review to consolidate the company’s roster of agencies to two global consultancies. DS Smith has recently grown its team with the appointment of Shona Inglis as head of media relations and campaigns.

The business is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of corrugated packaging, employing 31,000 people – including 700 design engineers – at about 300 factories in 37 countries. It reported global revenue of £6.2bn in its most recent fiscal year.

Director of corporate affairs Greg Dawson told PRWeek the packaging business had grown tenfold in the past 10 years and accumulated a large roster of different agencies.

“I joined a couple of years ago and there wasn’t an established corporate affairs function at the time,” he said.

“The business has grown organically to a degree, but [also] through 17 acquisitions. We pulled together a lot of smaller companies into one big company, but the communications were often in a local factory or a cluster of factories in a country.

“We wanted to centralise how we communicated across the group and make sure it all connects to the mother brand. We want to communicate with one voice inside the business and one narrative and purpose externally.”

‘Redefining packaging’

Last year, DS Smith established a new corporate purpose to redefine packaging for a socially and environmentally conscious era.

The business, which worked with 10 different PR agencies, called a review to consolidate its communications support to two global partners – H+K and Brunswick, both of which had previously worked with the business.

“It’s a lot simpler if you can communicate through one agency, particularly when the corporate affairs model is new, and the narrative is new,” Dawson said.

“Also, with relatively small amounts of spending in multiple markets, you can’t always realise your potential and hit the type of tier-one media activity that you have that ambition for. To bring that spend into one place enables that much better.”

Dawson, who previously worked with H+K when he was Ford’s EMEA vice-president of communications and public affairs, said he was impressed by the consultancy’s “convincing multi-market capability” during the recent pitch process.

“It’s about getting that consistency where we might want to fire up a campaign in Slovakia, for example, and we need to be able to provide quality support. That was one thing H+K offered; I also liked their strategic thinking and creativity.”

H+K will help DS Smith with b2b and b2c comms, helping position the business as a pioneer in sustainable packaging and advocate of the circular economy.

Dawson said that ever since he joined the business, he wanted to promote DS Smith’s story outside its traditional b2b arena. This was, in part, motivated by a David Attenborough documentary.

“With the awareness raised by BBC’s Blue Planet II, you could argue it’s a consumer issue about plastic in the ocean… but actually it’s very much a b2b problem,” Dawson said.

“The idea of us focusing on a b2c narrative (as well as b2b) is when it is driving innovation (in the packaging industry)… We are almost getting ahead of our b2c customers and we are helping them.”

Sara Jurkowsky, managing director of H+K’s Energy + Industrials practice in London, said packaging is facing greater scrutiny than ever before with consumers, manufacturers, and retailers.

“It is a real point of pride for us to be working with an organisation like DS Smith that is at the forefront of sustainability and a catalyst for the circular economy,” she said.



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