COI's new breed

The recession clearly has not hit the Central Office of Information yet, with more agencies than ever on the roster. Matt Cartmell profiles some of the newcomers...

Knight: Founder and creative director of Mission 21
Knight: Founder and creative director of Mission 21

If the Central Office of Information (COI)’s latest framework is anything to go by, the Government is not planning to cut PR in 2009. With 89 agencies on the new roster compared with just 29 on the initial 2004 framework, there are enough new faces to confuse even the most knowledgeable of public sector PR professionals.

The COI oversees the outsourcing of more than 100 PR campaigns a year on behalf of government departments, and the framework is the COI’s way of managing this onerous task.

The reason for the expansion is the 2006 Public Contract Regulations that insist all suppliers are invited to compete for each piece of business. The new framework has been divided into lots to meet these requirements.

But with such a huge list, there are some agencies included that are relative unknowns in the public sector.

Here is PRWeek’s guide to some of the new faces…

Company Iris PR
Head office London
Who’s in charge? Bill McIntyre and Nick Porter (right), joint managing directors
A small agency capable of running high-profile and diverse consumer campaigns, Iris PR provides news generation, launches and stunts, experiential PR, digital and sponsorship exploitation, along with the usual media relations and press office, promotions and competitions.

Notable clients include Home Retail Group (owner of Argos), DBA (makers of Wonderbra), Finlandia Vodka and the
Movember charity.

Iris PR has grown up within a marcoms group so can offer an integrated approach through its sister agencies in digital, experiential, sponsorship, direct and above-the-line disciplines.

Company Livity
Head office London
Who’s in charge? Sam Conniff and Michelle Clothier, co-founders

Livity calls itself a ‘youth communications agency with a conscience’, specialising in responsible youth-focused campaigns and content. It has a track record of engaging with young people on key issues. Clients include Teenage Cancer Trust, BBC, Lambeth Youth Service, NSPCC, National Blood Service, ChildLine, Penguin Books and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Livity Group also includes LIVE Futures, which publishes London’s most widely read youth-run publication, LIVE magazine, run by young people. There is also the Livity Trust, a charitable trust with the purpose of supporting young people in getting into work or education.

Company ManBitesDog
Head office Brighton
Who’s in charge? Claire Mason, managing director

ManBitesDog focuses on business-to-business and government-to-business PR, delivering thought-leadership campaigns targeting everything from micro-businesses to major corporates.

Typical audiences range from entrepreneurs to CEOs, CFOs and HR directors of FTSE 100 companies across a range of industry sectors.

ManBitesDog is also known for robust research and white papers aimed at engaging entrepreneurs and board-level decision makers.

Notable clients include WEConnect, a government-backed initiative to connect female entrepreneurs with corporate contract opportunities, plus non-public sector clients BT and Adobe.

The agency has delivered a number of campaigns to promote high-growth entrepreneurship and female entrepreneurship.

‘We also have very strong experience in promoting clients in sectors including business advisory, leadership, learning and skills,’ says Mason.

Company Mission 21
Head office London
Who’s in charge? Richard Knight, founder and creative director

The 24-strong agency, which specialises in bringing science and engineering to the masses, works for clients such as the Science Museum, London, the agency’s founding client. Other clients include the Bloodhound SSC land speed record and English Heritage.

‘We specialise in inspiring young people to get into science and engineering,’ says Knight.

‘We like to do unlikely work for serious organisations to reach a wide audience.’

The agency specialises in creating integrated programmes combining content creation, media relations, online marketing, film and event production.

The eight-year-old agency includes marketing, PR and promotions experts, film directors, TV news editors, authors, publishers, journalists, magazine editors and teachers.

Company Open Road
Head office London
Who’s in charge? Graham McMillan, chief executive

Founded in 2007, Open Road provides strategic comms, crisis management and media relations and internal comms, along with the public affairs work for which it is more commonly known.

Open Road is in the environment ‘lot’ of the COI roster, which the agency puts down to its specialism in stakeholder relations, providing focused campaigns to local communities, media and local government.

Notable clients include Royal Mail, Orange, BAE Systems, BPI and HSBC.

McMillan is a former head of public affairs at Fishburn Hedges, which was awarded Best UK Con-sultancy at the Public Affairs News Awards 2005 under his tenure.

Company Pegasus PR
Head office Worthing, West Sussex
Who’s in charge? Lisa Bradley, managing director
This agency covers healthcare with a consumer focus, and notable clients include Thornton & Ross, Sanofi Aventis and Holland & Barrett. Pegasus calls itself a comms agency that focuses on what ‘inspires consumers to make healthy decisions’. Pegasus offers a mix of consumer media relations, key opinion leader campaigns, social media programmes and creative campaigns.

Pegasus’ staff are a mixture of PR consultants, journalists, brand consultants, and digital experts. Associate director Simon Hackett said: ‘We are one of the top agencies for natural healthcare and reputation management in this area.’

Company Resource Futures
Head office Bristol
Who’s in charge? Jane Stephenson, CEO

Based in Bristol and Leeds, this agency focuses on sustainability, waste and recycling, covering everything from the development of comms campaigns, research and community engagement, down to providing kerbside collections for clients.

Clients include the Department forEnvironment, Food and Rural Affairs, for which it has delivered waste management and recycling projects to local authorities throughout England. Also, the agency delivered a resource efficiency campaign for the East Midlands Development Agency, targeting small and medium-sized enterprises.

Resource Futures is rostered to a number of Waste Resources Action Programme frameworks, working on communication, training, technical waste and monitoring/evaluation projects.

Company Vero Communications
Location of head office London
Who’s in charge Mike Lee, CEO
Vero was established in January 2006 by Mike Lee OBE, former director of comms and public affairs for London’s successful 2012 Olympic bid and a stalwart of top-level sports-related comms. Vero specialises in campaign comms and planning, media relations, brand narrative development, bid campaigns, stakeholder engagement and profile enhancement for organisations in the business of sport.

Vero’s clients include businesses that want to use sport and the 2012 landscape to help enhance their brand, domestic and international sport federations that want to develop their profile, and cities and countries bidding to host major events. These include Rio 2016, the International Paralympic Committee, Liverpool Football Club and VisitBritain.

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