Freshwater PLC


The agency was formed as a sole trader in 1997 by former BBC journalist Steve Howell. In the first three years, the biggest challenge was the difficulty a small team faced in meeting ever-expanding client needs. With success came higher client expectations – which were met by having a highly committed and a tight-knit group of staff. In September 2000, the agency was incorporated as Howell Communications Ltd. And in less than four years, it had grown to become Freshwater, attracting growth capital was raised from a range of investors. In 2007, Freshwater joined the Alternative Investment Market which enabled it to fund the next stage in its growth strategy. This included the acquisition of three companies, namely Lynx PR (specialising in utilities and community relations), Waterfront Public Affairs and Conference Company (based in London) and Merlin Marketing and PR (located in Cardiff).

Success Factor

From the outset, the agency has constantly looked for ways to improve quality and deliver business results for its clients. Freshwater has a track record of winning regional and national awards for the services it provides. The company has also adhered to solid business principles and strong corporate governance, as too many start-ups get carried away by early successes and often opt for short term gain. In contrast, Freshwater retained profit to generate funds for growth organically. Freshwater has also had non-executive directors since incorporation and now has four who bring with them a diversity of business experience. This has stood the firm in excellent stead during the onerous process of joining AIM, and a strong business foundation means investors are more willing to take the business seriously. Finally, as a growing business,it is vital to adapt to the changing internal and external environment. Completing ten acquisitions has highlighted how important it is to listen to others. The company has strived to incorporate the values and cultures of acquired businesses, with several principals now on the Freshwater board. It is vital to maximise the entrepreneurial talent of those who have built up successful businesses themselves, and for both sides to remain flexible.

The Future

The acquisition of Merlin has opened new doors and positions Freshwater at the top of the league in Wales’ PR scene, providing strength in depth and allows the firm to broaden its offering across the UK. With more traditional media is moving online, this changes the way people see the role of news, and Freshwater’s vision is of a full-service media consultancy that offers clients advice whatever the medium. The firm’s in-house video production and editing suite can be used to produce a corporate video, a podcast for a website or a digital press release, but our commitment to quality remains constant. This commitment to providing the very best in high quality consultancy will continue to drive the future of the business. Freshwater’s journey on the acquisition trail has not ended yet and it is still looking to fill several gaps in its geographical reach and areas of specialist expertise.