Syneos Health Communications PR Group | 2018

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The four companies that comprise Syneos Health Communications' PR Group have always prided themselves on helping clients navigate choppy waters in PR. But for the newly rechristened unit, formerly inVentiv Health PR Group, the combination of the 2017 unification and a range of high-stakes healthcare controversies made for a year of interesting internal navigation as well.

The group's new name went into effect in early 2018. U.S. president Jeanine O'Kane says the creation of the group sparked an important period of self-reflection. “We spent a lot of time looking back at what's working and what isn't,” she explains.

And while the new corporate structure hasn't resulted in increased pressure to sell more to clients, O'Kane notes “the merger is allowing us to re-examine and reimagine our offerings. We're looking at smart integration and asking what else we bring to the table.”

MM&M estimates Syneos Health Communications' PR Group, which includes Allidura Consumer, Biosector 2, Chamberlain Healthcare PR, and Chandler Chicco Agency, generated $72 million in revenue in 2017, down from last year's take of $77.5 million. The agency reports the number of employees slipped to 258 from 277, but that it added 48 new assignments.

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Much of that work is likely to center around the “value” work the agencies do. With the new wave of industry consolidation, O'Kane sees lots of opportunity. “That becomes a nice connection point for us, with our clients and consulting partners — to manage expectations about cost,” she says.

O'Kane adds these and other healthcare organizations are going to be increasingly challenged by activists, fueled by movements such as #MeToo and #NeverAgain. “They have reignited social activism, and increased both national and corporate awareness,” she says. The Syneos agencies are getting many requests for counsel around sensitive issues where there “are no rule books,” O'Kane continues. “Everything being debated in the press and in Donald Trump's tweets is being discussed by clients. The environment is electrified.”

In addition to the staffs of the four standalone agencies, Syneos employs a range of subject-matter experts. O'Kane expects the group to number 90 by the end of the year. “We have made a huge investment. This allows us the best of both worlds, in terms of specialists versus generalists,” she explains.

In digital and social, the company has added five new people, including one who focuses solely on using digital for clinical trial recruitment. It has also bulked up its issues group.
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