The Top 10 healthcare PR firms posted a robust 14.3 percent rise in 2019 fee income to $565M, compared to the year earlier group, according to the 2020 O'Dwyer's rankings.

That performance outstripped the 10 percent gain to $697.4M for the Top 50 firms on the list.

Jim Weiss' W2O Group retained command of the top position. A 30.2 percent surge in fees powered the San Francisco-based firm to $218.9M in fees.

Imre, which ranked eighth, registered the largest percentage gain in the Top 10, up 82.6 percent as a mix of new business wins; organic growth and more overseas work sparked the Baltimore-based firm.

Jim Weiss
Jim Weiss

Three firms broke into the Top Ten ranks.

Evoke KYNE checked in at No. 6 with $25.2M fees following the merger of Huntsworth's Evoke with special healthcare communications specialist KYNE in May.

ICR, which didn't make the year ago healthcare roster, is now the No. 9 ranked O'Dwyer firm with $18.9M in fees, thanks to its January 2019 acquisition of Westwicke Partners, a health-centered IR shop in Baltimore.

M Booth Health, the No. 10 firm, is the result of the October 2019 acquisition by UK's Next Fifteen Communications Group of Creston's Plc US assets (Health Unlimited).

Imre Puts Empathy into Practice

In 2019, Imre evolved its strategy and digital-led service offerings from patient consumer marketing into medical and scientific affairs and HCP marketing.

Jeff Smokler
Jeff Smokler

“We’ve long said we believe that taking a moment to listen can change everything, and that approaching patients and physicians—and our clients—with more empathy can be a game changer," said Jeff Smokler, Imre Health president. "We’ve evolved our empathy approach and further put it into practice with a global product we call Compassionate Intelligence.”

Smokler is confident this orchestrated effort to live up to his firm's values will ensure that it attracts the best talent and brand marketing teams who wish to lead the pharmaceutical and biotech brands of tomorrow.

“In the last year we opened our fourth office in Philadelphia and produced work represented on four continents," he said. "Empathy and compassion are universal human traits, and we’re proud to be the champion of both on a global scale.”

Finn Partners Credits Deep Bench

Gil Bashe, managing partner of global health at Finn Partners, said the strong leadership team is the key to the group's success, up 46.3 percent to $31M.

Gil Bashe
Gil Bashe

That group includes Kristie Kuhl and Fern Lazar in New York, Nicole Cottrill in Nashville, Alex Borisov in Washington, Joe Foster on the West Coast, Goel Jasper in Jerusalem, Shuchi Joseph in Singapore and the European team led by Chantal Bowman-Boyles.

Bashe said he shares Peter Finn's belief: “When people unite around shared values—especially the desire to make a difference for clients’ customers and collaborate—the results will follow."

Finn Partners made two key health-specific acquisitions in 2019—science-based PR/investor relations firm Lazar Partners in New York, and Medical & Health Consulting, a Paris-based health and biopharma consultancy.

“Our values-based culture, cross-practice collaboration and commitment to working hard and playing nice, is a plus for growth-oriented agency leaders,” said Finn.

JPA Bolsters Biopharma Roster

Carrie Jones, who heads No. 12 JPA Health Communications, said the firm strategically expanded our client roster with biopharma clients and professional societies.

Carrie Jones
Carrie Jones

She counts Lilly, OncoSec Medical, CSL Behring, American Assn. of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as notable wins.

The DC firm, which enjoyed an 11.2 percent rise in fees to $10.3M, also expanded its branding capabilities, producing award-winning creative, including the corporate rebrand for Milestone Pharmaceuticals.

A new logo, color scheme, brand guidelines and message platform came to life in a refreshed corporate website.

Jones said JPA broke new ground with innovative digital campaigns, including the #NotAwkward campaign for Medicines360 that encouraged women to share stories about their reproductive health.

The firm also developed a program for The Physicians Foundation called "Vital Signs: Attend to Your Wellbeing," which empowered doctors, colleagues and loved ones to check on one another’s wellbeing.

Jones said that program gained traction in helping to destigmatize the negativity around physicians seeking help for their mental health.

Evoke KYNE Completes Integration

David Kyne said his 2019 focus was to integrate KYNE with Huntsworth’s Evoke PR & Influence offering to become Evoke KYNE, a global, unified team with a singular purpose and mission.

David Kyne
David Kyne

"While that was happening, we continued to scale and diversify our roster of clients, including nearly 25 percent growth driven by strong legacy clients, tremendous organic growth and more than 15 new clients across sectors and geographies," he said.

Kyne said the firm made more than 30 new hires, invested in experienced strategic advisors and appointed a global head of digital to oversee the 15-plus team.

"We also grew our creative, earned media and public health teams globally, and invested significantly in our robust internal programs including health and wellness, corporate giving, volunteering and mentorship, Kyne said.

He added that Evoke KYNE is committed to supporting "clients and the global health community by applying the proven principles of health communication and behavior change communications to combat the COVID-19 pandemic."

Crosby Expands Client Relationships

Raymond Crosby, CEO of Crosby Marketing Communications, said health continues to be the lead growth driver at his Annapolis-based firm.

Raymond Crosby
Raymond Crosby

The firm registered a 21.8 percent gain in health fees to snag the No. 7 spot on O'Dwyer's rankings.

In 2019, Crosby built on its more than 20-year relationship with Kaiser Permanente and significantly expanded digital work with Shriners Hospitals for Children.

"We are also at the forefront of helping federal agencies communicate about the COVID-19 crisis, including work with the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense," said Crosby.

The firm invested in digital marketing, analytics, and social content creation and community management during the past year.

It also formally launched a military & veterans practice that leverages its expertise in engaging that community about important health care, wellness and family life issues.

Kivvit Jumps Up 12 Notches on List

Kivvit moved up 12 spots in the rankings to No. 27 with fees of $3M, up 103.9 percent from a year ago.

Zach Silber
Zach Silber

"We collaborated on several public awareness campaigns last year, including a project with the Illinois Public Health Institute and the Chicago Department of Public Health to raise knowledge about pre-diabetes and increase enrollment in a diabetes prevention program among underserved communities in Chicago," said Zach Silber, chief innovation officer.

The firm also worked with the New York State Department of Health on communications and paid media strategies to educate people about affordable and quality health care plans available through NY State of Health, the state's healthcare exchange.

Silber said Kivvit's healthcare unit has invested in leading-edge technology and innovative data analysis that enables clients to engage with finely targeted audiences.

"This work ranges from stakeholder mapping that visualizes policymakers’ networks to building custom digital audiences of advocates, patients, and consumers via a robust series of proprietary, HIPAA-compliant audience datasets," said Silber.

JPC&H Targets Healthcare Challenges

David Jarrard said Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock used 2019 to position for the rapid, unexpected and transformative shifts across healthcare.

David Jarrard
David Jarrard

"With the escalating cost of care, the advent of high 'surprise billing' and stories of hospitals suing patients for unpaid bills, the perception of healthcare providers had been evolving for some from beloved protectors of the community to collections-hungry, overcharging, faceless institutions," he said.

The firm worked closely with clients to become aware of this increasing distrust.

"A theme for the year was advising providers to be aware of their processes, particularly financial, to embrace transparency as much as possible, to be authentic in their words and actions and to hold the patient foremost in their minds," said Jarrard.

These ideas became concentrated through spring of 2020 as questions and concerns around the pandemic push providers to work with patients, staff, their communities, the media and government in an open, agile and responsible way.

Jarrard said 2019 represented a year in which every organization that provides care underwent a level of redefinition as the relationships between various stakeholders shifted—mergers and acquisitions continued, disruption from non-traditional healthcare companies increased and regulatory adjustments affected the finances of healthcare.

The firm invested in disciplined growth and a strong emphasis on culture.

JPC&H developed strategic communications solutions to guide leaders through executive transitions, patient experience initiatives and health services company growth acceleration goals.

Each of these areas has positioned the firm well for helping clients emerge from the COVID-19 maelstrom and either repair and rebuild or pivot as necessary.