PR firm Weber Shandwick launches management consultancy wing

13 November 2018

New York-based public relations firm Weber Shandwick has launched a management consulting wing, United Minds. A fusion of the business intelligence unit of Swedish firm Prime (acquired in 2014) and Weber’s Engagement and Change Management practice, United Minds will deliver end-to-end transformation solutions.

It’s no secret that professional services firms are increasingly drawn to the big ticket fees and diverse opportunities of management consulting. The Big Four, traditionally accounting networks, have continually shifted more resources – and realized increasingly larger proportions of their revenues – from the consulting field. The fact that companies are being increasingly pressured to digitally ‘transform’ to take advantage of new technologies is further heating up the consulting industry, as consultants continue to bolster their digital capabilities to advise those client transformations.

Adjacent professional services firms like law firms have been enticed into the consulting world, expanding their services outward from their traditional spheres. International law firm Allen & Overy recently launched a business consulting unit, seeking to slake client thirst for business advice in the regulatory arena. Meanwhile, law firm HFW also launched a consulting outfit this year, with a much broader offering – including HR, technology, cybersecurity, risk, and communications services.

Now, one of the world’s leading public relations firms – Intergroup-owned Weber Shandwick – has formally launched its own business consulting unit. When Weber acquired Swedish PR firm Prime in 2014, it also took in that company’s business intelligence unit United Minds. Weber has now fused its Employee Engagement & Change Management practice with the management consultancy talent of United Minds. The new consultancy unit will also incorporate recently launched CultureShift, which advises clients in the midst of radical change, including mergers and restructuring. The new United Minds, which consists of a team of 60 people in Europe and North America, will combine data-informed strategy and communications expertise to deliver better change management solutions.PR firm Weber Shandwick launches management consultancy wingWhen other professional services firms branch into consulting, they argue that they can deliver better results in a specific area based on their long-standing expertise in, for example, law. Allen & Overy believe they can deliver better regulatory consulting based on their in-depth legal knowledge. Similarly, Weber Shandwick believe they can deliver better change management services through their deployment of deep communications know-how.

"Successful transformation, at its core, requires a vision that people can believe in,” commented Weber Shandwick CEO Andy Polansky. “United Minds has a unique ability to deliver successful transformation because we help define the change necessary to drive business results, align key stakeholders around a common vision, and then execute creative communications programs that change hearts and minds."

The new consultancy unit will leverage a talent pool of strategists, data scientists, and management consultants – as well as Weber’s extensive network of communications and creative experts, which stretches across 79 cities. United Minds will be led by the former head of Weber’s Engagement and Change practice, Kate Bullinger, who was previously a partner at Mercer Delta Consulting.

"Companies today are dealing with a pace and scale of change like never before,” Bullinger said. “Whether it’s managing through a merger or restructuring, aligning leadership and employees around a new business strategy, or addressing cultural issues following a crisis, we'll partner with clients to deliver transformational programs that lead to lasting business results."

The former CEO of United Minds Sweden – Thomas Areskoug – will lead the global business strategy work for the new United Minds. Previously, Areskoug held senior leadership roles with supermarket chain Coop and eBay. Areskoug also previously worked as an Engagement Manager at prestigious strategy firm McKinsey & Company.

United Minds’ Industry Advisory Council includes an array of high-profile talent, including Alison Quirk, former CHRO of State Street; Don Spetner, Former EVP, Corporate Affairs and CMO at Korn/Ferry International; Gary Sheffer, Former CCO at General Electric; and Per Hallius, former head of BCG Sweden.

The transformation work of the consulting unit will extend beyond the traditional arena of communications, but nonetheless ties into Weber’s expertise in organizational change. "At Weber Shandwick our work has always been rooted in stakeholder engagement,” added Polansky. “From the leadership counsel provided by our corporate and change management experts, to our award-winning creative campaigns that inspire behavior change, we're able to engage stakeholders at every level of an organization to deliver on shared values, vision, and strategy."

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Brent Miles launches cider consulting firm in Hampton, Virginia

28 February 2019

Craft cider industry veteran Brent Miles has started a cider-focused consulting firm to support cider start-ups.

Brown Hat Consulting, based out of Hampton, Virginia, will provide business, facility, and product consulting services to nascent cider businesses, ranging from business plan development, compliance, facility design, and equipment sourcing, to recipe development, ingredient sourcing, and cidermaker training.

Miles was previously head cidermaker at Sly Clyde Ciderworks in Hampton, after a stint as head cidermaker at Seattle Cider Company. His ciders have won gold medals at numerous competitions, and he has lectured at the Oregon State University Craft Cider Startup Workshop.

“American craft cider is still young, but those in the industry with the most experience are running their own companies,” Miles said. “They are often willing to help newcomers in small ways, but they won’t work in depth with their potential competitors. My experience will allow me to help the next wave of cider entrepreneurs avoid common pitfalls, make great cider, and position their businesses and brands for success in the increasingly competitive marketplace.”


Over the past half-decade, alcoholic cider beverages have exploded in popularity. According to figures from Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food department, cider retail sales in the United States jumped from $940 million in 2013 to $1.54 billion in 2017 – achieving a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.1%. IBISWorld, meanwhile, has reported that the number of cider businesses has increased by 18.3%, while the number of employees has grown by 8.2%.

That heady growth has mostly been driven by millennials, who account for most of the cider drinkers in America. Combine that with the fact that people in Portland, Oregon drink the most cider per capita, and a clear image of the hard cider market begins to emerge. 

According to analysts, cider consumption has grown based on demand for gluten-free beer alternatives, as well as a preference for lower-alcohol beverages (cider ranges from 2-8% alcohol by volume). The craft cider sector has swelled like the craft beer market before it, as millennials seek local producers offering unique, quality products. The Northwest Cider Association (representing Washington and Oregon) has seen its membership explode from 10 cidermakers in 2010 to more than 80 members today.
Brent Miles launches cider consulting firm in Hampton, VirginiaThe US cider industry cooled in 2018, however, declining to $1.29 billion in retail sales. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada projects the US cider market will further decline by a CAGR of -2.6% until 2022. According to the report, cider products are being squeezed by other new ready-to-drink products - especially alcoholic soda products that saw success among the gluten-free crowd in 2016 and 2017.

Another factor hitting ciders is high sugar content, as consumers increasingly trend toward curbing sugar intake for health reasons. Alcoholic sodas can be artificially sweetened, creating even tougher competition for hard cider. Despite the recent overall cider market slowdown, growth among small, craft producers remains strong, reaching retail sales growth in the double digits.

RelatedUS Wine market to grow steadily, reaching $43 billion in 2022