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Agency profile: Fourtold

Fourtold is the PRCA’s mid-sized agency of the year, and we caught up with the Oxford-based consultancy to find out more about its success and how the company manages international corporate briefs from Oxford.

Tell us more about Fourtold?

We specialise in corporate communications and work in some of the most challenging and complex sectors – including biotech, pharma, industrials (mainly agriculture and plastics), financial services and technology.  Our team thrives on getting underneath these issues to help clients navigate both risk and opportunity.

We think of ourselves as communications consultants for a connected age – reflecting the need for social and digital media to be considered and included in most modern communications programmes, whether internal or external.

These makes for a variety of different work that keeps us fresh and challenged.  Recent work includes:

  • Helping a global life sciences company manage its digital and social media footprint following one of the world’s largest corporate acquisitions
  • Supporting an Oxford-biotech with clear and compelling messages and securing / supporting them through high profile TV appearances 
  • Working with one of Europe’s leading biotech businesses on its digital strategy, building a better presence on social media and developing the company narrative 
  • Working for a coalition of major corporates, NGOs and policy-makers to launch the Healthy Europe manifesto, to instigate better co-ordination of policies to promote healthy living and well-being in Europe 
  • Advising on all external corporate communications and internal communications for the sale of as UK company to a France-based multinational
  • Working for a leading European trade association supporting the agricultural industry 

What does recognition from the Public Relations Consultancy Association represent to you? 

It’s fantastic! All our previous awards have recognised our work with clients, so this was the first time we were able to celebrate our success with all the whole team as well as our entire client community.

We started out in 2013 with two founders, armed with a big contacts book and over two decades’ experience of building agencies in Brussels and the UK.  We’re over-the-moon that we not only qualified for, but won, the medium-sized category. It’s a great endorsement of our growth. And we’re pleased to be able to fly the flag for Oxford-based agencies competing on the national stage.  

Why are you based in both Oxford and Brussels?

The two founding partners, Debbie Parriss and Matthew Willis, had previously built agencies in the UK and in Brussels and have long-regarded Oxford as home, making it the natural location for a main office. We also have a specialist team in Brussels to deliver the specialist advocacy support and reputation communications for our clients focused on the European Union and EU policy.

We work for trade associations and corporates in Brussels, which helps us to gain a deeper understanding of certain sectors.  We have won international, often global briefs from member companies of trade association clients which are then delivered by the Oxford Brussels teams based on the need.

What are the benefits of being in Oxford?

Oxford is known globally for clever thinking, which we hope is reflected in our strategic approach and delivery, and its world-wide name recognition helps distinguish us, particularly internationally. So, it’s an important part of our offer.

Oxford is on the map as a hub for biotech, life sciences start-ups, which fits well with our experience and skill sets. We’ve done a lot work in this area and hope to grow this in and around Oxford.

Finally, we’ve started to recruit people with amazing potential from Oxford Uni into graduate roles, and hope to continue this.

So, are you hiring? 

We will need more people to fulfil our growth aims, so absolutely are interested in talking to corporate comms professionals in Oxford or recent graduates looking to build careers in communications. We offer a supportive environment for people to be challenged and fulfilled and, because we offer an integrated service, an opportunity for people to develop their own specific skillsets and interests.

Where next for the company?

In early 2019 we had an intense period of pitching for (and winning) business, with more opportunities in the pipeline.  We’ll soon be launching our new website and looking to grow our biotech client base.
Longer term, we’re keen to continue to grow the Brussels / Oxford axis, and will look pragmatically at entering other markets in Europe and possibly further afield, either as Fourtold or through partnerships with like-minded consultancies.

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