Skip to main content

Hill & Knowlton

Paul Taaffe

Report by Paul Taaffe

Chairman and chief executive officer

Hill & Knowlton celebrated its 80th anniversary by adding an extraordinary page to its history as global performance soared to record levels in 2007. Every region and practice expanded, with 20%-plus growth in the Gulf, Australia, China (including Hong Kong), Canada, Denmark, Hungary, Sweden, Puerto Rico, Spain and New York. The digital practice that enables clients to understand and engage in the online conversations about them was the fastest-growing arena at H&K in 2007, and will continue to be the area of high demand for the foreseeable future.

Fundamental drivers of growth, above and beyond the strong worldwide economy, continued to be globalization and digitization, which brought multiple stakeholders – shareholders, customers, regulators, employees and communities – together and increasingly in conflict. This complex communications environment meant clients often needed support across multi-geographies and multi-stakeholders, two areas where we have made major investments and where capable competitors are few.

Many companies, especially in the BRIC countries, sought help from H&K as they looked to become global entities in the 21st century. H&K is now one of the largest international communications consultancies outside the foundation market of the US, with 72 offices in 41 countries. As a result, about half of H&K's large clients are served across multi-geographies. H&K's largest clients – Amgen, Deloitte, HP, Merck and P&G – continued to receive more specialty service across multiple practices, countries and continents.

Major international wins included HSBC, Qatar Financial Centre Authority, Alstom, Castrol, Nord Stream, and the OPEC Conference; we also expanded our business with Almond Board of California to now cover both Japan and China. The technology practice enjoyed new business success with eBay, Cisco, MessageLabs, Project Better Place, Qualcomm and the Sony Ericsson regional hub in Asia Pacific, the Egyptian Ministry for IT, Yahoo!, China Unicom, Optus Australia and Pitney Bowes in Canada.

Healthcare communications, one of the largest outsourced markets, continued to see enormous expansion. Our worldwide director of healthcare, AnnaMaria DeSalva, became the only industry appointee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Risk Communications Advisory Committee, which will address some of the most important issues facing the FDA across all regulated products.

The healthcare practice's significant wins were Amgen, Astellas, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bio International, J&J anti-infectives, Medtronic, Merck, Organon, Pfizer and Roche.

Major new local briefs were from adidas, Beiersdorf, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Comet, Constellation Europe, Fiat, HMS Host, Kroll, UK Learning Skills Council, Mayer Brown, Republika Srpska, Vattenfall, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft and the World Health Organization.

Blanc & Otus, H&K's stand-alone technology communications company, expanded beyond core media and analyst relations to driving viral and new media campaigns on behalf of its clients. B&O delivered exceptional results for clients Blu-ray Association, Facebook and Opera Software while new clients Break.com, Streetwise and VideoEgg were added. Throughout 2007, B&O's enterprise technology practice resurged with the significant addition of Oracle and several clean-tech clients.

Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates saw improvement in its homeland security business, growing over 30% in the year. Healthcare clients continued to drive growth as scrutiny on the category in Washington, DC, continues. During the year, the firm assisted three high-tech start-ups in nanotechnology, healthcare and telecommunications to establish a Washington presence to advance their legislative agendas. Wexler continue to receive recognition for its high quality coalition efforts for the energy sector with notable successes for COMPETE and shared H&K client, The Nuclear Energy Institute.

Supporting the growing international need of our clients, we established new offices in Prague, Moscow and Guangzhou. We also established new specialist practices, including two in Asia to deal with stakeholder activism and to support legal and regulatory issues for clients. H&K China launched a sports and sponsorship practice, and H&K Canada launched an aboriginal affairs practice.

To help our clients gain more insight into the complex communications context in which they operate, H&K commissioned a number of proprietary studies. Senior IT decision makers in the US, the UK, China and Canada were polled to determine how they reconcile economic demands with environmental compliance.

IT buyers were canvassed to learn what sources inform their decision-making process. In a US study, consumers were polled about the tech gadgets in their lives and whether or not the "digital home" was delivering on its promise.

H&K's growing reputation around the world was recognized widely with H&K Singapore named as the No.1 public relations agency for 2007 in an annual survey conducted by Marketing magazine; H&K Italy was named Italian Consultancy of the Year by The Holmes Report; H&K Canada was named one of Canada's top 100 employers by Media Corp., with the additional distinction of joining the Greater Toronto's Top 50 Employers list; Esmond Quek, chief executive of H&K China won the 2007 International Stevie award for Best Executive in Asia; H&K Australia was named 2007 PR Week APAC consultancy of the year; H&K EMEA was named the European PR industry's Best Employer Brand in 2007; H&K in the UK won Best Companies Accreditation; H&K Paris was awarded Best PR Consultancy; and H&K Canada was recognized in The Great Place to Work Institute as one of the best work places in Canada for 2007. In addition, over 30 awards were bestowed for outstanding work around the globe.

Once again, H&K was proud to provide pro bono marketing communications support to Ashoka and other charities locally including Arab Children's Health Conference, National Breast Cancer Coalition and breast cancer research foundations worldwide, Darfur, House of St. Barnabas, New Orleans Recovery School District, Project Sunshine and Singapore Dance Theatre. Telling their stories and championing their causes places our people and services where we are needed most – as true citizens of the global community for the next 80 years.