Top agencies do battle over Heathrow public affairs business
Exclusive: Edelman and Grayling are among those hoping to steal Portland’s account.
Portland has been placed on alert by Heathrow as the airport sets about reviewing its big-money public affairs account with Tim Allan’s firm.
Public Affairs News understands that at least eight agencies have been invited to pitch for the sought-after account.
They are: Blue Rubicon. Burson-Marstellar, Edelman, Grayling, Headland, Hill+Knowlton, Finsbury and Weber Shandwick. A small number of other agencies have also been invited to tender, it is understood.
Portland is hoping to keep the retained account and has been invited to repitch. But the agency will have to do so without one of the key lobbyists who was leading the account, partner Ben Thornton. PAN recently reported that Thornton was leaving Portland after six years to join public affairs firm Stonehaven.
The pitch follows the appointment of Nigel Milton as director of communications in January. The wide-ranging brief encompasses internal communications, external and public affairs, media relations and crisis & issues management. As well as using Portland, Heathrow uses Stonehaven and WPI Strategy for related public affairs work.
The government approved a third runway at Heathrow in October 2016 after a lengthy lobbying battle between Heathrow and Gatwick.
Commenting on the pitch, a Heathrow spokesperson said: "Heathrow is launching a tender process for communications agency support as we seek to build further trust and pride in the airport.
"Following the appointment of Nigel Milton... and the recruitment of new heads of media and of strategic communications, the time is now right to identify the best partner to take Heathrow's communications forward as we focus on supporting operational and commercial colleagues in delivering outstanding performance, transforming customer service and achieving sustainable growth. We thank Portland for their strong support over the past 5 years and look forward to hearing ideas from potential partners on the brief."