Richard Edelman
Richard Edelman

The PR industry has entered a new era. Case in point: The top independent PR firms ranked by O’Dwyer’s this year accounted for a combined total of more than $3.14 billion in net fees, more than double the $1.4 billion recorded by this magazine a year ago. Number-one PR giant Edelman, with its 2017 earnings of nearly $894 million, is on track to break the billion-dollar mark within the next few years.

CEO Richard Edelman said business at his firm was slow during the first half of 2017, but picked up as the year progressed. He noted that Edelman had outperformed the big agency networks, but refused to accept single-digit growth as the “new normal,” saying the independent shop must battle ad agencies and digital outfits for market share.

Top 10 tops expectations

Every one of the top-ten firms in O’Dwyer’s rankings this year saw gains, compared to eight in our rankings last year. Twenty-one of the top 25 firms were up in billings in 2017, with 11 revealing double-digit growth. Of the 124 PR agencies participating in the O’Dwyer’s rankings in 2018, 92 of them — or 74 percent — posted year-over-year gains.

Bob Pearson
Bob Pearson

Tech-focused independent network W2O Group took O’Dwyer’s #2 slot, accounting for $144 million in net fees in 2017, up 17.6 percent from 2016’s $123 million, adding another banner year on top of the San Francisco-based marketing and communications network’s 33 percent climb in 2017.

W2O Vice Chair and Chief Innovation Officer Bob Pearson cited the agency’s ability to scale offerings, team talent and innovation concurrently as one cause for the firm’s success.

“We expect a client leader to understand all forms of media and deliver what is required, not what is available. This approach is resulting in more opportunities, bigger and bolder ideas and attracting clients who want to make a major difference for their customers. The revenue numbers are simply the result,” Pearson told O’Dwyer’s.

O'Dwyer's May '18 PR Firm Rankings MagazineThis article is featured in O'Dwyer's May '18 PR Firm Rankings Magazine

Advances in technology and data science will influence the evolution of virtually every model of communications and marketing in the not-too-distant future, Pearson said. And he predicted that we’ll see an emergence of search media relations and media plans that encompass earned, shared, owned and paid channels, usually in that order. Pearson specifically cited two key drivers that he sees as responsible for moving the industry forward in 2018 and beyond: technology and common sense.

“From a technology standpoint, machine learning is arguably the most important advance in how we measure, learn and build mechanisms to create campaigns that matter and then retain that knowledge for the next campaign,” Pearson said. “Common sense occurs when great client service leaders realize that a strong earned and shared strategy can impact the paid media plan or a media relations professional knows who the top influencers are for each square inch of the 1,9,90 model. New media models are enabling us to focus on what is relevant, create a wider offering of what is possible and remain agile enough to change based on the needs of our customers. That is pretty cool.”

Evan Kraus
Evan Kraus

Washington D.C.-based PR and public affairs giant APCO Worldwide was #3 this year, topping $128 million in net fees, accounting for gains of 6.3 percent from 2016’s $120.6 million.

“2017 was a year of tremendous growth and progress for APCO,” said APCO Global President Evan Kraus. “Our growth was fueled by a recommitment to our own independence that has given us an ability to reinvest in our people like never before. We’ve started and expanded exciting work helping C-Suite leaders deal with disruption and world leaders make their global mark. We entered 2018 more excited than ever about the future, and look forward to continuing this progress in the years ahead.”

Kraus said market is moving away from advertising-led, “high polish campaigns to drive pre-packaged corporate narratives,” and instead is embracing efforts to use data anthropology, insights and smart, strategic partnerships to understand audience influences and expectations.

“Our agency is experiencing an accelerating, high-growth period driven by increased C-Suite demand to use communications to strengthen business resilience in an era of high expectations, determined activism and complete transparency,” Kraus said. “This helps to shape programs that are authentic and well aligned to drive enduring and impactful results.”

Peter Finn
Peter Finn

Finn Partners is up six percent, from $76.7 million in 2016 to just under $81.3 last year, taking the fourth position in O’Dwyer’s 2017 rankings.

Founding Managing Partner Peter Finn said that healthcare and tech were two practice areas where the global independent agency saw particularly strong gains. The agency also benefitted from a combination of recent acquisitions as well as organic growth from new accounts and expanding existing client relationships, trends that have continued into 2018. 

“This year has started off fantastically well for us. It’s the best first quarter we’ve ever had, with lots of big wins with new clients as well as with existing clients,” Finn said.

Finn also said the agency has several pending acquisitions in the pipeline that it plans to announce later in the year.

Finn cited a fundamental cultural divide between independent PR firms and the shops owned by multinational conglomerates as one reason why independents have been outperforming the holding companies in recent years.

“Independents are founder-led and driven by common culture and a core set of values, and I think that culture and that shared sense of core values is what’s really helped drive our agency forward,” Finn said. “The public holding companies generally don’t have that. They’re not founder-led, and they’ve evolved a great deal over time and they’re not driven by a sense of shared values, and these are differentiating factors that I believe have affected our success.”

On the other hand, Finn said the trend toward integrated services puts a large independent like Finn Partners in a good position, because many of the smaller agencies often don’t have the ability to bring in the resources or talent needed to grow in these innovative spaces.

“Clients are looking for solutions to their problems, and those aren’t just PR problems,” Finn said. “As a result, our agency is absolutely becoming more integrated every day, and we now have people working here who aren’t traditional PR pros but are experts in many aspects of the digital and creative world, be it analytics or creating websites or email marketing or any number of other digital services we now provide. Many of the smaller independent agencies can’t necessarily afford to move into these spaces. But the holding companies, on the other hand, have all the resources to invest in those services, but they’re too siloed to offer truly integrated solutions. So, we’re in a great spot.”

Thomas Ryan
Thomas Ryan

Financial communications and investor relations mainstay ICR was #5 this year, gaining an impressive 13.9 percent from 2016’s $55.6 million to $63.4 million.

CEO Thomas Ryan told O’Dwyer’s the firm won more than 100 new retainer clients and performed communications work for 27 IPOs last year, compared to nine in 2016. The firm’s digital/social media group also outperformed nicely, as did its special situations comms. team. Finally, ICR ended 2017 with 176 team members, a seven percent increase from 2016. Client revenues were also up 30 percent.  

Ryan told O’Dwyer’s that the agency expects to see more of the same in 2018, and particularly anticipates growth in the agency’s technology, retail, real estate and healthy living industry groups. 

“The role of PR continues to rise in importance and increasingly, the mishandling of stakeholder communications results in reputational and valuation damage,” Ryan said. “As far as by product, we expect to make strides in digital media, crisis communications, general business and financial media advice and strategic investor relations.”

Financial firm Prosek Partners moved from #7 to the #6 slot this year, charting growth of 33.2 percent to nearly $41 million, the largest gaining firm in O’Dwyer’s top 10.

Jen Prosek
Jen Prosek

Managing Partner Jen Prosek cited sea changes in the U.S. financial sector, as well as growth in the agency’s special situations, crisis and transactions business, as factors contributing to the agency’s impressive double-digit growth.

“The financial sector is an emerging market for marketing. There are firms we represent who have just recently decided — for the first time — to allocate serious marketing dollars to communications and brand,” Prosek said. “Additionally, there is more demand for holistic marketing solutions — paid, earned and owned — among our target client base, in which Prosek can offer both marketing and communications solutions.”

Prosek predicted that the industry will see AI and analytics make communications more powerful, targeted and measurable. She also believes that Generation Z and Millennials will continue to have a huge impact on the expectations of how senior management communicates internally and externally on social issues, a movement that she believes will peak this year. Finally, she noted that a continued erosion of trust and a media environment rife with fake news would result in an increased reliance on communications firms as trusted advisors.

Padilla ended 2017 only slightly — 1.5 percent — above 2016, the result of the turnover of a major client as well as slow starts to much of the new business the agency acquired last year, according to Chair and CEO Lynn Casey.

Lynn Casey
Lynn Casey

The Minneapolis-headquartered agency, which also owns food and nutrition consulting division FoodMinds, was #7 this year, at $40 million. Casey said all of that new business is now in full-swing, and the agency has already more than made up for its 2017 lull during the year’s first quarter.

Casey said she expects the industry to lean into earned influence even more than ever, as well as taking advantage of the disintegrating boundaries between paid, earned, shared and owned disciplines.

“There is some business optimism emerging despite the geo-political uncertainty of the past 18 months. Digital engagement heavy with visual content is exploding for those firms equipped to do great work in this arena for clients. We are learning better how to compete with ad agencies, digital agencies and others for this work, and are driving more integrated programs versus tucking our ‘traditional’ competencies into a program that others have created,” Casey said. “It’s an exciting time to be in this business!”

Tech PR specialist Hotwire continues to rise up in O’Dwyer’s annual rankings, gaining 4.9 percent in 2017 to take the #8 position this year with $33.2 million in net fees.        

Heather Kernahan
Heather Kernahan

Hotwire North America President Heather Kernahan told O’Dwyer’s that the agency, a subsidiary of Australia-based marketing network Enero Group Limited, has innovated within the last year by evolving its business model, expanding into new geographies with pop-up offices in Minneapolis and Mexico and rebranding to better serve clients and showcase its qualities as a challenger brand.

“As an agency, if you stand still you fall behind. We grow by innovating and by working with innovation companies. We’ve seen more non-tech companies realizing the value of being innovation brands and turning to Hotwire to help them tell the story of their business. This innovation positioning helps them hire, increase their valuation and to continue being relevant in their competitive industries.”

Parsippany, NJ-based Coyne Public Relations rounded out 2017 with a 2.6 percent gain to $28 million, taking the #9 spot in O’Dwyer’s ranking this year.

Thomas Coyne
Thomas Coyne

CEO Thomas Coyne attributed the agency’s growth to the hard work and attitude of the Coyne team. He predicts the industry will witness expanded business opportunities across industry sectors this year with a noted emphasis on media and influencers playing a critical role in delivering information. Other trends driving the industry include privacy and disclosure, an expansion of the marketing of American-made products and CSR efforts surrounding the fair and equal treatment of all citizens.

“The industry has had some very exciting growth in recent years due to the expansion into paid and owned opportunities,” Coyne said. “In the next year, I see the ‘other services’ normalizing following some of the fast expansion into digital marketing as it evolves from a specialty to a service. PR’s role will continue to expand into social media and traditional media as clients look for guidance about how to best tell brand enhancing stories and cultivate an appropriate connection to the ‘right’ influencers.” 

New York’s 5WPR broke into O’Dwyer’s top 10 for the first time this year, gaining 13.3 percent in 2017 to $27.5 million from 2016’s $24.3 million.

Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

5W President and CEO Ronn Torossian said integration is key to PR’s future success, citing the industry’s ability to further implement creative strategies and storytelling through earned, owned and paid channels, crafting “a cohesive narrative that connects with the consumer and evokes emotion.”

“5W is continually growing and innovating as the media landscape changes every day. We’ve significantly expanded our digital team which includes seasoned experts from big-name companies across the media industry,” Torossian said. “In addition to our ability to adapt to the needs of our clients, we offer full-service PR and marketing capabilities across consumer, corporate and technology divisions. This is a key strength of 5W’s, and a big reason why brands come to us for their PR efforts.”

PR specialties see leaps and bounds

O’Dwyer’s ranks firms by 12 PR specialties. Technology and healthcare PR remained the most popular specialties this year, ranking 69 and 68 firms, respectively. Edelman topped both of these lists with $157.3 million in healthcare PR fees and $259.8 million in technology. W2O Group was #2 in healthcare at $124.2 million, followed by APCO Worldwide at $27.5 million. Hotwire ($33.2 million) and Finn Partners ($26.4 million) rounded out the top three technology PR firms.

Neil Mortine
Neil Mortine

Underscoring the strength of specialities this year was the performance of Fahlgren Mortine, which ranked #12, up 10.4 percent in 2017 to nearly $27 million compared to 2016’s $24.4 million.

The Columbus, OH-based agency, which owns New York-based travel subsidiary Turner, also increased profit by 35 percent, added 50 new clients to its roster and grew its B2B business 10 percent in 2017 In total, those new business efforts yielded a 200 percent year-over-year increase in new revenue, not counting organic client growth in spending.

President Neil Mortine said deep category experience and expertise was a factor behind much of this growth, as well as integrated viewpoints on the marketing and communications challenges presented to the agency and a dynamic staff that competes fiercely on behalf of its clients.

Mortine cited a series of digital challenges facing the industry in the coming year, including how to effectively use PR as a vehicle for SEO (particularly with mobile), how to use hyper-targeting and micro influencers in an increasingly segmented media landscape, how to metricize PR/earned media that informs bottom-line business insight, and how to produce engaging content at a higher volume at a fraction of the cost.

“In the modern age of marketing, the role of PR is evolving, and understanding of its value is being elevated. Our challenge is to embrace and foster PR’s role in an increasingly digital world,” Mortine said.

Jonathan Wilson
Jonathan Wilson

Healthcare and life sciences shop Spectrum had another great year in 2017, surging 20 percent to the #16 spot with $24 million in net fees. The gains follow a similarly spectacular 2016, when the Washington, D.C.-based agency projected 34.8 percent growth with $20 million in net fees. It’s the agency’s third consecutive year of double-digit revenue growth, with a significant portion of those gains attributed to organic activity.

Spectrum President and CEO Jonathan Wilson said this transformative growth is part of a larger trend over the past four years to create a forward-looking agency structured to meet clients’ future needs, now organized into practice areas, fully-integrated teams and a dedicated focus on building an extraordinary agency culture.

“With clients starting to ask for real-time, comprehensive strategies, we’re seeing being ahead of the curve in our model start to pay off,” Wilson said.

Wilson also cited a “responsive, insights-first strategy” as a requirement for successful communications programs of the future.

“What we’re seeing in market today is based on the landscape of that moment, but most are not designed to be nimble or responsive as conversations evolve. In order to engage and drive value, clients and agencies alike are realizing that programs must adapt in real-time to reflect what’s happening,” Wilson said. “We use our marketing intelligence platform, Galileo6, to focus on media relevance. This provides the unique opportunity to take an active role in shaping campaigns and trends as they develop.”

Healthcare and B2B tech agency PAN Communications was the #23 firm this year, up 13.7 percent to $17.7 million in net fees after 2016’s similarly impressive gains of 18.6 percent.

Philip Nardone, Jr.
Philip Nardone, Jr.

President and CEO Philip Nardone, Jr. attributed two key factors to the agency’s performance this year. The first was the agency’s ability to provide truly integrated services and combine them with a sophisticated measurement platform. The second was having a well-organized HR team dedicated to attracting top talent. PAN hired 65 new staffers in 2017 across its four offices, a 45 percent year-over-year increase, which Nardone said allowed the agency to meet customers’ integrated marketing demands and produced results that contributed to its overall growth.

“The industry’s continued digital transformation means PR is no longer a standalone field,” Nardone said. “The remainder of 2018 will focus on the further integration of marketing and PR efforts, honing in on influencer marketing and voice of the customer as drivers of brand awareness and building customer connections. Brands will learn to lean on agencies to implement influencer marketing programs and showcase how these relationships will position them as industry leaders. Agencies will respond by tuning in to customer feedback and preferences by establishing voice of the customer programs to enhance their relationships. This is where we’ll see growth in the use of data and analytics to prove ROI of these trends, which will quickly become a commonplace for PR and marketing professionals.”

B2B technology PR specialist InkHouse grew by 13 percent in 2017 to $16.2 million, ranking #27 this year.         

Beth Monaghan
Beth Monaghan

CEO Beth Monaghan highlighted several contributing factors to the Waltham, MA-based agency’s success, namely, a focus on growing responsibly as opposed to growing fast. This entails working with admired companies and attracting talent with diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise. Sometimes it might also mean turning down prospective business.

“Growth is one of those good challenges, and it’s all about developing an openness and comfort with constant change,” said Monaghan. “In the last year, it meant that we got to a size where I had to rewrite our company values and think about ways to infuse our values into our culture better. Tomorrow, it might be a better way to track our time.”

“We are in a time of tumult when trust is at stake for every organization in America. We have fake news to go with our alternative facts and the pressure for clear communications from trusted spokespeople is intense,” Monaghan continued. “A byproduct of this environment is the re-insertion of businesses into the discourse on political, environmental and social good. We call this evolution of CSR ‘purpose-driven PR’ because times have changed, and communications strategies must too.”

Raymond Crosby
Raymond Crosby

Annapolis, MD-based Crosby, which specializes in marketing programs for healthcare, government and nonprofits, grew an impressive 23.8 percent in the last year to $15.1 million, following the 21 percent growth the agency experienced in 2016.

Crosby President and CEO Raymond Crosby listed several factors that contributed to the agency’s multi-year, double-digit growth wave, including a selective client retention history and a strong focus on serving healthcare and nonprofit clients, as well as engaging the military and veteran community. Crosby also cited digital transformation and social media as being big drivers of growth, as well as a concerted effort to continue building out the agency’s in-house video and multimedia facilities and further accelerate its content creation and distribution capabilities.

Crosby also identified three factors that will particularly matter as the industry turns to the future: creativity, integration and integrity.

“Creativity because it’s easy to get lost in the march toward algorithms, analytics and artificial intelligence,” Crosby said. “Ideas and experiences are still at the heart of making human connections and moving people to action. Integration because you have to be able to deal with the never-ending complexity of audiences, media channels, content and digital transformation. It’s all so interconnected that siloed approaches come up short. Earned media, while still incredibly valuable, will get harder and harder to come by. Reliance on shared, paid and owned channels will only increase. Integrity because everyone in the ecosystem (clients, agencies, media partners) needs to be held to a higher standard in an era of withering corporate ethics, fake news, and paid influencers. The communications industry can be a leader instead of a pawn in this game.”

“Integration, integration, integration”

Lou Hoffman
Lou Hoffman

San Jose-based tech shop The Hoffman Agency was #32 this year, up 12.2 percent to $12.7 million.

CEO Lou Hoffman listed investments the agency made into being good shepherds of its brand as well as the ability to win and service multi-country clients across multiple markets as factors that drove the agency’s growth.

Hoffman also said the agency’s proprietary methodology for storytelling was an effort that delivered positive results. Every agency under the sun touts storytelling these days, but Hoffman said the inconvenient reality is that storytelling, by the conventional definition, often can’t be applied in business communications.

“Can you imagine a company executive responding to each question from a journalist with a story that has a start, an end and something going astray in between? Our approach around storytelling techniques solves this issue, particularly for B2B clients which is our sweet spot. Many agencies talk about being a digital-first agency. I think of us as a narrative-first agency. Content is at the core of what we do.”

Like everyone else, Hoffman sees an increasing amount of PR work migrating toward digital and integrated campaigns that bring together earned, paid and owned media. Hoffman said he’s also beginning to see communication agencies increasingly implementing more B2B campaigns with a direct tie to sales lead generation. Communicators of all stripes are beginning to realize that content is at the foundation of marketing efforts, not just PR.

Lisa Ross
Lisa Ross

Miami-based marketing PR firm rbb Communications shot up 23.5 percent in 2017 to $11.4 million, taking the #37 slot in O’Dwyer’s rankings, compared to #42 last year.

President and Partner Lisa Ross said rbb’s healthcare, professional services and travel practices saw year-over-year growth and added several new global brands. The agency also experienced high demand for integrated programs, with more than 40 percent of its clients adding digital or creative projects.

When asked where she sees the industry headed in the next year, Ross’ answer was clear: “Integration, integration, integration.”  

“Integration has reached new levels of importance with an increasing number of clients looking for discipline-agnostic strategies that play across all communication sectors from advertising to marketing and digital to public relations. rbb approaches all client programs from an integrated perspective and seeks to develop campaigns that are multi-platform to engage audiences on their preferred channel of communication.”

Ross said clients are searching for products and custom solutions to support brand growth and sales goals. To meet this demand, her agency has created digital storefronts for multi-location clients to review, access and purchase a range of marketing services. Data is now a critical component of marketing for most companies, she said, making insight into real-time client data that allows the agency to make better decisions paramount. Finally, the agency is advising clients to review reputation protection strategies in advance of crisis situations.

David Jarrard
David Jarrard

Nashville-based healthcare specialist Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock ticked up three spots in the O’Dwyer’s ranking this year to #41, gaining 18.8 percent to nearly $10 million in net fees.

CEO David Jarrard cited two important trends — a transformation of the healthcare industry as well as a growing appreciation from industry leaders for taking a strategic, holistic approach to communications — as factors that accounted for the firm’s double-digit growth last year.

“It’s hard to overstate the disruption underway in healthcare, especially among hospitals and other providers of patient care. Our boutique firm was built from the ground to help these organizations. It’s all we do,” Jarrard said.

Jarrard predicts that the industry will see a continued consolidation of traditional agencies this year, with management consulting firms further competing for strategic communications business and for “smart, data-driven analytics to make us sharper in our work, even as it threatens traditional practices and budgets,” Jarrard said.  

Travel, hospitality and luxury lifestyle agency J Public Relations gained 16.6 percent in 2017 to account for $9 million, moving up two positions in the O’Dwyer’s rankings to #47.

Jamie Sigler and Sarah Evans
Jamie Sigler and Sarah Evans

J PR Partner Jamie Sigler said the agency has remained focused on the customer experience, growing relationships with existing clients by cultivating their brands through social content and paid digital campaigns.

Sigler also cited the role internal innovation has played in the agency’s success. Agencies get weighed down with busy work, she said, losing site of major results and often leaving teams little breathing room to connect with clients on a meaningful level. And ensuring that those meaningful connections remain sometimes results in turning down work.

“Being tuned into our strengths has helped define our success, and today we’re selective about clients who are in sync with our specificities,” said J PR Partner Sarah Evans. “We say ‘no’ when it’s not the right fit and go all-in when it is.”

While there are more modes of communication today than ever — and unlimited streams of content — Evans believes relationships and face-to-face communication remain paramount. Evans said it’s the job of communicators to understand clients’ business and what’s driving ROI, and to specifically target the people and outlets that make the most impact. “It’s no longer about being everywhere,” Evans said.

“Because of the onslaught of content, I believe that we are going to see more niche firms thrive and become better versed in a singular industry rather than across the board,” Evans said. “We always say at JPR that you can’t be an expert in everything.”

Sigler also noted that experiences remain in demand over material possessions when it comes to messaging in travel PR.

“There’s a desire to be part of a larger community and technology fuels travelers to seize the moment like never before,” Sigler said.

Matt Rizzetta
Matt Rizzetta

New York’s North 6th Agency, Inc. was #59 in 2018, surging in the O’Dwyer’s rankings from the #71 spot last year with an impressive 38.1 percent gain to $6 million in net fees.

CEO Matt Rizzetta said N6A has invested heavily in its company culture and infrastructure, hiring dedicated department heads for various functions and breaking ground on a new office in SoHo, which has helped the agency with recruiting. Last year also marked N6A’s first acquisition, purchasing Atlas Communications, a top social media shop in Toronto, which enables the agency to expand into the Toronto market and improve its social media service capabilities.

“All of these investments have supported our strategic growth objectives and positioned us advantageously as we scale to the next level in the coming years,” Rizzetta said.

Rizzetta said that in the next year, he expects to see more agencies of similar size steering away from traditional billable hourly models in favor of models which place premiums on speed, efficiency and measurement. N6A has already invested heavily in building in-house software and proprietary data systems to get ahead of this future trend. Rizzetta also said he’d witnessed noticeable growth in various emerging market sectors such as cybersecurity and identity, cannabis, data and analytics, travel and hospitality, recruiting and employment, financial services and cryptocurrencies.

“We believe we are as well-positioned in these areas as any agency of our size, and these will be critical assets for us as we execute on our strategic growth plans in the future,” Rizzetta said.

Lisa Hannum
Lisa Hannum

Beehive Strategic Communication, which specializes in consumer, healthcare, education and professional and financial services, gained 16.6 percent in O’Dwyer’s rankings this year to $3.5 million, taking the #76 slot compared to #79 last year.

Beehive CEO Lisa Hannum said to watch for a surge in purpose-driven strategies from traditional businesses in the coming year, a shift that will likely influence agencies and brands alike. Hannum also believes the growth of in-house agencies will continue. Agencies will increasingly be tapped for high-level thinking that offers brands fresh insights and innovative, creative ideas designed to differentiate, both inside and outside. As a result, agencies need to be prepared to hand off activation and cheer from the sidelines.

“Beehive understands business first, and we move fast, which makes us a valuable partner. The pace of change is accelerating in every industry. Our clients rely on us to navigate change with clarity and then drive action for business growth. Fast,” Hannum said. “Expectations are rising. Employees, partners, customers and communities want to work for and buy from brands that authentically share their beliefs.”

Boston’s Schneider Associates was #78 this year, up 20.2 percent to $3.2 million and gaining four positions in O’Dwyer’s rankings after a bumpy 2016 saw the firm dip 6.3 percent to $2.69 million.

Joan Schneider
Joan Schneider

CEO and Founder Joan Schneider told O’Dwyer’s the agency has implemented an aggressive transformational strategy to integrate the full spectrum of marketing and communications services into its client offerings. By investing in strategic senior executive hires, staff training and through networking across industry sectors, the agency has been able to expand its offerings to include digital advertising, paid social, lead generation and nurturing, CRM integration and marketing automation, as well as investing heavily in its digital design and analytics capabilities.

“We are no longer a traditional PR firm, but instead provide a suite of integrated digital marketing and communications services that directly and quantifiably, drive client success,” Schneider said.

In Schneider’s opinion, forward-thinking PR firms are moving rapidly into the integrated marketing world. Separation between earned and paid media no longer exists.

“Consumers are smart. Agencies must be smarter. We’re constantly optimizing to move the conversation towards action and/or purchase decisions,” Schneider said. “We are always testing, and perfecting our campaigns based on what the data tells us. And data analysis is now a big part of what we do. The key driver behind this tidal wave of digital marketing is accessibly to content, speed to market and the consumer’s desire for creative content that is to the point. While traditional PR is part of the equation, now there’s so many more strategies and channels to add to the marketing mix.”

Lindsey Carnett
Lindsey Carnett

Los Angeles-based Marketing Maven Public Relations gained 12.8 percent in 2017 to $2.3 million, taking the #91 spot in O’Dwyer’s rankings.

CEO and President Lindsey Carnett told O’Dwyer’s that in addition to attracting more international companies in the private sector, the agency has also expanded its work in the government arena while increasing the number of influencer marketing campaigns and comprehensive marketing integration strategies it does.

Carnett sees the industry becoming even more fragmented over the next year. Early adoption of new technology will be key in providing measurable results to clients and supporting media attribution.

Carnett also sees natural foods, consumer technology and healthcare as some of the PR sectors gaining rapid popularity, and cited education around new markets, such as blockchain and cannabis, and services such as influencer marketing, integration of chatbots and reputation management for products relying on ecommerce sales, as some of the trends we can expect to see gaining traction in the coming year. 

Dan Simon
Dan Simon

New York-based Vested was the greatest gainer in O’Dwyer’s rankings overall this year, growing an incredible 73.4 percent year-over-year to account for $6,171,277 in net fees, taking O’Dwyer’s #58 slot, as well as leaping to #6 in the finance category.

Vested co-founder and CEO Dan Simon said the agency’s growth "reflects the approach we take to the craft, which is to intensely focus on providing real value to clients, and the energy we put into finding, employing, and retaining the best people we can."

Simon also noted that finance, the sector on which the agency focuses, is uniquely exposed to regulatory, political and economic uncertainty, and as a result, "it’s fair to say that strong external communications strategies and diligent execution are crucial ingredients to operate in today’s business climate."

"Today, young consumers trust technology firms far more than they trust financial institutions and banks," Simon said. "In terms of financial brands, we may see some finance companies embrace more of a technology-first brand, particularly if their products or services serve a customer base that skews younger."