PR Agency of the Year 2020: Weber Shandwick

Gold: Weber Shandwick 

To describe 2020 as difficult would be an understatement. The year brought loss, sudden transitions in how we live and work and other unexpected changes. For PR agencies, there was the additional challenge of reaching audiences who were, understandably, very distracted. 

Weber Shandwick successfully guided its clients through this difficult period. In response to the pandemic, the agency quickly created a COVID-19 Task Force to share its knowledge with more than 100 clients and assist them with every aspect of crisis management from transitioning to a virtual workforce to revising messaging. As some clients — including GM, Honeywell and Pernod Ricard — shifted resources toward producing ventilators, N95 masks and sanitizers, Weber helped them tell their stories. Its efforts on behalf of UW Medicine helped educate people in 172 countries on the virus.  

Later in 2020, when George Floyd’s death and protests focused attention on social inequality, Weber again stepped up to the plate by establishing a Structural Inequities Task Force that advised more than 135 clients on combating systemic racism and advancing DE&I efforts. For some Weber clients, the events of last summer paved the way for them to recommit their support to the Black community, such as Tresemmé’s scholarships for aspiring Black stylists and Mattel’s efforts to find “teachable moments” about racism. 

One testament to Weber’s abilities is in the numbers: 94% of the agency’s top 50 clients remained with the firm, confident in its ability to plot a course through troubled times. 

Silver: FleishmanHillard

For many companies, 2020 required sudden shifts in messaging brought on by an overnight transition to remote working and learning. There was a need to pivot from external messaging to internal and employee communications, and others traded market activity for reputation protection. FleishmanHillard was by its clients’ sides, proving that a 75-year-old firm can be remarkably nimble. The agency credits that to always remaining focused on the essentials, which they define as including truth, authenticity and inclusion. 

To take that from lofty ideals to practical realities, FleishmanHillard created messaging for Lowe’s, FitBit, Krispy Kreme and others that emphasized the ways in which home became even more important this year. Digital activations for the March of Dimes ensured charitable giving continued even without typical fundraising events. Alongside its innovative strategies for existing clients, the agency also brought in new business: 385 new clients with business totaling $159.4 million. 

Bronze: Day One

Day One may only be 6 years old, but given the events of 2020, the agency decided it was already time to reinvent itself. This began with the OOOO — the Out of Office Offensive — in which brainstorming and creating campaigns were reimagined for a world of Zoom, shared Google Docs and team members and clients dispersed over hundreds of home offices. Thousands of Instagram, TikTok and other videos were produced from home studios, while Day One’s Story School and the third annual Summer of Creativity program encouraged team members to rethink the most effective ways to tell their clients’ stories. 

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