CorpComms Awards

Agency of the decade – silver 2015

The appointment of Blue Rubicon by Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis to turn around the image of the supermarket group is viewed by many in the industry as the most significant mandate in recent years. Lewis, who worked with Blue Rubicon during his time at Unilever, has entrusted the consultancy to create a change programme that resonates with all stakeholders, from employees to government bodies, and rebuild the reputation of a former stock market darling.

It will be a long-term project, but Blue Rubicon is used to playing the long game. Its work with McDonald’s UK to rebuild consumer trust has garnered many awards, adding to a cabinet stuff ed with almost 90 trophies, making Blue Rubicon the most awarded consultancy in the industry.

Indeed, the strategy that it wrote in 2005 for McDonald’s UK also helped to deliver 36 quarters of consecutive growth, and to increase trust by 25 percentage points. The consultancy’s contribution has been recognised by Steve Easterbrook, formerly chief executive of McDonald’s UK and now the boss of McDonald’s Corporation, who recently appointed Blue Rubicon to assist with the restaurant chain’s global turnaround.

Client satisfaction is one of the keys to Blue Rubicon’s success. Many of its clients have been on its books for longer than ten years, and the consultancy wins more work from growing existing clients than bringing in new name income. In an effort to benchmark client satisfaction, Blue Rubicon brought in 16 metrics in 2005.

Scores have never dipped below four out of five, on average, across all criteria, and are consistently higher. Most new clients are won through recommendation, and its annual win rate has never dipped below 70 per cent over the past decade.

Blue Rubicon has worked with some of the world’s leading companies over the past ten years, including Coca-Cola Facebook, Instagram, SABMiller, British Gas and Virgin Atlantic, helping many to steward their reputations during high stakes moments.

Other examples include helping Shell in Nigeria, after the company was criticised for the way it managed community relations and awarded contracts, and Cadbury, after the company withdrew one million chocolate bars that had been infected with salmonella, and in its subsequent defence against Kraft’s hostile bid.

Over the past decade, staff retention has been 85 per cent. Blue Rubicon is keen that employees share knowledge and insights, holding internal BenchX knowledge-sharing forums on a weekly basis, and an annual Bench event, taking staff away from their desks, to hear from chief executives and experts.

In 2013, the consultancy invested £1 million in knowledge management and training programmes, including e-learning, and created The Blue Rubicon Ecosystem, which brings together nearly half a million pieces of data, such as research, case studies and bespoke thinking for clients.

On the business side, Blue Rubicon has posted double digit growth every year. In 2012, private equity firm Lloyds Development Capital acquired a majority stake in for an undisclosed sum, which allowed the consultancy to make two acquisitions – public affairs firm Open Road and specialist reputation research firm Heselden.

The latter forms the basis of the Blue Rubicon Institute for business reputation, bringing together a global ten-year rolling research programme with more than 1,000 in-depth interviews with executive board members, chief risk officers and corporate affairs directors. It also opened offices in Qatar, Dubai and Singapore.

More recently Blue Rubicon has been merged with Teneo Holdings in a three-way deal including financial PR agency StockWell, to create one of the largest communications firms in Europe, with research and intelligence, strategy, corporate, financial and political services under one roof.

This article first appeared in issue 101