2012 Platinum PR Awards: Small PR Firm of the Year

Co-Winner: Henson Consulting

If you ever needed proof that bigger isn’t always better, Chicago’s Henson Consulting’s 16-person team delivered imaginative, entertaining and, best of all, revenue boosting campaigns for an A-list of clients.

Clients include Open Hearts Foundation/Kay Jewelers, The Pampered Chef and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. This year’s 32 account wins included such iconic brands as Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Van Cleef & Arpels. Most of the agency’s 10 account losses were due to funding issues.

Founder Kathleen Henson has masterfully put together a team of dedicated PR professionals and they have come through in a major way for Henson Consulting’s clients. One example of this is client HUB 51, a group of top Chicago restaurants and clubs.

Leveraging the popular music festival Lollapalooza, which hits Chicago each August, Henson has branded its client as “hubs” for festival talent, celebrities and visitors. This has resulted in more than 83 million media impressions in top-tier outlets like People, UsMagazine.com and the Chicago Tribune.

Another great example is the “Hearts A Bluhm” campaign they created for Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. To generate awareness of cardiovascular health in general, and for the Institute’s leadership in the field of cardiovascular medicine, the Henson Consulting team created 100 giant, painted hearts “blooming” in high-traffic Chicago locations. The result? The campaign garnered support from key city officials, raised more than $75,000 in in-kind support, and garnered more than 45 million impressions, including top-tier local and national media.

Recent growth in the client base, revenues and staff size necessitated the move to a 4,000-square-foot office in downtown Chicago. —JG 

Co-Winner: InkHouse Media + Marketing

A firm that began in 2007—with three employees working from a kitchen table and a client base of start-ups—InkHouse Media + Marketing has grown to a team of 33 employees doing creative and innovative work for a client base that includes Raytheon, GE Energy and Nuance Communications. With offices in Waltham, Mass., InkHouse Media + Marketing is in close proximity to both established technology companies and to many hot start-ups. 

Agency co-founders and principals Meg O’Leary and Beth Monaghan think out of the box. One example of this is InkHouse’s Content Bureau, where the agency creates, seeds and curates content that ignites conversations for clients with their top influencers. This kind of thinking yields results: In 2011, revenues grew to $3.3 million, a 20% jump over 2010. Growth is expected to be even greater in 2012— more than 50%. 

In 2011, InkHouse Media + Marketing worked with client Raytheon to come up with some terrific public service campaigns, including the 2011 MATHCOUNTS National Competition in which more than 40,000 middle school students competed for top honors. InkHouse Media + Marketing scored a major media win by securing a placement on LIVE with Regis & Kelly, where the winner competed in a math competition against the hosts. The InkHouse Media + Marketing team then secured a satellite media tour that generated nearly 200 confirmed airings in major markets including Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

While the InkHouse Media + Marketing team have been enjoying financial successes, a big part of the company culture involves giving back to the community. Employees volunteer at the Greater Boston Food Bank and the company gives time off to employees each quarter to engage in volunteer work of their choice. —JG 

Honorable Mentions:

Airfoil Public Relations: Airfoil enjoyed a“CyYoung”-worthy season with a 22-3 win-loss account record. Some of the big wins included LinkedIn, Brookstone and eBay Sellers.

HORN: Named as“Technology Agency of theYear”byThe Holmes Report, HORN also scored some huge client wins this year including Forbes, NBC Universal and Demand Media. 

Schnake Turnbo Frank PR: Enjoyed its best year ever with $3.1 million in revenues, representing 23% increase in revenue. One of the strongest Oklahoma agencies, its client list includes Oklahoma State University, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma and the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock.

Walker Sands Communication: One of the fastest-growing agencies in the country, Walker Sands grew 131% between 2009 and 2011 and is enjoying even more explosive growth in 2012. Two huge recent wins include Cisco and HarperCollins.