2024 Rankings

The once fast-paced healthcare PR sector slowed to a crawl in 2023 as O’Dwyer’s 83 ranked health firms managed to grow only 2.6 percent to $1.7B.

They feasted on COVID-19 spending during the previous two years, reporting a 24.8 percent gain in 2022 and a whopping 46.6 percent rise in 2021.

The Top Ten firms in 2023 did a little worse than their lower-ranked counterparts. They reported a paltry 2.1 percent rise to $1.5B in 2023.

Half the group (Real Chemistry, Ruder Finn, APCO, imre and Crosby) posted gains while the rest (Inzio Evoke, Edelman, Spectrum, Finn Partners and ICR) either suffered declines or were flat.

APCO Acquires Gagen Macdonald

The Washington-based firm enjoyed a 68.1 percent surge in fee income to $57M, a financial performance partly powered by the acquisition of Gagen Macdonald and its robust healthcare business.

Evan Kraus

The deal added to APCO’s advisory services with organizational transformation, inclusive workforce and workplace of the future capabilities, according to Evan Kraus, president & managing director, operations.

Engagements focused on large corporate structure projects, spin-offs and the restructuring of old and newly formed health care entities, inclusive of internal and external communications.

APCO’s healthcare practice reported major increases in the health insurance sector and diversification in services offered to its large global pharmaceutical firms.

PR Firms Post Mere 1.8% Growth in '23
Nosediving technology spending, tumbling healthcare outlays and recession-jittery consumers jolted PR in 2023 as the 147 independent firms ranked by O’Dwyer’s posted a paltry 1.8 percent growth to a combined $4.7B in fee income. [full story]

The firm helped clients navigate the complex geopolitical, regulatory and policy-related issues shaping the health sector.

Kraus said APCO’s capability to integrate government relations, executive positioning, creative storytelling, earned media, while leaning in and leveraging a unique microtargeting approach to paid media, enhances clients’ ability to reach health care audiences and drive value to clients’ businesses.

“Our One APCO approach continues to position us as the advisors of choice for the most innovative organizations working to improve health and advance health equity,” noted Mathew Shearman, co-chair of APCO’s global health practice. “With deep health sector expertise in every market in which we operate, APCO is supporting clients around the world to navigate both the external and internal complexity that is transforming the health care business environment.”

Insights, Collaboration Pay Off at Zeno

Zeno Group pounded out an 8.4 percent rise in healthcare revenues to $14.2M.

That upbeat performance underscores its “commitment to meet the increasing demand for innovative communications solutions and deep audience insights in the health sector,” said Kristie Kuhl, health + wellness, global managing director.

Kristie Kuhl
Kristie Kuhl

Zeno, which operates in North America, Europe and Asia, expanded its reach with wins across the health spectrum including Argenx, one of the world’s fastest growing biotechnology companies, American Association for Respiratory Care, and Alcon, the global leader in eyecare.

The health + wellness unit chalked up significant organic growth with existing clients that engaged Zeno on more types of services and in more geographies.

Kuhl cited Zeno’s work for the CDC Foundation’s Live to the Beat campaign to reduce heart attack and stroke in Black Americans as a perfect example of the firm’s deep insights and collaboration.

The award-winning work tapped Zeno’s deep digital and health expertise and the multicultural competency of Zeno’s strategic partner EGAMI Group.

Zeno, which is part of DJE Holdings, had a presence in major industry events in 2023 including the STAT Summit where Kuhl interviewed the CEOs of Harmony Biosciences and Amylyx Pharmaceuticals.

Real Chemistry Reorganizes

Real Chemistry CEO Shankar Narayanan capped a record-setting year (revenues rose 7 percent to $595M) by rolling out a new organizational structure to enable long-term growth.

The No. 1 healthcare firm realigned its internal teams into capability areas and best-in-class centers of expertise. They are activation, advertising, analytics & insights, integrated communications, medical, and targeting.

Shankar Narayanan
Shankar Narayanan

Narayanan expects the move will strengthen Real Chemistry’s expertise, drive greater collaboration and allow teams to be more agile to serve clients.

During the past year, the firm accelerated the adoption of AI and emerging technologies across all aspects of its business.

It established a partnership with enterprise Generative AI expert Writer.ai, giving all team members access to the Writer platform tool.

The tool improves work quality and creates new ways to reach patients and healthcare providers with accessible, personalized content at scale.

Earlier this year, Real Chemistry acquired Avant Healthcare. a full-service medical communications company using high science, data-driven strategies, and innovative digital and creative capabilities to develop and facilitate impactful messaging to healthcare providers.

Avant was folded into Real Chemistry’s medical group, which has 450 staffers steeped in medical communications/education/affairs and scientific visualization.

Evoke Evolves into Inizio Evoke

No. 2-ranked Evoke introduced its new brand and platform, Inizio Evoke, during the past year.

The move united its specialty agencies and capabilities under a singular brand with core service areas in marketing, communications, transformation, media and access.

“Inizio Evoke is purpose-built to ensure clients receive the most effective solutions tailored to the dynamic healthcare landscape now and far into the future,” said Maryellen Royle, group president, comms.

Maryellen Royle

Despite the economic headwinds experienced across the industry in 2023 (Inizio Evoke recorded a 7.6 percent dip in revenues to $340M), the firm saw great interest and engagement from clients on key brand and disease education initiatives, omnichannel efforts, and health equity and corporate initiatives.

Royle said clients continued to seek core comms support and fresh thinking across data and regulatory milestones, clinical trial recruitment, internal communications, social and digital media, and new approaches to thought leadership.

“In public health, we again helped steer our clients through a sea of medical misinformation and 'fake news' to educate and engage the public and healthcare professionals about the importance of immunization,” she noted.

Inizio Evoke’s data sciences teams helped meet the increased demands for more analysis, insights and intuitive data products.

“We unveiled four audience intelligence core solutions, including Narratev, designed to uncover digital behaviors to optimize marketing impact,” said Royle. “It’s rooted in our unique perspective around evolving engagement with key stakeholders across the treatment continuum by looking at real-world evidence fit to client needs and then leveraging that data set into actionable recommendations.”

Looking ahead, Royle said her firm’s new and more integrated structure is paying dividends as "clients seeking support in one service area are now more easily connecting our global capabilities across multiple offerings, providing a unique competitive advantage, and enhancing collaboration to drive transformational growth. "

Finn Navigates Fragmented Health Ecosystem

Finn Partners, which reported flat healthcare revenues of $52M, worked across the payer, patient community, product innovation, policy and provider sectors.

Gil Bashe
Gil Bashe

“In a year that led many other agencies to struggle, Finn was solid and stable—retaining talent and client relationships, investing in professional development through its international Heath Academy, and adding new skills and services to its mix,” said Gil Bashe, global health and purpose chair.

Fern Lazar, who leads the global health practice, and Tom Jones, NYHealth Lead, created a powerhouse unit that services the biopharma and medical devices sectors.

They launched an array of services that include clinical trial patient recruitment, C-Suite thought leadership services, investor relations, real-time global media monitoring and issues analysis, health-sector data analyses, along with solid pre-launch and launch capabilities.

The health provider services group, which is led by Nicole Cottrill, senior partner, and Nate West, partner, and serves hospital systems throughout the US, expanded into extended and long-term care. It is working with health institutions like Meharry Medical College in the vanguard of national change.

Finn advanced its position in global health via the hiring of DC-based Richard Hatzfeld, and the 2023 acquisition of Dublin-based Hyderus led by Mark Chataway, managing partner, and Christopher Nial, senior partner.

Hyderus has run campaigns with Finn in the EMEA and Asia regions, and has ties to India-headquartered SPAG/Finn to support multinational biotech and pharmaceutical companies in introducing new medicines to some of the world’s fastest-growing population regions with rising economies and access to technology.

That reach led to FINN working with the international vaccine alliance GAVI—uniting the public and private sectors to protect health by increasing the equitable and sustainable use of vaccines.

Bashe noted that Finn has a substantial operation in Israel. “Our presence in Israel is a bridge to the world’s key sources for health innovation in digital health, hospital systems, and AI-driven medical advances,” he said.

Led by Goel Jasper, managing partner, FINN represents one of the world’s top hospitals, Sheba Medical Center, and GrayMatters Health, providing FDA-approved-for-market neuromodulation-based PTSD treatment.

Imre Adds Nine New Logos to Client Roster

imre, which is headquartered in Baltimore, posted a 12.2 percent rise in healthcare revenues to $55M.

“We experienced a banner year by creating work that disrupts the norms in healthcare marketing and adding more agency-of-record engagements than in any other year,” said Anna Kotis, president.

Anna Kotis
Anna Kotis

The firm invested in senior leadership hires who have deep healthcare marketing expertise, and appointed a Strategic Committee in partnership with its executive board.

Kotis said the 2023 growth came from a mix of new business wins combined with organic growth in healthcare and consumer spaces.

“We added nine new logos to our client roster last year—several of which are in highly competitive categories such as oncology, eye care and weight loss,” she said.

Looking ahead, she said it will be increasingly challenging for specialized brands to stand out.

“There's an ongoing need to assist clients in delivering authentic, credible content and experiences for greater engagement and impact,” said Kotis. “That is what imre has come to be known for and what we will continue to be."

Ruder Finn Stays Ahead of the Curve of 'What's Next'

Ruder Finn recorded a 7.5 percent jump in healthcare revenues to $60.2M, fueled partly by wins from Sanofi, Seagan, Pfizer and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

The firm launched the AI-powered RF Studio, which ensures that healthcare client programming is seeded in predictive insights and supported by measurable data and analytics.

Christie Anbar
Christie Anbar

That programming ranges from KOL and patient influencer mapping to omnichannel disease education campaigns to regulatory communications and policy shaping, according to Christie Anbar, global healthcare lead.

She said RF’s healthcare practice not only invests in new technologies and tools, but also people, to remain ahead of the curve on "what’s next" in emerging, market-shaping trends for our clients and their stakeholders.

The firm added Jennifer O’Neill, executive VP of healthcare growth and integrated marketing, and Alex Taylor, senior VP of media relations, healthcare.

Anbar noted that RF, as an independent shop, attracts independent thinkers who are not afraid to speak up, contribute ideas, problem solve and get things done. “We are passionate collaborators who can also work independently to see things through and deliver for clients,” she said.

JPA Health Enjoys 21.5% Growth

JPA Health reported a robust 21.5 percent rise in revenues to $24.3M as the DC-based firm continued to embed data sciences throughout its operations, bolstered by the acquisition of True North Solutions.

Carrie Jones
Carrie Jones

That Cambridge-based consulting firm is known for its expertise in predictive analytics and AI-driven solutions. JPA also expanded its proprietary AI-powered insights engine, Gretel Trails.

The firm secured a multi-year, multi-million-dollar contract with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

CEO Carrie Jones said contract aims to address the mental health and substance use disorders crisis among America's youth, reflecting the agency’s growing influence and responsibility in public health.

With the publication of its report, "One World, One Health," JPA launched its One Health practice. The initiative highlights the urgent need for increased communication and collaboration across human, animal, and environmental health sectors. Endorsed by global health authorities and aligned with several United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the One Health approach aims to foster a holistic understanding of emerging health challenges.

JPA strengthened its team by welcoming Tish Van Dyke to oversee its Public Health, One Health and Federal Government practices. With over two decades at Edelman, Van Dyke’s extensive experience significantly enhances the agency’s capabilities in these specialized areas.

Claire Morse joined the firm as the head of human resources. Jones said Morse’s leadership is crucial in maintaining the agency’s culture and propelling its growth, ensuring JPA Health continues to attract top talent.

Looking forward, Jones said JPA Health is poised to further expand its biopharma clientele and the sophisticated services they seek, ensuring its continued leadership across healthcare communications.

Year of Collaboration for Avoq

Avoq, which ranks as the No. 17 healthcare firm with 2023 fee income of $11M, collaborated with organizations across the health spectrum.

Molly Schermann
Molly Scherrman

“We engaged in patient advocacy for healthcare providers, promoted crucial drug discovery initiatives, enhanced the visibility of biotech startups, and built awareness for public health agendas,” said COO Molly Scherrman.

In partnership with Ad Council and the CDC, Avoq developed a PSA campaign for prediabetes education and awareness. “The national campaign leaned into emotion and entertainment to persuade audiences to take a one-minute prediabetes risk assessment, which is the first step toward a diagnosis and a door-opener to treatment,” noted Scherrman.

The Chicago Department of Public Health turned to Avoq to raise awareness about the Mpox vaccine among the groups most likely to be affected. As the disease spread widely throughout Chicago, Avoq drew insights from data and community interviews and learned the Grindr app was popular with patients. That informed its strategy to run the campaign on the app paired with outreach at LGBTQ+ bars and events to share this critical public health information.

The firm’s work with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network focused on targeting policymakers connected to a bill that funds cancer research at the NIH and NCI. Scherrman said the advocacy campaign centered on a goal to change the narrative and highlight the “found” moments that define the lives of cancer patients, survivors and ACS CAN volunteers.

Working with NY State of Health, Avoq developed campaigns to reach individuals with health plans to make sure they knew how to keep their coverage amid the unwinding of the pandemic health emergency. “We developed strategies and messaging to engage key audiences about the affordable insurance options,” said Scherrman.