- Dentons Global Advisors is poaching talent from public relations agencies like Edelman and FTI Consulting.
- The consulting unit is offering equity to prospective hires to sweeten the deal.
- DGA made two acquisitions since its launch to build out its offering.
DGA just hired three PR executives: Ryan Toohey, a former Edelman exec; Yim Wong, who was the chief digital officer at PR agency Milltown Partners; and Humza Vanderman, previously a managing director at Finsbury Glover Hering.
A PR pro at a different competitor said DGA tried recruiting them by promising equity. While equity is common in the law industry, it is highly unusual in the PR industry.
But PR agencies, in a talent war with each other, are uncorking perks like higher vacation and flexible working hours to attract and retain top staff. Offering a unique perk like equity, the source said, is enough for PR prospects to give firms like DGA serious consideration.
DGA did not dispute that candidates had been offered equity.
DGA has 230 employees, most of whom came from its acquisitions of Albright Stonebridge Group and Interel. The firm aims to build a consulting shop that can compete with the likes of McKinsey and BCG. It’s still growing quickly. Since its launch three months ago, DGA has hired around 20 experts focused on crises, according to a source familiar with the firm.
Despite the swift increase of its headcount, the PR industry is skeptical that it could ever be a legitimate competitor to established crisis communications firms like Sard Verbinnen.
On the one hand, DGA CEO Ed Reilly, the former CEO of FTI Consulting, has a track record in building agencies. And he’s also brought a lot of his heavy hitters from FTI including Melissa Kresse as chief content officer as well as Adam Cubbage and Deborah Scott as heads of New York and EMEA, respectively.
On the other hand, executives from four different PR firms said they haven’t yet crossed paths with DGA in the competition for clients. DGA declined to discuss revenue or the names of its clients.
Also, while Reilly has a track record of successfully building consulting firms, Dentons does not.
The law firm has a history of trying to build consulting brands to complement its legal-services offering. It did so in 2013, 2015, and 2019. This time will be different, Dentons said, because it now has the benefit of outside capital from an unidentified financial partner.