Independent PR firms posted an 18.2 percent rise in fee income to $4.6B in 2022, according to the 2023 O’Dwyer’s rankings.
That increase lagged behind the 29.7 percent growth recorded in 2021 as firms sharply rebounded from the hard-pressed 2020 pandemic year.
Full-time employment jumped eight percent in 2022 vs. a 28.1 percent rise in 2021.
Sixty-eight of the 148 ranked firms chalked up 2022 gains of at least 20 percent.
Wachsman led the pack among the Top 50 firms as fee income surged 81.8 percent to $25.4M.
Spectrum (+64.1 percent to $80.2M), Bospar (+46.7 percent to $18.2M), Marathon Strategies (+41.6 percent to $19.9M) and J Public Relations (+41.2 percent to $17.1M) ranked as the next biggest gainers.
Edelman Shatters the $1B Mark
Edelman recorded 9.6 percent growth to $1.08B in 2022 to become the first PR firm to crack the $1B in annual fee income mark.
The firm fell a tad short of the billion in 2021 as revenues clocked in at $985M.
Richard Edelman’s shop recorded growth in all regions. The US was up 13.8 percent, EMEA grew 11.9 percent, Canada rose 7.2 percent, Latin America advanced 41.5 percent and APAC inched ahead by 4.8 percent.
The firm made some notable hires during 2022, which was Edelman’s 70th anniversary year.
It added Warren Fernandez as CEO Edelman Asia Pacific; Soni Basi, chief people officer; Radina Russell, Atlanta general manager; and Everett Eissenstat, North America chair and global trade lead for Edelman Global Advisory.
Edelman views his firm’s commitment and investment in Trust to be the shop’s differentiator, greatest asset and highest value proposition.
The Edelman Trust Institute launched 10 reports/analyses on trust in the workplace, climate change, racial justice and brand trust during the past year.
It also probed new areas such as the role of business in tackling geopolitics, healthcare equity, and technology and innovation.
Real Chemistry Crosses Half-Billion Mark
San Francisco-based Real Chemistry recorded 17 percent growth to $555M in fee income, which marked its 21st consecutive year of double-digital revenues.
Shankar Narayanan, CEO, said crossing the half-billion-dollar threshold is a significant milestone for the company but added that more than revenue growth drives the firm.
“It’s the spirit of unparalleled innovation which gives us insights and integrated capabilities across the entire spectrum of services needed by our clients,” said Narayanan. "With the power to continue to innovate at scale and serve as the leading partner of choice for our clients, we are well positioned to drive our next decade of growth.”
During 2022, Real Chemistry experienced as much as 50 percent growth in categories that reflect emerging client needs and the company’s expanded mix of franchises: data and AI products and services, market access, medical affairs and influencer and celebrity.
“Our continued focus on and investment in data and AI-driven products and services ensure we can deliver impact and value to our clients as they navigate an increasingly complex and evolving economic environment,” added Narayanan. “Our focus, investment and growth in these areas will continue to bear fruit in 2023 and beyond.”
Purpose Drives Finn Partners
CEO Peter Finn said when he founded Finn Partners more than a decade ago, his vision was to build “a world-class, best-place-to-work agency with a heart and conscience.”
He credits that sense of purpose for fueling growth, attracting top talent and acquisitions and winning new clients.
In 2022, Finn Partners achieved double-digit growth, hitting $196.8M in revenues, a 21.5 percent increase, with 1,400 people across 33 offices on three continents.
It grew organically by 13 percent with the additional 8.5 percent coming from four strategic acquisitions (SPAG, AHA, Rachel Kay PR and Winston Agency).
Finn Partners’ collaborative engagements accelerated with 50 percent of clients working with two or more practice groups or offices, and strategic relationships deepened, with 27 clients whose 2022 fees exceeded $1M.
The shop launched two new practices during 2022.
The brand innovation and transformation practice helps clients navigate rising complexity, rapid digital transformation and need for omnichannel marketing solutions.
The global employee engagement practice counsels clients as they grapple with the fundamental changes to the employer-employee relationship.
Finn said the firm in 2022 deepened its commitment to tackling systemic inequities in healthcare—from decentralized clinical trials to improving access and outcomes in underserved black communities, and taking on global public health conversations in rural America and developing nations.
Wall Street Woes Hit ICR
Financial communications firm ICR suffered a 17.4 percent drop in fee income to $161M due to Wall Street’s wobbly performance.
CEO Tom Ryan said ICR’s revenues surged nearly 90 percent in 2021, driven by retainer fee growth but also from one-time fees associated with transactions, mainly IPOs and SPACs.
“In 2022, the historic drought in transactions meant that ICR could not re-create those one-time fees, despite the fact that retainers grew by approximately 20 percent,” said Ryan.
The combination of these factors led to year-over-year results falling for only the second time in the firm’s 25-year history.
Ryan did see progress in 2022, including the full integration of more than 150 people added in the previous year, expansion of its ESG team and the launch of the investor access and event management business.
ICR made important senior hires in its special situations group, strengthened global relationships including on the ground in India, and improved its ability to leverage data and intelligence to better serve clients.
“With a record backlog of IPO and other transaction candidates in the pipeline, ICR is incredibly well positioned to reaccelerate its top line in 2023 and 2024 as capital markets activity normalizes,” said Ryan.
RF’s Momentum Carries into 75th Anniversary Year
Ruder Finn is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year following a robust performance in 2022 as fee income soared 42.7 percent to $160M.
CEO Kathy Bloomgarden’s “what’s next” in communications strategy—focused on technology & innovation, health & wellness, leadership & workplace, and consumer connections—has enabled the firm to double in size since 2019.
The New York-based shop expanded its capabilities via its RF TechLab, creative studios and digital integration group.
On the international front, Bloomgarden is exploring promising markets in the Middle East and boosting its 15-office network in Asia.
RF in 2022 acquired Peppercomm, which added a humor-based communications element to the firm; RF Comunicad, multicultural shop with strong roots in the Hispanic community; and Touchdown, a technology shop with a robust presence in Austin and key European markets.
G&S Simplifies Complex Stories to Get Clients Noticed
G&S Business Communications enjoyed a 15.4 percent boost in revenues to $28.6M.
Luke Lambert, president and CEO, attributes the strong performance in 2022 to impressive organic growth from long-standing clients and a number of new business wins in the advanced manufacturing, professional services and home and building markets.
He also said the continued build-out of the agency’s full-service offering and its integration into client programs was a catalyst for growth.
“Clients are looking for a partner with a deep understanding of their business and the ability to be a seamless extension of both their marketing and communications teams,” said Lambert. “Many companies are tackling big issues and want to work with professionals they trust to bring them a forward-looking view. Add to this our ability to seamlessly execute across all of their key channels and media outlets to make their strategies a reality, and you have something powerful.”
G&S realized the first full year of its new paid media buying service, which quickly ramped up to generate four percent of the shop’s fees in 2022.
It expanded its digital offering to include new analytics capabilities geared toward the key B2B segments it serves.
Lambert said the firm’s knack of helping to simplify complex stories to get clients noticed paid off in 2022.
Fully Remote Bospar Grows 46.7%
Bospar countered the downturn in the tech sector by growing 46.7 percent to $18.2M in 2022.
CEO Curtis Sparrer has forged a path that has evolved Bospar from its tech PR foundation into a full-service marketing and communications shop with about 100 clients.
As PR shops embraced remote work during the pandemic, Bospar is an old veteran at the away-from-the-office strategy.
“Bospar delivers PR and marketing expertise across sectors by eliminating geographic barriers—we've been a fully remote agency since our launch in 2015,” said Sparrer. “Without sinking money into buildings, we can invest in the best people the market offers."
Sparrer said the firm is deeply committed to providing employees a supportive environment where they can feel valued and reach their maximum professional potential.
“In 2022, we extended our guardrails against overwork and created development opportunities, extending paid holidays and summer Fridays year-round and launching a formal management training and performance management program,” he said.
Bospar also chalked up numerous social justice awards in 2022 for championing women's rights and the LGBTQIA+ community.
F|W|V Celebrates Quarter Century Milestone
French|West|Vaughan, which is based in Raleigh, celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2022 by recording its 25th consecutive year of annual growth.
The firm posted a two percent increase in fee income to $37.5M, which excludes revenue from its New York-based affiliate AMP3 PR, which reports to O’Dwyer’s separately.
Major account wins across F|W|V’s agency network include the American Pet Products Association, Woolmark, outdoor retailer Moosejaw, BOA Nutrition, basketball superstar Steph Curry’s Underrated Golf Tour, Hyer Boots, TFS HealthScience, and Samsung.
“2022 was a year of managed growth across the F|W|V network,” said CEO Rick French. “High expenses to on-board new team members began to outpace revenue gains, so we decided to slow down and focus our resources on associates and existing clients, while mapping an aggressive growth strategy for 2023.”
French added that he and agency principals David Gwyn and Natalie Best also elected to celebrate the agency’s quarter-century milestone by providing more than $250K in cash and an equal amount in pro-bono support to non-profit organizations supported by its associates.
Those organizations include Teen Cancer America, Make-A-Wish, the UCLA Health Foundation, the Ride for Mental Health and several hunger relief organizations.
F|W|V closed out 2022 with the December 30 acquisition of The Millerschin Group, a metro-Detroit area PR firm specializing in the global mobility, electrification and manufacturing sectors and serving clients such as Mitsubishi Electric, Eaton Corporation, LG Electronics and Hercules Electric Mobility.
Coyne PR Achieves Milestones
Tom Coyne said his Parsippanny, NJ-based shop achieved record-setting milestones in 2022 from revenue to retention to recognition.
Coyne PR grew nine percent to clock in at $39M in fee income for the year.
Retention rate hit a robust 86 percent due to the roll-out of the "Better 2Gether," a new hybrid work model that combines the best parts of working together and remotely.
“Anything is possible when you care about your team as people,” said Coyne. “We focused on what employees wanted as well as what they needed.”
Coyne’s management understands the essential role of balance and the importance of apprenticeship, which propelled learning and job satisfaction to new heights at the firm.
The firm captured accolades from the trade press, lauding it among the best workplaces in the business.
“We believe this will always be a people business, so we always put our people, clients, and employees first,” said Coyne.
During the year, Coyne College was expanded to include a five-week training boot camp for junior employees, virtual library of training videos, and mentorship program.
The firm celebrated women in leadership roles via panel discussions and workshops, while diversity, equity and inclusion events raised awareness of social justice issues.
Coyne PR also implemented AI-driven solutions to streamline processes and improve outcomes with media monitoring, target list development, writing/editing materials, developing social content, and providing analytics on content performance.
Zeno Group Works Toward Something Better
Zeno Group registered 18.4 percent growth in revenues to $138.4M, sparked by upswings in demand for employee engagement, purpose + impact, and analytics services.
CEO Barby Siegel secured more than 40 major client wins, such as Kraft-Heinz, Peloton, US Olympic Paralympic Committee, Bristol Myers Squibb, CDC Foundation, and ALDI grocery chain.
Her effort to position the firm at the intersection of ambition and humanity to achieve something better for humankind and each other, led to the release of the inaugural ESG report, “Toward Something Better.”
Zeno conducted an environmental footprint audit to inform its global sustainability strategy launching in 2023 and created Eco Crews in 11 cities worldwide to help reduce environmental impact.
The firm made a strategic investment in minority owned EGAMI Group, which helped it double its headcount and revenues.
The partnership with EGAMI enriched Zeno’s understanding of the complex multicultural communications landscape and what it takes to run and grow a Black-owned business.
Zeno also bolstered its commitment to its “Be Kind to Your Mind” effort to help staffers openly advocate and care for their mental health.
After adding World Mental Health Day as a paid holiday, Zeno is building a global network of certified Mental Health First Aiders trained to conduct supportive, non-judgmental conversations.
Free Headspace membership continues to be an important global resource with 2,000+ hours of content accessed this year.
Siegel is proud of the firm’s record 13 years of double-digit growth but says, “We will grow, but never lose our soul.”
5WPR Posts 25.9% Growth
5WPR celebrated its 20th year in business with a 25.9 percent increase in fee income to $62.9M in 2022.
|Dara Busch, Matt Caiola|
On the new business front, 5WPR added Boomerang, G-SHOCK, Cirrus Nexus, and Lenox to its roster which includes marquee brands SMEG and Samsung SmartThings.
Co-CEOs Dara Busch and Matt Caiola led the firm to be named to Inc. magazine’s annual Best Workplaces list and launched the 5W Impact Team, a new employee-driven initiative to offer pro bono services and promote volunteerism for staff-nominated causes.
“The idea for the program originated at the staff level and is already generating a ton of excitement and interest across the board. It's inspiring to see how passionate our team is about helping others,” said Caiola.
5W Cares, an extension of the impact team, organizes staff across all agency departments to support local non-profit organizations via other channels and methods.
The firm expanded its leadership team, elevating five executive VPs to the new role of managing partner, where they will oversee the agency’s core business units.
It added multiple c-suite and executive hires, including chief people officer Erica Kirwin from BBH USA, and executive VPs Paul Miser from Icreon and Elizabeth Minton, who returned from Clarity.
Racepoint Invests in Flexibility-First Culture
Racepoint Global’s 2022 fee income advanced six percent to $11M as the tech firm experienced strong performances in the areas of talent and culture, new business and organic growth.
“RPG’s investments in our flexibility-first culture resulted in industry-leading retention and high employee Net Promoter Scores,” said president Bob Osmond.
The firm’s average client tenure is five years and organic growth accounted for 35 percent of new revenue during 2022.
Osmond said RPG attracts a diverse portfolio of tech-forward clients through its human-centered storytelling that influences, engages and reaches buyers wherever they are.
The firm added Analog Devices, Hummingbird, Intelsat and SiFive to its roster in 2022.
RPG is proud of its investment in community and social good through its pro bono work with the Diversity Marketing Consortium. “We are signatories to the Diversity Action Alliance, Time to Vote, Don’t Ban Equality and have taken the Working with Cancer Pledge,” noted Osmond.
The firm is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. “We will continue to support our clients as they communicate accountability related to purpose and ESG, focus on employee communications and embrace executive thought leadership,” said Osmond. “We are ready to shape conversations that matter for tech-forward brands for decades to come.”
Stanton Registers Record Year
Stanton, the New York-based financial PR firm, reached the highest revenue level in its history, moved into expanded new offices and continued to add senior, experienced talent to the team during 2022.
It posted a 23.4 percent hike in revenues to $10.5M
Alex Stanton said exceptional client service—informed, strategic counsel combined with expert tactical execution—is the mainstay of firm’s success and core to the firm’s value proposition.
“Our track record, experience and team in financial and investor communications, private capital, and alternative asset management is unparalleled and continues to fuel our business,” he said.
He said the shop’s opportunity “continues to be working with clients who want seasoned, senior level communications professionals working on their business day-to-day and thinking strategically about how to help move them forward every day.”
The firm is also executing more digital, design and marketing work across its client base as the firm is in a prime position to create a unified, seamless, client-centric experience across channels and activities.
Hoffman Agency Rethinks PR
The Hoffman Agency chalked up 30.7 percent growth in 2022 to $26.3M.
Lou Hoffman credits some of that success to the pandemic year of 2020 when the shop redefined what it means to be a global communications consultancy in today’s world.
During 2022, LHA doubled down on giving staff a voice in shaping the shop's “employee experience;” established a global talent marketing, acquisition, and branding practice; revamped its website to showcase the ability to solve specific pain points as well as accentuate differentiation; and distilled culture to “Geeks @ Heart,” kicking off a campaign to both cultivate staff pride and amplify the firm’s expertise in tech.
The promotion of Caroline Hsu into the newly created role of chief global officer formally framed the firm’s ethos of ONE team (regardless of geography).
“This is about more than a single global P/L; it’s a mentality embraced by the consultancy’s senior leaders and staff who recognize that global success lifts everyone,” said Hoffman. “The tangible payoff came in the form of new-business wins, retaining global accounts and extending current clients into new markets.”
Major client wins in 2022 included Oracle, Visa, Dropbox, Trellix, Bosch and Slack.
LHA also advocated for PR in colleges serving diverse communities.
It zeroed in on the California community college system (1.8M students; 70 percent from BIPOC communities) to evangelize the benefits of a career in communications.
The Bliss Group Makes Move to New HQ
The Bliss Group posted 25.7 percent growth to $20.8M, a performance that includes the acquisition of NextTechCommunications.
It moved from 500 Fifth Ave. after a 25-year run to the historic Helmsley Building at 230 Park Ave. under a 10-year lease.
The expanded HQ features a swath of on-site capabilities that give teams and clients a collaborative space to innovate and make an impact on the firm’s clients and the communities they serve.
During 2022, TBG launched a workplace specialty group to help clients reach C-suite, HR managers, employee benefits decision makers and benefits brokers at the intersection of the future of work and employee experience.
Bliss Impact, which launched in Fall 2021 to provide counsel, campaign management and collaboration to clients seeking to align strategic priorities and sustainable programs with societal change, experienced significant momentum in 2022, expanding its client roster and ramping up growth.
Working closely with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Department of Defense as part of Operation Warp Speed, TBG and The Next Practices Group launched “CTRx Pathways” to repair, accelerate, and diversify clinical trial enrollment through a mathematical, PESO media, and marketing standpoint.
TBG kicked off 2023 by naming Cortney Stapleton as its new CEO, while Bob Pearson, who was the firm’s CEO, was appointed chair.
“I am thankful to our team at Bliss and our clients, who make it possible for us to create value and build relationships that are long-lasting,” said Stapleton. “With 100 team members and growing, it is more important than ever for our focus to center on how to build meaningful careers, as well as practices.”
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