Firms that handle tech clients saw an upswing in revenues in 2022, rising 3.9 percent to $818.6 million in tech-related fees, according to the 2023 O’Dwyer’s ranking of the top technology PR firms.
However, several of the 78 firms on our list saw not just double, but triple-digit increases in net tech-related fees. Padilla, which came in at #18, racked up $14.6 million, up 176.4 percent from 2021’s $5.7 million. Other big gainers included Bliss Group, which was up 431.2 percent to $1.6 million and Wachsman, with an 81.8 percent jump in fees to $25.3 million.
Overall, 18 out of the top 20 firms saw jumps in fee income—and 16 of those were at least double-digit increases.
Most of those firms saw pretty healthy gains in terms of staffers as well. No.2 Hotwire increased headcount by 46.7 percent, and No. 3 Finn Partners was up by 18.7 percent.
Only nine firms reported dips in fee income.
AI Comes Full Circle at PAN
“PAN was an early agency representing AI brands,” said PAN Communications president and CEO Philip Nardone. “While we saw it flatline a bit in past years, it has now come back full circle based on personalization and the need to stay real-time conversational.”
PAN’s fees were up 24.9 percent in 2022, hitting almost $25 million. While Nardone says that his agency’s “legacy in the space” has been a big contribution to those gains, the agency has also seen “a huge uplift in tech infrastructure (devops, security, cloud, data & analytics), and all things related to commerce (logistics, transportation, supply chain).”
That combination led to 33 new clients in 2022, including such brands as Boston Consulting Group, Ware2Go, Aurora Solar, Brightside Health and Thales.
PAN did not open a new bricks-and-mortar office in 2022, but its “virtual office” became the fastest growing one at the agency, accounting for 75 staffers.
However, virtual isn’t the whole ball game. “While flexibility is paramount, having that time with our clients in person goes a long way in building rapport, trust and team chemistry. At the end of the day, those are the core tenets of a strong agency and client relationship,” Nardone says.
He also says that as the tech market develops, the power of storytelling becomes increasingly important. “Brand value matters more than ever before. PAN saw an opportunity to be that agency partner that helps tell a cohesive story across channels to support driving more qualified leads and creating an experience to drive demand.”
Highwire Expands Its Presence
“Highwire continues to expand its presence in the healthcare technology space,” said Highwire principal Carol Carrubba.
Taking the #6 spot on our tech list, Highwire brought in $34 million in net tech fees, for an overall jump of 16.3 percent. And a big part of that growth was due to healthcare. “The numbers speak for themselves.” Carrubba says, “In 2022, Highwire’s healthcare practice grew by 46 percent, gaining seven new clients.”
Highwire’s digital capabilities also played a big part in its success. The agency’s digital practice “drove 61 percent of the agency’s organic growth, grew 75 percent year-over-year and is an instrumental pillar in nearly all of our new business wins.”
Carrubba says that prioritizing the agency’s people was also a major focus. Highwire joined the Diversity Action Alliance in 2022, and “continues to commit itself to its people, culture and DEI, seeing notable growth in diversity.”
With offices in San Francisco, New York, Boston and Chicago, Highwire expanded to include employees in 14 new states over the past year. To integrate its hybrid workforce thoughtfully and inclusively, it initiated a monthly “Stay Wired Office Opportunities Program,” aka SWOOP, when employees are encouraged to come into their nearest office for career, culture and client connections including team building, training, social events or in-person meetings.
In September, Highwire secured a strategic investment from Shamrock Capital, a Los Angeles-based investment firm specializing in media, entertainment, communications and related sectors, which will enable the agency to expand its healthcare practice through strategic additions, as well as further develop its digital marketing, data analytics, public affairs and corporate communications capabilities.
Clarity Confronts a Leaner Environment
“2022 was the year in which we made a decisive move towards becoming a truly integrated agency," said Clarity CEO Sami McCabe. “As marketing and communications budgets get leaner, our agility and ability to be more than just a comms partner really enabled us to rise to the challenge that the current environment presents.
Clarity, which came in at #14 with almost $17 million in net fees, saw the past year as an opportunity “to expand into some categories we historically haven’t focused on, including cleantech and Web3. We also doubled down on those sectors that have long been important for us, including fintech and consumer tech.”
The agency also launched Atrium, a venture studio dedicated to investing in and developing new technologies, and brought in such new clients as Fin Capital, Bullpen Capital, Exclaimer, and Red Hat.
Due to changes in the tech environment, McCabe says, “client engagements might start with a heavy focus on PR, but we’re seeing campaigns rapidly morph into a more integrated approach.”
For the coming year, McCabe says that “we see clients increasingly looking to consolidate their agency roster and centralize capabilities and geographic market expertise with one agency partner – both for cost efficiency reasons, and because clients want truly joined-up execution across borders and across channels."
Client sectors that Clarity is bullish on include fintech, media and entertainment, broader B2B tech, as well as emerging spaces such as sustainability, privacy, web3 and AI.
SourceCode Sees Growth in Enterprise Tech
At SourceCode, which brought in $8.5 million in net fees (placing at #23), co-founder and managing partner Greg Mondshein “saw continued growth in enterprise technology platforms, with specific growth in HR, security, cloud infrastructure, financial services and fintech.”
The firm officially launched its strategy and analytics practice, which was “designed to support deeper data driven storytelling and provide deeper insights into the business impact and general effectiveness of the PR campaigns we manage for our clients.”
It also signed such clients as Jenius Bank, Getty Images, Accredible, Appen, Databank and Homebase.
While maintaining a focus on its core services, SourceCode is also “focused heavily on expanding our service offerings.” Some of those new offerings include executive brand management, internal comms, digital strategy, influencer strategies and a number of measurement and analytics products.
The agency is ls also firmly committed to “ensuring we continue to build our culture in a hybrid working environment. This, in our opinion, is one of the biggest challenges our industry faces.”
Walker Sands Does More With Less
Cybersecurity, healthcare, cloud, and AI-enabled software and services all played a hand in powering #7 Walker Sands to a 7.1 percent revenue bump to $30.5 million.
“But perhaps the biggest category winner in 2022 was supply chain and logistics,” said agency president Andrew Cross.
“In terms of services,” he says, “we continue to have considerable momentum in video, motion graphics and social media, as well as data and insights.
Clients that the firm brought in last year Benevity, Madison Logic, Honor Technology, HireRoad and Echo Global Logistics.
In January 2023, Walker Sands picked up KoMarketing, “which added depth to our capabilities in B2B demand generation, including paid digital advertising and SEO.”
A major hurdle facing the firm, Cross says, is the need to do more with less. Companies are “looking for agency partners to be flexible, adaptable and strategic. In some cases, we saw technology clients who experienced multiple rounds of layoffs go out of their way to preserve agency budgets because they view our team as mission-critical.”
As regards the future of the tech sector itself, “we will likely see consolidation across a number of tech categories over the next year. Venture-backed companies that don't raise a fresh round of financing will look for soft landings, so we expect our clients to be involved in M&A at a healthy pace.”
Bospar Embodies All Things Digital
Bospar, our #15 firm, was a big growth story in 2022, with fees up 49.9 percent to $16.9 million. “We saw a lot of growth in sectors driven by the global shift to all-things-virtual,” said Bospar principal Curtis Sparrer, “from HR, education and health technology to data infrastructure and security.”
The agency also launched integrated marketing services, including digital asset development, podcast production and event management.
High-profile additions to Bospar’s client roster included Croatian IT and telecommunications company which the agency landed coverage on platforms as the Today Show, and REAL Messenger, a social media app for real estate agents developed by a Bravo network alum.
Bospar also helped San Francisco Pride author a compromise with local police that allowed uniformed officers to march as part of a special contingent — capturing the attention of CNN, MSN, ABC National News and about 170 more outlets.
And while the all-virtual agency didn’t launch any offices, it did expand its reach to a total of 18 states from coast to coast.
Sparrrer sees “huge opportunity to grow in areas where we're already strong, like health tech, and in emerging sectors like Web3.”
He also says that an increasingly integrated client experience is the way to go for clients in the sector. “Clients are increasingly looking for a one-stop agency experience, so breaking down internal siloes is key."
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