Winners 2022

Strategic Agency of the Year

Headland Consultancy

From its reincarnation, under the joint leadership of Neil Hedges and Chris Salt, Headland has challenged the traditional agency model. With a strapline ‘The power of collaboration’, Headland has followed a single P&L model, with no siloed teams or divisions and no attempts to ‘integrate’.

Its clients receive an appropriate mix of consultants to meet their day-to-day needs, with access to other specialists within the agency when required. As Headland is keen to point out, a financial communications mandate may need to consider the threat of political change while rebuilding corporate reputation requires input from customers, investors and stakeholders.

Its clients need to know that their needs will be met whatever the situation.

It’s a model that appears to be working. The judges were impressed by the revelation that Headland had grown 20 per cent revenue growth for the third consecutive year, grown the team by 20 per cent and won 70 new clients or pieces of business.

The agency is constantly evolving, enhancing existing disciplines to reflect changing times and building new offers to meet client needs. In the past year, for example, through the appointment of some key individuals, Headland has strengthened its dedicated strategy, insight and planning unit, enhanced its sustainability offer, deepened expertise across the political spectrum and boosted its financial PR capabilities.

It has also overhauled its digital resource model, creating a unit of ‘roving consultants’ to offer strategic advice to clients and colleagues, and launched a new division, entitled Citizens and Communities, to help companies create impactful campaigns that resonate across the board.

Among some notable successes for Headland in 2022, it highlights rebuilding the narrative for Premier Foods – which positively impacted the share price and prompted equity analysts to declare that, finally, the FTSE 250 company had a clear strategic focus.

Similarly, by drawing on in-depth research and an understanding of its key stakeholders, Headland developed a new corporate narrative for infrastructure firm Costain. This work encompassed embedding employee values, improving the digital presence of its C-suite, creating a narrative around financial results, and enhancing new business tenders, which netted around £150 million of contract awards.

And by using audience insights, earned, digital and paid media to drive a Green Energy Major narrative, Headland helped drive a 50 per cent year-on-year jump in Spain’s Iberdrola’s recognition by Financial Times’ readers as a ‘leader in renewable energy’.

Headland claims that each piece of work starts with understanding, considering and measuring multiple audiences, followed by primary and secondary research to underpin the strategy and ongoing evaluation and reflection to adapt the strategy in real time. This workflow delivers, the agency claims, ‘tangible brand, reputation or business results’.

The judges agreed. They felt the entry covered the essence of Headland, and described how the agency had grown and evolved to meet its clients’ needs over the year. ‘Their projects cover the full spectrum from brand building through public policy to financial,’ they said. ‘And most importantly, it feels properly integrated.’