PR firms came off their “post-pandemic high” in 2023 as they were forced to cut staffs in the wake of a business slowdown, especially in the technology and financial sectors.

Edelman, Weber Shandwick, Ketchum, Zeno Group and BCW were among the big firms to lay off people in 2023.

Looking ahead to 2024, PR firms will wrestle with the “anti-woke” pushback against ESG programming, and seek to harness the power of AI to bolster productivity.

They will operate in a media environment that will be fixated on the presidential campaign and potential return to power of Donald Trump.

Here are some of the PR highlights of 2023:

Publicis Groupe sells Qorvis Communications to a management team led by long-time executive Matt Lauer. The French firm acquired DC-based Qorvis in 2014 when it was the tenth largest PR firm in O’Dwyer’s rankings.

Donna Imperato
Donna Imperato

BCW CEO Donna Imperato announces resignation after a 25-year run at the WPP unit.

Teneo shells out $80M for Tulchan Communications, financial/IR shop with more than 80 staffers in London and Singapore.

Hope Hicks, who was Donald Trump’s PR guru, counsels Madison Square Garden after criticism that the “world’s most famous arena” uses facial recognition technology to ban legal foes from attending events.

Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director exits her post, which is filled by Ben LeBolt, partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive.

Kekst CNC provides crisis counsel to Adani Group, the India-based conglomerate accused of fraud and stock market manipulation by Hindenburg Research. Adani denies any wrongdoing.

Brunswick Group takes Concordia, the storied investment bank of the Rothschild family, private.

The New York City Dept. of Public Health gathers proposals for a strategic communications campaign to advance its agenda and respond to the elevated interest in public health.

This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Jan. '24 Crisis Communications & PR Buyer's Guide Magazine
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Public Policy Holding Company spends $22M for Alexandria-based Multistate Associates, a local and state government relations shop with 77 professionals.

Tom Suozzi
Tom Suozzi

Tom Suozzi, former Queens/Long Island Congressman, joins Actum as co-chair after launching an unsuccessful primary challenge to New York governor Kathy Hochul. He returns to the political arena by running for his old House seat that was occupied by the disgraced George Santos.

APCO Worldwide scoops up Gagen MacDonald, the 25-year-old Chicago-based organizational communications engagement specialist. Maril MacDonald continues to run the firm as a subsidiary of APCO.

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp, which was formed in 1980 to manage and invest the state’s energy revenues, budgets $600K for a PR search.

Growth slows at independent PR firms as O’Dwyer’s releases rankings showing 18.2 percent growth in 2022, compared to a 29.7 percent advance in 2021.

Spain’s LLYC doubles the size of its US staff to more than 65 professionals via the acquisition of an 80 percent stake in BAM, San Diego firm that focuses on the technology and venture capital segments, for $13.2M.

California earmarks $3.8M for a strategic communications campaign to warn residents about the dangers of exposure to intense heat and wildfire smoke.

Dentons Global Advisors hires Tim Mulvey, who was communications director for the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6th Attack on the US Capitol.


KKR, private equity giant, buys 30 percent stake in FGS Global, a transaction that values the financial PR/crisis communications firm in the $1.4B range.

Ogilvy Government Relations signs on to represents St. Louis-based Peabody Energy, which is America’s No. 1 coal producer.

Tourism Ireland, which was established 25 years ago as part of the Good Friday Agreement, scouts for a global PR partner to promote travel to the entire island. A key priority is to develop the tourism potential of Northern Ireland.

Margot Edelman, a 12-year veteran of the No. 1 independent firm, is named general manager of the flagship New York office. She is the daughter of CEO Richard Edelman.

Subject Matter, DC-based advocacy shop, merges with Kivvit, No. 18 in O’Dwyer’s 2022 rankings with $39.5M in fee income. Coral Tree Partners, Los Angeles-based private equity firm, acquired Subject Matter in 2022.

ICR bolsters its technology and mobility PR segments with the acquisition of Lumina Communications, the San Jose-based firm with more than 40 staffers and 50+ clients.

America’s trust in news organizations improved somewhat, according to a report from market research firm YouGov. It’s a rare bit of good news for the embattled media.

Max Rose
Max Rose

Ex-New York City Congressman Max Rose joins Oaktree Solutions as managing director for federal and international affairs. Frank Carone, who was chief of staff for NYC mayor Eric Adams founded Oaktree.

Leidar, a Geneva-based firm, expands in the US market by acquiring LEVICK, the Washington public affairs and crisis firm that was founded by the late Richard Levick.

BCW recruits Corey duBrowa, VP-global communications and PA at Google and its Alphabet parent as CEO. He takes over for Donna Imperato.

CNN bounces CEO Chris Licht after publication of a hard-hitting 15K-word article that ran in The Atlantic chronicling the meltdown of the cable channel and its disastrous Donald Trump town hall meeting.


The Senate opens an investigation into the planned merger of Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf with the PGA Tour.

TikTok signs up former Walt Disney chief communications officer Zenia Mucha as chief brand and communications officer. She also was a top advisor to former New York governor George Pataki and senator Al D’Amato.

Edelman cuts 240 staffers, or four percent of its workforce, to cope with the cooling down of the PR sector. The firm had added 25 percent more staff from January 2021 to June 2022 to deal with its heady post-pandemic growth.

Tech slump wallops WPP as CEO Mark Read halves 2023 growth forecast to 1.5 percent. Technology, which accounts for 18 percent of WPP’s revenues, slipped 4.9 percent during the first six months of 2023.

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal sends a letter to Teneo CEO Paul Keary asking for information about the role that it played in Saudi Arabia’s bankrolling of the LIV/PGA Tour deal.


BCW buffs image of Abu Dhabi’s Environmental Agency, which wants to be known as the top environmental regulator in the Middle East.

Mark Thompson, former director-general of the BBC and CEO of the New York Times Co, becomes chairman/CEO of embattled CNN.

Bill Daley, vice chairman for public affairs of Wells Fargo, announces plans to retire at the end of 2023. The former chief of staff to president Barack Obama was in charge of Wells Fargo’s government relations, corporate communications, branding and community relations, as well as the bank’s foundation.

Bari Rafferty, the former CEO of Ketchum and communications/brand lead at Wells Fargo, joins Morrow Sodali stakeholder engagement and ESG consulting firm as CEO of the Americas, a new position.

Blue White

Trident DMG, the Washington-based strategic communications firm, signs on to support the Blue and White organization’s pro-democracy push in Israel.

ICR acquires London’s Consilium Strategic Communications, healthcare and investor relations firm, to gain its first on-the-ground presence in Europe.

Rupert Murdoch, 92, decides to step down as chairman of Fox Corp. and News Corp. and take the chairman emeritus title at both companies. Son and Fox CEO Lachlan congratulated dad on his “remarkable” 70-year career.

Switzerland’s Team Farner adds London’s Lansons to its line-up of 16 integrated shops throughout Europe. Lansons co-founders Tony Langham and Clare Parsons will remain in their posts.


Morrow Sodali picks up Powerscourt, which is based in London and Dublin. Powerscourt focuses on financial and capital market communications, corporate campaigning, ESG matters and political affairs.

PR slips at Omnicom as its FleishmanHillard, Ketchum, Porter Novelli, Mercury and Marina Maher Communications units post a decline in Q3 revenues.

Americans are following the news less closely than they used to, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. Pew describes about 20 percent of Americans are casual news consumers, following the news on a “only now and then” basis.

Andrew Garson
Andrew Garson

Ex-MWWPR and Catalyst executive Andrew Garson pled guilty to charges that he defrauded his former employers of millions of dollars and agreed to pay $3.8M in restitution.

C Street Advisory Group handles the high-profile Chapter 11 filing of WeWork, which fell victim to the work-from-home trend and high office lease costs.

Hill + Knowlton hires Tara Singh, a former aide to former British prime minister David Cameron, as he returns to political life as the UK’s foreign secretary. Singh heads H&K’s UK public affairs offering.

Reevemark signs on again with Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management as it resumes efforts to shake up Walt Disney Company’s board of directors at the 2024 annual meeting.

MWW Group settles its federal suit alleging that it violated the False Claims Act by taking a second loan of $2M from the Paycheck Protection Program to which it was not entitled. Firm agrees to pay the US $2.29M plus interest; the fee includes a $229K outlay to a whistleblower who is unaffiliated with MWW and the federal government.

Manuel Rocha
Manuel Rocha

LLYC cut ties with Manuel Rocha, the 73-year-old former American diplomat who has been charged with spying for Cuba. He was working as a senior international business advisor for LLYC at the time of his Dec. 4 arrest.

Vivendi is considering splitting into three separate companies, a move that would result in making the Havas ad/PR business a publicly traded company.