Advertising Agency Management

Strata Advertising Agency Survey – Uncertainty Sweeps Madison Avenue as Budgets Decrease Editorial Staff

In a recent Strata survey, it was found that the number of advertising agencies anticipating slower growth in the second half of 2017 compared to the first half increased by 158% from the previous quarter.

Over 40% of respondents thought new business was their main concern, with 23% reporting client spending as their biggest concern.

Over 60% of agencies expect their budgets to stay the same or decrease, with 28% expecting an increase. Only 25% anticipated the need to expand staff, a 35% decrease compared to the previous quarter.

“The advertising economy quarterly results, at first glance, are pretty bleak. However, when put in perspective, 2016 was a banner year with the US Elections and the Olympics. Even without general economic uncertainty it would be difficult to sustain that type of growth,” said Judd Rubin, Senior Vice President at Strata.

When it comes to projected platform use, social media has seen a shakeup. Facebook remains perched on top on top with 97% of agencies intending to use it, but Instagram’s projected usage has risen to 64%. YouTube has fallen to 3rdat 60%, and Twitter remains in 4th with 38%.

In spite of these shifts, ad spend on social media hasn’t moved significantly. In addition, 22% of agencies allocate 11-25% of their budgets on social, 74% plan to spend less than 10%.

Focus on traditional media remains strong, with 66% reporting their client’s interest in network TV & cable remained the same when compared to last year. The same could be said for radio at  63%, local TV and cable at 62%. In other forms of media, 76% indicated that their clients were showing a greater interest in digital video, while 78% reported a grown desire of their clients to advertise more on mobile. Nearly half (46%) of agencies also reported that their clients were curious to explore new live streaming technologies such as Facebook Live to spread their campaigns.

Top 7 Digital Advertising Tips for Marketing Strategy

Brian Wallace, Founder & President, NowSourcing

Digital marketing is a very popular approach among companies today. In fact, it has been claimed that 2014 was the year of digital advertising. Advertising and marketing are very effective ways of drawing attention to a product or service. This is because it is direct and targeted at people who would be interested in the product being advertised.

There are 5 main types of ads: Virtual reality ads, 360-degree videos, 3D printing ads, online video ads, and interactive barcodes. The following list provides some top digital ad tips to help you choose which type of ad will be most effective for your business.

Utilize social media to amplify your message

In this day and age, it should go without saying that you should have a social media presence. However, did you know social media can be an extremely effective marketing tool for your product or service? Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter are just some of the many platforms to choose from.

As far as which one might work best for your business, consider who your target audience is and where they are most likely to be. For example, many young people prefer Twitter to other social media channels, so you may want to encourage your college-aged customers to follow you on Twitter if that is where they interact with their peers.

Use video marketing for increased reach and engagement

Video marketing is becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason. YouTube is still the second largest search engine in the world (after Google), and videos are shared over one billion times a day.

Animated explainer videos are very popular on social media, too; consider creating an animated video that explains your product or service to use as a supplement to your website, or use it as an opening video that links to your website.

Be consistent with your branding – use the same colors, logos, fonts, etc. across all platforms

Branding is crucial, and online branding is the most accessible way to reach your target market. It increases trustworthiness in your company if you present yourself consistently across all platforms. Using the same colors, fonts, logos, etc., will help build brand recognition.

Create a strong call-to-action on every page of your website 

A call-to-action (CTA) is something that prompts your customers to do something, like buy a product. It could be as simple as “submit” or “download now.” You need to make sure you include CTAs on every page of your website, and let customers know exactly what to expect when they click it.

Email Lists

Make sure you have an email list so that you can build relationships and maintain contact with potential customers over time. Utilizing an email list will allow you to communicate with customers on a regular basis, something that is often more effective than one time emails or traditional marketing methods. A handy way of reminding the customer that you exist.

Market on multiple channels at once (social media, blogs, webinars)

You are surely already using social media accounts to spread the word about your brand, which is great. But don’t stop there – do the same on other channels too. Your website should be optimized for search engines so that you can attract customers who are actively looking for your products or services online. Remember not to market only on ‘popular’ websites.


Target specific keywords that have higher conversion rates or better ROI potential. Write about three to five keywords that you want your website to rank for and then focus on these alone. You can always expand out to more keywords or even re-visit and update the article with a list of more than five if you feel it necessary, but don’t do this until you’ve had some time testing which search terms are generating the best ROI.

It’s tempting to cram as many keywords into your page headings and titles as possible, but this is actually poor SEO practice. Use short paragraphs with 1-3 sentence headers for optimum readability. Titles should be concise so you can come up with creative ways to fit your keywords in.


Use these tips to get your website ranking for the keywords you want and then focus all of your efforts on getting one or two more linked terms up there, too. You’ll see better results if you pick a couple of specific terms rather than making the page 10 times longer with 10 different synonyms for each term. Do this, and Google will punish you.

Brian WallaceAbout the Author: Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian runs #LinkedInLocal events, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Adviser for 2016-present. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.

Technology in Advertising 

We Have Met The (Publics’) Enemy And It Is Us - Advertising


Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

With new technology being introduced practically on a daily basis, the advertising industry has gone through significant changes which also influenced the habits of consumers as well as how and where marketers can reach those consumers. One of the biggest changes in recent months is both Google and Apple phasing out third-party cookies, which managed to shift the long-standing practices when it comes to targeting ads. 

Additionally, the increase in popularity of streaming TV has also increased how many companies are looking for ad placements on TV. Next, because of the pandemic, there’s been a shift to digital shopping, which led to plenty of new tools and technologies being introduced for digital advertising.

Advertising Changes 

As luxury marketer Rick De La Croix says, “Because of the recent changes when it comes to targeting across Google and Apple, plenty of advertisers have had to scramble to find new ways to reach the target audience. When the two companies announced the new changes that were going to end the long-standing practices in targeting ads, in the face of new user privacy regulations a number of marketers, agencies, and tech companies started looking for workarounds. One of the biggest shifts that appeared after the third-party cookie announcement was a number of PR professionals and marketers deciding to start targeting consumers via email instead.

Collecting Data 

Another big shift coming from the announcement by both Google and Apple was companies working with ad tech and martech companies had to find new ways to target audiences. That meant a number of businesses increased their efforts to gather data on their own consumers, which would help in future ad targeting, with data such as peoples’ emotional reactions being included into the mix. In the last year, a number of big corporations have decided to acquire data and tech companies, in order to help learn more about their consumers that are increasingly shopping online. This way companies can collect first-party data instead of third-party data which would become unavailable in the future.

Although plenty of people expected customer experience to be the focus of targeting in the future, the global pandemic made it incredibly important to focus on consumer experiences, which meant collecting more data. That’s why a number of proprietary tools started surfacing that used technology like biometrics, eye tracking, and artificial intelligence, so companies could  measure a number of different things. Measurements include things such as how long people are watching a video ad or how their mood changes while they are watching those ads.

Advertising and Technology 

Finally, despite a number of brands and corporations cutting down their spending during the pandemic because of the economic downturn, the increase of online shopping and streaming TV made ad tech companies get in front of both consumers and brands in order to help connect both sides and solve various marketing and advertising problems. This meant  a number of existing companies had started scrambling to adapt to this new shift in the digital industry, while new types of specialty companies in advertising  threatened to take their spots. These new companies range from retailers, delivery services, and even social media platforms, who are all looking for a piece of the ad business. 

Ronn Torossian - Pot for PetsAbout the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency 


The Agency Insurgents, Episode #2 – Lauren Parker


The Agency Insurgents Podcast is an irreverent take on life inside the world of Advertising, PR and Marketing. Hosts J. Mark Riggs and Britt Carter dig into the real challenges facing agencies and talk about the sometimes-dirty underbelly of agency life. Each episode features “Five Questions With” the most innovative thinkers in the world of professional communication.

Join us to get the tea on the things that agency people aren’t supposed to talk about but do.  Today’s guest is Lauren Parker, President + CEO, FrazierHeiby.

Lauren Parker is the new face of agency leadership. At a young age, Lauren is running one of the country’s hottest independent shops and has groundbreaking ideas for how agencies can compete and win.

About Our Guest

Lauren Parker, President + CEO, FrazierHeiby

Lauren leads with intent. She actively works to learn something new each day and shares her knowledge and enthusiasm for the profession with her team and clients. She’s an expert in strategic communications planning, crisis and reputation management and brand building. In her role as president and CEO, Lauren is responsible for the agency’s business strategy, growth and culture, in addition to leading key client relationships.

Before joining FrazierHeiby, Lauren oversaw the communications discipline at Hot Paper Lantern as a vice president. She spent the majority of her career at Peppercomm, a top mid-sized agency in New York City, where she led the creation of its Insights & Strategy group blending best practices in research, analytics and marketing communications.

Lauren is currently on the board of ROX (Ruling Our Experiences), a member of the Columbus Business First Leadership Trust and recipient of PR News’ 15 PR Professionals to Watch and 30 Under 30 lists. You can find her most Saturday mornings at the Clintonville Farmers’ Market with her husband and three young children.

Welcome to The Agency Insurgents Podcast


The Agency Insurgents Podcast is an irreverent take on life inside the world of Advertising, PR and Marketing. Hosts J. Mark Riggs and Britt Carter dig into the real challenges facing agencies and talk about the sometimes-dirty underbelly of agency life. Each episode features “Five Questions With” the most innovative thinkers in the world of professional communication.

Join us to get the tea on the things that agency people aren’t supposed to talk about but do!


About the Hosts

J. Mark Riggs

Mark is the founder and CEO of Pemberton which is business consultancy that exists to be the go-to resource for marketing/communications agencies to discover and reveal pathways to organic growth while changing the mindset of an RFP-obsessed industry. Before starting Pemberton, Mark spent 20 years in the agency world working for IPG’s Mullen Lowe, Taylor, the Holmes Report’s Consumer Agency of the Decade, MWWPR and French/West/Vaughan, the Southeast’s largest independent agency. Mark has a reputation as a business-builder has led small accounts, and built multiple multi-million-dollar accounts.

Mark has developed and executed award-winning consumer programs for brands and companies like Allstate, Honda, Ford, Kimberly-Clark, Diageo, the Atlantic Coast Conference and ESPN, to name a few.


Britt Carter 

Britt serves as president of Pemberton, a consultancy that helps professional services companies realize revenue expansion goals more quickly. He is also an executive-level public relations and crisis counselor. Britt launched FleishmanHillard’s North Carolina offices, and served as Senior Partner and General Manager. His clients over the years include Fortune 500 companies, major health systems, and many public and private colleges and universities. Britt began his communication career developing brand identities for pharmaceutical, auto, and technology companies. He was on the team that developed the brand “Viagra” for Pfizer. 

The Agency Insurgents, Episode #1 – Shelley Spector


The Agency Insurgents Podcast is an irreverent take on life inside the world of Advertising, PR and Marketing. Hosts J. Mark Riggs and Britt Carter dig into the real challenges facing agencies and talk about the sometimes-dirty underbelly of agency life. Each episode features “Five Questions With” the most innovative thinkers in the world of professional communication.

Join us to get the tea on the things that agency people aren’t supposed to talk about but do.  Today’s guest is Shelley Spector, Co-Founder of The Museum of Public Relations & President, Spector & Associates.

Shelley Spector is an innovator on every level. She’s an inventor, an innovator, an historian, and a soothsayer on the future of Public Relations. Shelley is an encyclopedia of PR and continues to write new chapters every day. And there are some f-bombs.


Shelley Spector - PR Masters SeriesAbout Our Guest

Shelley Spector, Co-Founder of The Museum of Public Relations & President, Spector & Associates

Named as one of the “most innovative” professionals in the field, Spector has produced award-winning campaigns for some of the world’s top corporations, including AT&T, Bayer, ITT Corporation, Forest Laboratories, Harris Corporation, and Philips.

Spector co-founded the firm in 1991. Within the first year of operation the firm was awarded the Gold Creativity in Public Relations Award for client Embassy Suites.  Since then, the firm has won more than 50 national awards for a variety of Fortune 100 companies. In June 2018, she was presented with the Phil Dorf award for leadership and mentorship at the PRSA New York Big Apple Awards.

Prior to co-founding the firm, Spector worked in financial relations for Hill & Knowlton, RuderFinn and Lobsenz-Stevens. She also served as press director for the American Stock Exchange.

In 1997, she co-founded the Museum of Public Relations, the world’s first and only museum dedicated to preserving and exhibiting the history of the field. It is a 501(c)(3) educational institution, chartered by the New York State Department of Education.

Spector serves as an adjunct professor for the graduate Corporate Communications graduate programs at both Baruch College and NYU. She is a frequent guest speaker at academic, industry and corporate events, talking on subjects ranging from “PR in History” to “The Diversity Imperative,” to “Developing Big Ideas.” She is author of “Public Relations for the Public Good” and co-editor of the upcoming book, “Diverse Voices: Profiles in Leadership,” with the PRSA Foundation.

A graduate of the Journalism program at the University of Rhode Island, Spector earned an M.S. in Radio/TV/Film at the Newhouse School, Syracuse University.



A Potpourri Of PR Lessons Learned From the 2020 Political Scene That Can Apply To Agency Situations

(Author’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of occasional political columns that I’ll be writing for until Inauguration Day, January 20. Previously, I wrote 17 political columns leading up to Election Day. FYI – My first public relations job was with a political firm, where I worked on local, statewide and presidential campaigns. In this column, I write on how PR people can learn tactics from the political scenes that were not taught in communications school classes.)

Arthur Solomon

My first job in public relations was with a political agency, where I worked on local, statewide and presidential campaigns. There were many lessons from my campaign days that I have been using on none political accounts ever since. Today, because of the continuous coverage of political news on cable TV, those lessons are available to anyone who pays attention, and I have always told people who reported to me that valuable PR lessons can be learned from the political scenes.

As in the past, the 2020 political scene offered a master class in do’s and don’ts that can be applied to agency life. As we approach the inauguration of a new president, here are some of the most important lessons from the campaign (and a few from previous campaigns) that elected Joe Biden. 

  • For years, President Trump disparaged the U.S. intelligence services and NATO. But during his speech explaining why he ordered the killing of Iran General Qasem Soleimani the president said he based the attack on intelligence reports and also asked NATO to help in the mid-East. Lesson to Remember: Ours is a business where individuals vie for the same promotions and jealousies regarding others advancements are not uncommon. Nevertheless, never bad mouth your competitors. As the Trump speech showed, you never now when you will need their help.
  • For the media trainers reading this, a suggestion: Use President Trump’s prepared statements and q and a sessions with the media as examples of what a client should not do in press sessions. Because of his record of lying, immediately after the president has concluded his remarks, reporters point out his latest falsehoods. Lesson to Remember: No matter how significant a client’s title, lies will be called out. And in the future, whatever is said will be greeted by the media with skepticism.
  • Client relationships are the most important aspect of account handling. An important lesson used by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, during her standoff with GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell, about when to deliver the impeachment charges to the Senate, is easily transferred to every type of account. If a client suggests doing something that you believe is wrong, don’t automatically agree with the suggestion. Tell the client why you feel it is wrong. Of course, if the client insists you have no choice but to comply, as long as it is not illegal and will not destroy your reputation with the media by disseminating false information. Lesson to Remember: When disagreeing with a client’s suggestion, always do so with alternative suggestions that meets the client’s wants.
  • The New York Times, in its January 6 edition, printed a tweet from Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, saying, “While Democrats are trying to remove President Trump from office, the President is focused on removing terrorists from the face of the earth.” The Democrats responded by saying the matters were not related and that the impeachment process could continue during a debate on Trump’s foreign policy. Lesson to Remember: If you are defending a client with a PR crisis, always expect negative tweets. The savvy PR practitioner should have crafted a series of responses as soon as the crisis developed that can be used as a retort.
  • Be flexible. Despite saying that an impeachment must have bipartisan support, Democrats said the situation had changed and went ahead with their inquiries. Lesson to Remember: Even approved client programs should always be considered an interim draft. If situations change, tactics and elements of the program should be revised.
  • After saying he was too busy to watch the impeachment hearings, President Trump continuously tweeted and commented about them. Lesson to Remember: Contradictory changing of positions makes the media not to believe what is said.
  • During the impeachment hearings, Congressmen would yield their speaking time to others who could better deliver the message, Lesson to Remember: During a press conference always make sure that there is more than once person to answer questions.
  • During the impeachment hearings, the Democrats used constitutional experts to make their case for impeachment. Lesson to Remember: When planning a media tour, or during press conference, third party experts have more credibility than company spokespeople.
  • During the impeachment hearings, every Republican kept repeating the same message points. Lesson to Remember: Message points must be stressed during every media opportunity. A story or TV interview without message points is worthless to the client.
  • When questioned during the impeachment hearings, some members of the committees replied, “I don’t have that information. I’ll get back to you.” Lesson to Remember: A person being interviewed should never wing it. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I’ll provide the information after checking.” 
  • During the impeachment hearings, the Democrats displayed a savvy command of how to gain continuous positive media coverage by staggering the release of transcripts instead of releasing them all at once. Lesson to Remember: Copy that tactic whenever possible when releasing positive important news. If the news is negative to your client, release it all at once. Positive news should be spaced to gain coverage over a long period of time.
  • When representing a client with a PR problem, consider House Speaker Pelosi’s strategy of delaying delivering the impeachment papers to the Senate. Lesson to Remember: Do not rush to immediately answer media questions after a PR crisis occurs. Information helpful to your client might emerge by waiting for a couple of days. A statement like, “We’re investigating the situation and will provide more details as we learn them,” is my go-to media response immediately after a crisis happens. 
  • The way House Speaker Pelosi handled the press conference, on January 15, after announcing the impeachment managers who will act as prosecutors in Trump’s Senate trial, should be a template that PR people should follow during their press conferences. Instead of answering every question herself she deferred to others who were more involved in the specifics of the questions. Lesson to Remember: Providing specific answers, rather than generalizations, makes for a successful press conference. Don’t let one speaker act as a Renaissance person.
  • It’s impossible to derail the coverage of bad news by announcing a new initiative. On January 15, 2020, shortly after House Speaker Pelosi’s press conference announcing the managers who will prosecute Trump in his Senate trial, the president held his own presser regarding a trade deal with China, obviously timed to upstage Pelosi’s announcement. Of course, what he hoped for  didn’t occur. (That tactic hasn’t worked for decades, if ever.) After the president’s announcement concluded, the big news on TV reverted to the impeachment. The three major cable networks, even Trump ally Fox, provided live converge of the House vote to approve the impeachment resolutions and send them to the Senate. That coverage continued throughout the day. The lead story on the following days was also about the impeachment of the president. Lesson to Remember: PR people should remember there is enough media to cover more than one story as a time.
  • When selecting celebrity spokespeople, make certain that they are squeaky clean or their past might become part of any news stories or interviews you arrange, as happened when lawyers Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz were named part of President Trump’s defense team for his Senate impeachment trial. Radio, TV and print media mentioned that both lawyers were involved with negotiating lenient plea deals for sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and that Dershowitz was accused of having sex with an under age girl, which he denied. Stories also mentioned a list of seedy clients that Dershowitz defended. A New York Times story said that Starr was pushed out as the Baylor University president because of his handling of sexual misconduct by the football team. Lesson to Remember: The news reporting prior to the beginning of the clash between prosecutors and defense attorneys in the Senate chamber once again confirmed what I’ve said for decades: Once an entity or individual has been involved with a PR crisis, it becomes embedded in its DNA and can be revived anytime. That’s what happened to Starr and Dershowitz. 
  • Nancy Pelosi gave a lesson that all PR practitioners should remember when having a press conference: Despite being the leader of the Democrats, once the Senate trial began she deferred to those involved in the trial to hold press briefings. Too often during press conferences, the ceo, president or other high corporate executives are featured, instead of individuals who really know the details of the subject being discussed. Lesson to Remember: That leads to an unhappy press and sometime disgruntled reporters who says the PR people wasted their time. (Not good for cementing relations with journalists.)
  • For the better part of a year, maybe longer, Ari Melber (MSNBC) and Brian Stelter (CNN) lionized Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti (who was convicted for financial extortion) without doing their due diligence, before promoting him as the greatest thing since the invention of the light bulb. Lesson to Remember: Before you engage any spokesperson, make certain that complete due diligence is conducted Never accept the assurances of an agent.
  • Joe Biden achieved his Super Tuesday success with minimal advertising support or a break-the-bank PR budget. Nevertheless, he blanketed the country with earned media. That’s what everyone in our business should remember: A savvy publicity program without marketing support can achieve as much, and often greater, media coverage than a program supported by millions of dollars. Lesson to Remember: The size of a budget will not determine whether a story will be used (with the exception of marketing and trade book writers.) What’s important is the uniqueness and newsworthiness of your program and pitch. That will determine whether it results in earned media.
  • The biggest PR blunder since seven Southern states seceded from the union in 1860-61 occurred on February28, 2020, when during a campaign speech President Trump said that the criticism by Democrats over his handling of the coronavirus was “their new hoax.” Even though he did not call the coronavirus itself a “hoax,” his remarks were reconstructed and were brought up during the campaign as if he called the coronavirus a “hoax.” 
  • Lesson to Remember: When preparing remarks, PR people should never use words that can be reworked by opponents.)
  • As the tobacco industry, BP and the National Football League learned years ago, and Boeing, Wells Fargo and President Trump learned more recently, it’s almost impossible to lie during a PR crisis and not be proved a liar by investigative journalists. During the coronavirus epidemic, the Wall Street Journal, a friendly Trump paper, published a lengthy article in the March 13 edition detailing Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus crises. The story also cited instances in which both Trump and Vice-President Pence lied to the public about the situation. And on March 18, the New York Times ran an article detailing day-by-day all the untruths that the president said about the virus. Lesson to Remember: Reporters, whistle blowers and government agencies are watching. Don’t lie during to the media; especially be extra careful of remarks made during a PR crisis.
  • The lesson of President Trump should be required teaching in every PR 101 class: Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, fact checkers tallied around 16,000 lies by Trump since he took office, (which is now estimated at more than 22,000).  He continued lying during the early days of the coronavirus epidemic in the U.S .and has not discussed it with reporters for weeks. As a result, even when he spoke truthfully, what he said was not accepted at face value by many people in and out of the media, His remarks regarding the coronavirus were immediately fact checked. Lesson to Remember: Once you’re caught lying to the media (and in all aspects of life), even when you speak the truth it’s difficult and sometime impossible, to regain trust.
  • For decades I’ve advised clients that announcing bad news on a Friday night or holiday weekend will not prevent the news from receiving major coverage. Obviously, those who advise President Trump don’t agree with me. In an attempt to hide news that they think will receive negative coverage the White House announces it on Friday nights. Not only does that not lessen news coverage but journalists have coined the name “Friday Night Massacres.” Lesson to Remember: Attempting to hide bad news on a Friday night or holiday weekend doesn’t work. What it does is get journalists to investigate and report on the reason behind the timing of the news.
  • For months President Trump made statements regarding to Joe Biden’s supposed memory lapses. But beginning with Biden’s Democratic Convention speech and continuing thereafter, Biden showed that he had not lost a step and said he was in better physical condition than Trump (who is clinically medically obese.) Lesson to Remember: PR people should always remind clients never to make a statement that can be refuted.
  • Let’s face it. CEO’s think they are always the smartest persons in the room. Many, including President Trump, believe they can convince others to agree to their positions. Not so, as Bob Woodward’s book exposing Trump’s hiding the truth about the coronavirus from the public, because the president didn’t want to “cause a panic,” which was the president’s defense, is a valuable lesson learned teaching tool. ” Lesson to Remember: One of the most important jobs of a PR person is to attempt to convince a CEO from engaging in media matters that might have a downside. Use the Trump/Woodward example as a template.
  • A very important lesson from the political goings-on that should be remembered is how easy it is for a client or PR person to lose the respect of the media. Rudy Giuliani is the template for this situation. For years he was known as “Americas’ Mayor,” for demonstrating skillful leadership after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that collapsed New York City’s Twin Towers. But while he was slowly losing respect because of his lying statements in defense of President Trump since 2016, he lost what was remaining of his reputation because of his complete fabrications of why Trump lost the 2020 election. Lesson to Remember: Always be truthful when engaging with the press. It’s difficult for PR people to be trusted and get a good reputation with the media; easy to lose it.

Ever since my political PR days (my first PR job was with a political firm, where I worked on local, state and presidential; campaigns), I have been advising PR practitioners to closely watch the workings of political campaigns, because, I believe, many tactics used in those campaigns can be transferred to non-political agency clients. The 2020 presidential campaign again confirmed to me that I am right to do so. So pay attention to the political scene in 2021.There will be new lessons that can transfer to your agency clients.

The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) or


CommPRO Introduces Startup, News Direct to Agency Leaders

CommPRO Introduces Startup, News Direct to Agency Leaders


Wendy Glavin, Founder & CEO, Wendy Glavin Agency

CommPRO hosted an internal roundtable discussion with PR and Communications agency leaders about the future of communications.  This event was sponsored by the new service, News Direct, and moderated by its CEO and founder, Gregg Castano, former president of Business Wire.  At that time, the roundtable discussion included topics like Brexit, the impeachment hearings, the upcoming election cycle and the Super Bowl. These issues (except for the 2020 election) are behind us.

In December 2019, The World Health Organization’s China office said it began receiving reports in late December of a mysterious virus behind a number of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, a city in eastern China with a population of roughly 11 million people.

How to Manage and Build Brand Reputation

We’ve moved beyond the initial reports with the coronavirus dominating the news cycle hourly and in real-time. An example of a brand managing its brand reputation is Corona Beer. “Since the emergence and spread of COVID-19, there has been a steady stream of memes tying the virus with Corona beerCorona has avoided making any public comments or acknowledgment of the name similarities on social media. For the last 15 years, as social media has grown, brands have been told that they need to participate in the cultural conversation around their brands. 

Perhaps the most valuable asset that any marketer can have is earned media—coverage and brand promotion achieved via free coverage and conversation whose value far outstrips any official media investment. Corona has found itself the unintentional beneficiary of perhaps the worst kind of earned media a marketer could imagine. Saying nothing goes against just about every natural instinct of any marketer. In this case, the silence is as refreshing as a beer with a lime in it.” — Fast Company, March 2020.

The Importance of Messaging

Global, national and local issues highlight the need for brands, agencies, the C-Suite, and the public to stay ahead of current news, industry and business trends to ensure their messaging (or content) is targeted to the right people, in the right way at the right time.

Beyond IT, companies need to break down departmental silos and democratize data throughout organizations beyond for employees to understand new business models and offer training for employees to be more agile and up-skill.

Gregg Castano, Founder and CEO of News Direct and former President of Business Wire moderated the event to understand:

  1. How agencies use digital communications
  2. How digital has changed our jobs and how we operate
  3. What are the most effective tools to use?
  4. How has public relations changed?

How Do Agencies Use Digital Communications

Attendees shared their various strategies, but all agreed that digital is “what we do” and that the lines have blurred between PR, advertising, marketing, social media and more. Traditional public relations was originally based on obtaining earned media in print and broadcast through press releases, media kits, direct mail and other collateral materials.

Now modern communicators use public relations which encompasses “paid media,” or advertising, “owned media,” such as, websites, blogs, company newsletters, videos, email marketing, social media, apps, and “earned media,” or editorial coverage.

With multichannel strategies, including, television, social media, direct mail, surveys, live chat, SEO, messaging, data analytics, CRM, multi-platforms, USG (user-generated content), podcasts, AI, machine learning, personalization, data privacy and more, the agency leaders agreed that focusing on the customer is key.

Throughout the last five years, the advent of new and existing technologies have has placed more pressure on companies to manage their data. Many try to do so in-house but find it complex, costly and difficult to scale.  

Since marketers are focused on personalization, transparency and understanding  the meaning of the data, insights can’t be derived from a single data point. Instead, marketing professionals use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs); specific marketing metrics for companies to use, track and measure defined goals.

For example, are you measuring website visitors, operations, sales, customer retention, marketing-to-sales leads, conversion rates, customer lifetime value, cost per customer, online marketing ROI, organic search, social media reach, mobile traffic and more?

Often, individuals who are not tech-savvy find it difficult to determine the most effective measurements. Companies need to break down departmental silos across functions, communications, the board, the C-Suite and junior staff to ensure the data is understood throughout organizations. Successful digital transformations are achieved when company cultures are built to embrace change, adaptation and adoption.

What Are the Most Effective Channels?

Gregg asked attendees participants what channels do they use? The answers centered around understanding the customer and the audiences, before determining the tools, platforms and channels. 

According to Gartner’s Annual CMO Spend Survey 2019-2020, 76% of marketing leaders say they “use data and analytics to drive key decisions,” but many still struggle to get this right. You need the right data to make smarter decisions. For example, Gartner found a “bias for volume metrics over value metrics.”

Volume or vanity metrics include counting followers, engagement and shares. But, metrics don’t offer actionable insights. Instead, brands need to analyze qualitative and quantitative data (value metrics) to obtain a deeper understanding of their customers behaviors, interests, needs and the impact of those metrics on the business as a whole.

Most clients want publicity, but public relations and strategic communications have morphed into a broader management function. PR is more of an art that includes storytelling, messaging, relationship-building, identifying compelling, original, educational, thought-provoking and/or entertaining content; the value of which comes from people rather than technology. 

“Thirty-five years after Robert Waterman’s observation in “ In Search of Excellence “ found that companies were “data rich and information poor,” little has changed. For sure companies are “data richer,” having exponentially more data at their disposal. But they are still information poor, even as leaders have implemented a wide array of programs aimed at exploiting data. 

Most still struggle to build data into their business strategies and, conversely, to align their data efforts to the needs of the business. There are a host of reasons, from lack of talent to unreasonable expectations to culture. Solving these problems is essential for those that wish to unleash the power of data across their organizations.” — Harvard Business Review, March 2020

“Owning” the Strategy and the Story to Shift Perceptions

Often, clients, particularly in tech, don’t understand the differences between marketing, PR and social media so agencies are taking on more of a consulting role. Also, are brands placing a disproportionate value on one type of media versus another?

Gregg asked how the use of press releases has changed? 

Some say that press releases are dead. Others say, it’s the distribution and content that’s changed. Instead of writing a pitch and sending out an email blast, it’s about custom-targeting journalists. To do so, PR professionals need to read and research what is of interest to editors, then find a way to pitch a newsworthy story, offer a CEO interview, background information for editors to use in the future, and more.

One attendee said PR is the crown jewel.. For example, if you see an ad for a car, you’re likely to ignore it (unless it’s coming from a large company or during a big event, like the Super Bowl). Most of us watch the Super Bowls ads to be entertained rather than choosing to purchase the products.

In comparison, if you read an article in Forbes about a company, product or service,  this provides third-party credibility (earned media). As a 30-year marcomms professional, I know the value of obtaining earned media for global companies, SMBs and startups to raise brand awareness, build and strengthen relationships, obtain partnerships, grow and generate revenue.

Using social media, we build communities, learn about the trends, and broaden our reach. But, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It takes time, experience, in-depth research and strategic analysis to identify the most effective marketing strategies for clients.

We need to guide our clients by telling them the truth about what’s working and what isn’t by going back to the basics: Who is the client? What are their values and mission? How do they differ from the competition? Who are the target audiences, including shareholders, employees, customers, prospects, influencers and the media? And, how do we reach them?

In the end, it’s all about the story and making an emotional connection.

CommPRO Introduces Startup, News Direct to Agency LeadersHow News Direct Can Help

News Direct’s custom-built news and content distribution platform was designed to meet the demands of today’s strategic communicators, investor relations and corporate communications professionals. 

The company is launching its service on May 1, 2020 with a pre-launch for “early adopters” and to obtain beta testers that is being called “Early Access”.  Any approved organization that enrolls between May 1 and June 30 will be able to distribute an unlimited amount of content, at no charge, for a 30 day period. In addition to bringing traditional news release distribution to the next level, News Direct will be introducing other ground-breaking features including:

  • Distribution of standalone multimedia
  • Automated workflow for increased efficiency and productivity
  • A secure environment for seamless collaboration that enables users to share and review content with key stakeholders within the platform while maintaining total document control
  • Flexibility to select distribution options that are segmented into distinct categories such as geographic media, online news, disclosure, and trade media, without impacting cost
  • Transparent rates with no length, geographic charges or surcharges
  • Annual subscriptions calculated on a flat rate per asset basis and tied to the volume of assets purchased
  • Live chat and 24/7 customer support
  • Enhanced metrics including earned media pickup, stock performance data, social media activity and qualified traffic numbers for original content that auto-publish on wire feeds

News Direct founder Gregg Castano said, “Our team of industry veterans have  decades of experience-based insight into content and news distribution. This provides our team  us with a unique insights perspective on into the seismic challenges facing our business, and the inspiration and vision to solve overcome modern workflow and content distribution obstacles.

We’ve systematically reimagined every step of the process—content formats, the  user experience, security, pricing, customer support and analytics.

During these uncertain times, more people are working virtually. As we all try to adapt to the current environment, use the time to learn about new resources that can help you stay ahead of the curve.

Wendy Glavin - Everyone is Not a Journalist – Think Before You Hit PrintAbout the Author: Wendy Glavin is Founder and CEO of Wendy Glavin, a NYC full-service agency. Wendy is a 20-year veteran of corporate, agency, consulting and small business ownership. She specializes in B2B2C marketing communications, PR, social and digital media. Her website is: Contact her at:

Layne Schmerin on The Growth and Domination by Top Tree Agency

CommPRO Editorial Staff

Layne Schmerin and Top Tree agency have started to become common names and buzzwords across the marketing space. As the world of marketing is almost solely done on the internet, Top Tree capitalized on this as the marketing techniques of our parents’ time are rather vague and useless today.

According to correspondence with the co-founder of the marketing firm, Layne Schmerin,  we got a decent understanding of how his organization isn’t just remaining focused however how it has gotten one of the pioneers of the showcasing game.

Top Tree began right off the bat as a cannabis dedicated firm founded by Layne and his brother, as they understood that the expansion procedure his office made out of need filled in as a solid base for all hurdles he immediately moved core interest of the organization.

Initially founded to increase interest across the board of the medicinal uses of cannabis due to their family member’s battle with cancer, the co-founders decided that it was time to take matters in their own hands to educate the public about the good that comes from cannabis and shun negativity thrown towards cannabis by mainstream marketing media.

Hence was brought into the world Top Tree Agency by Layne and his brother.

Layne claims that they saw that they were acceptable at making efforts and acknowledged that they could help such a large number of different organizations, so the switch to a full marketing service to other clients was a no-brainer.

The Agency has now worked with significant brands, for example, Advanced Nutrients and Ignite Cannabis. With their web based life reach of more than 10 million clients, they can contact for all intents and purposes any crowd. Top Tree has lead marketing campaigns for companies affiliated with Shark Tank as well as music giant Macklemore. The firm presently has over 619k followers across the globe and is growing at an increasingly rapid rate with the ability to provide quality service across the United States. The page is developing by hundreds day by day. With this unfathomable, totally natural, reach, Top Tree Agency can make showcasing efforts of any size for any crowd.

In the same way as other marketing firms, @toptree was developed utilizing images and relatable social media substance. One thing they really push for is using social media influencers such as celebrities to effectively promote by organic traffic growth. As individuals saw this substance they would tag or impart to their companions to get a giggle. With each tag, remark or offer the page developed. The crowd expanded, and soon it was its very own specialty.

In addition to the fact that Top trees have the range and establishment to make marketing efforts, they likewise have the persistence and ability. ”We treat every customer as their own substance. We make a customized arrangement and guide them consistently” Layne mentioned. This personalization can make any customer feel good confiding in the organization. The total straightforwardness that Top Tree guarantees is actually what organizations need when they really need to develop and pick up commitment.

We are now living in a period in which advertising can be utilized to persuade individuals to do anything. Brands and Agencies are utilizing online networking to adapt everything. The wave is moving rapidly, be that as it may, through adjusted development and careful personalization, Top Tree Agency stays probably the greatest rival in the showcasing business.

Top Tree is en route to expanding rapidly in the coming months. The firm is looking to add valuable clients and provide excellent customer service while being agnostic to brand, service, or business.

Marketing Trends Shared by Industry Leaders at Advertising Week New York

Marketing Trends Shared by Industry Leaders at Advertising Week New York - Commentary


Loralyn Mears, PhD

Multi-track conferences are often difficult for people to navigate. Despite the effort put into planning your schedule, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) will creep in. You’ll worry that you’re going to miss something. An example is Advertising Week New York which is filled with industry experts, leaders and gurus which makes it challenging to select which event to attend. At any given moment, there were at least 20-25 fascinating marketers on stage presenting to captivated audiences. Here are 15 trends identified and discussed in the first two days of the conference.

2019 Trends in Marketing

THE COST OF CONTENT IS RISING: We all recognize the value of good content but many of us may be surprised by the rising cost of quality material. For example, in the last few weeks, Warner Media paid $425M for the rights to Friends, Netflix paid $500M for Seinfeld and HBO is rumored to be negotiating a $1B deal to acquire Big Bang Theory.

TRADITIONAL ADVERTISING NO LONGER WORKS: Prior to the availability of Skip Ad technology (which enables viewers to exit out of an advertisement after a few seconds), storytellers would slowly build momentum until they delivered the punchline. The Skip Ad feature, originally debuted by Google, puts consumers in control. Ads must now captivate customer attention out of the gate in less than 3-4 seconds.

“VIDEO SEQUENCE” IS A NEW STORYTELLING TECHNIQUE: Consumers have been conditioned to view digital ads in 15-60 second increments. Marketers can schedule ad playback in a defined sequence to tell a story, essentially mimicking how a book reveals something new with each chapter. This new technique is enabling marketers to connect with their audiences despite Skip Ad technology.

MICRO-INFLUENCERS ARE THE NEW BRAND AMBASSADORS: The need for brands to be authentic was identified nearly 20 years ago but it’s taken that long to go mainstream. Big brands are shifting away from high-gloss videos starring celebrities and produced by agencies. Enter the era of the micro-influencer (typically with 30-50,000 followers) who is producing raw content that is more relatable to consumers.

CUSTOMERS ARE WILLING TO GIVE YOU THEIR DATA: Research proves that some customers are comfortable with giving up their data and privacy if it offers them personalization or customization about matters that are relevant to them. This includes finances, purchasing recommendations, streaming entertainment options, health and so on. However, their tolerance for intrusion and disruption by ads is low which imposes limits on the amount of advertising.

ACCOUNTABILITY IS COMING: According to the speakers, the influencer marketplace is reaching maturity which will drive greater performance metrics reporting and accountability. Metrics will expand beyond the numbers of followers and views into the level of engagement. Technology enables marketers to specifically pinpoint the moment in time that a consumer exits out of a digital ad which can inform future content. Influencers are beginning to see the effects of an accountable world. For example, cosmetics influencer, James Charles, recently saw his viewership cut in half once his audience realized he made a deal with the competitor of his sponsor.


Gary Vee presented his audience with a thesis on the need for more content


SHOPPABLE CONTENT IS BEING PAIRED WITH CONVERSION TECHNOLOGY: Brands are going directly to consumer via Over The Top (OTT) internet streaming media services, bypassing satellite, broadcast, cable and other traditional television platforms. Technology enables sales conversion, complete with 1-click payment and delivery which is driving the increase in ads with shoppable content.

BIG BRANDS HAVE BECOME REACTIVE: Once the champions of long-term strategic planning, big brands are now questioning everything. They act immediately.

ADVERTISING ON TV IS DYING A SLOW DEATH: Brands are pulling out of TV and reallocating their advertising dollars to micro- and macro-influencers. Although display advertising and TV are losing market share, their reach is still enormous. TV ads aren’t going to die anytime soon but the end is in sight.

FULL-SERVICE AGENCIES ARE MAKING A COMEBACK: For nearly a decade, uber-specialization has been the modus operandi of most agencies. Creatives operated independently of the media while they liaised with analytics vendors to procure and interpret data. Once again, full-service agencies are on the rise again offering both media and creative services with data analytics at the center of their offering.

HOMOGENIZATION IS HAPPENING: This is “an ugly trend” according to the speakers. Uniformity is “dull” and is emerging as a macro trend with cultures slowly being assimilated. That macro trend is impacting our feeds: we’re seeing the same types of ads and imagery across all platforms. For an example, look at Instagram where the photos are beginning to look the same.

VIDEO IS GOING HIGH TECH: Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are being combined with video. Consumers are getting an increasingly personalized experience with immersive technology. In terms of platforms, TikTok has unleashed new expressions of creativity. Videos have been proven to drive engagement more than text.

SONIC AND SOUND ICONOGRAPHY HAS ARRIVED: With voice technology, home systems and AI-enabled mobile assistance, sonic and sound iconography are new tools at the disposal of marketers. Voice hasn’t had the growth expected, potentially due to how it excludes the hearing-impaired. Once gestural languages and devices that can interpret them advance, voice and sound iconography will be omnipresent. Intel was among the first to leverage sound as part of its brand, infusing four tones into its logo. Last week, Mastercard unveiled their new sound iconography which will be part of every ad. Every time that a consumer swipes their credit card, the point of sale device will play its melody to reinforce the brand.

PRIVACY IS GETTING PERSONAL: Within the marketing industry, consumers are frustrated by the legal-ease of extensive data privacy contracts and simply want to check the box, “ You cannot sell my data.” But it’s not that simple. People are now personally setting the course for privacy via self-agency. People are no longer randomly posting what they’re doing throughout the day. Instead, they are publishing content selectively and more strategically, defining their identity and personal brand through more thoughtful posts. Collectively, “young adults are retreating from social media” to the privacy of closed group chats to stay connected in micro groups.

VISUAL LISTENING HAS ARRIVED: Today, about three-quarters of all conversations are visual. People are using photos and images to express themselves. Can you hear what my photos are saying? Brands are developing tools to addres this question, designing algorithms to “listen” to photos, find patterns and interpret the meaning behind the visual dialogue. With growing precision, marketers can now apply AI to visually analyze the daily lives of its target audience customers more specifically.

Advertising Week is a one-of-a-kind event. With nearly 100,000 attendees, 300 events and over 1,200 speakers, there is much to learn and be gained.

About the Author: Loralyn Mears, PhD is a freelance marketer and columnist focused on telling the story of entrepreneurs, their startups and their technology.





First I Launched A PR Firm. Now I Launched A Talent Agency. Now I Am Asking Myself, ‘Why?’

Thomas J. Madden, Chairman and CEO, Transmedia Group 

Since millions are following a growing number of influencers who are merely pretty pixels, I’m wondering why hire a flesh and blood celebrity, a supermodel or a social media influencer to market products when you can create the ideal brand ambassador from scratch?

I’ll tell you why.

Virtual influencers have their “strawbacks,” my new AI word for “drawbacks.”

While virtual influencers are rising in popularity, fans are engaging less with them than with the average fashion taste-maker online, according to Captiv8, which connects companies to social media influencers.

So why spend a lot of time pixelating and promoting an avatar who is basically a souped-up mannequin in a wider online shop window called the Internet.

I’m here live and well to tell you that a flesh and blood influencer can be much more peer-to-peer persuasive?

Yes, I still have hope for humans in advertising and on social media.  So MaddenTalent models relax, don’t leave me.

And then there are these mega embarrassments, if pixelators don’t look out.

According to an article in The New York Times by Tiffany Hsu, the kiss between Bella Hadid and Miquela Sousa, part of a Calvin Klein commercial last month, struck many viewers as unrealistic, even offensive.

Ms. Hadid, a supermodel, identifies as heterosexual, and the ad sparked complaints Calvin Klein was deceiving customers with a sham lesbian encounter.

“The fashion company apologized for “queer-baiting” after the 30-second spot appeared online.”

Still, Ms. Hadid, is heavenly human. Everything about Ms. Sousa, better known as Lil Miquela, is hellishly manufactured: the straight-cut bangs, Brazilian-Spanish heritage, her beautiful friends.

Lil Miquela, who has 1.6 million Instagram followers, is a computer-generated virtual influencer.  Still, more than 80,000 people stream Lil Miquela’s songs on Spotify each month.

Until last year, many of her fans assumed she was a flesh-and-blood 19-year-old. But Lil Miquela is composed of pixels and was designed to attract follows and likes.  Maybe proposals?

Today her success raises a question for companies hoping to connect with consumers spending copious time online: Why hire a celebrity, a supermodel or even a social media influencer  when you can create the ideal brand ambassador from scratch?

That’s what the fashion label Balmain did last year when it had British artist Cameron-James Wilson design a “diverse mix” of digital models, including a white woman, a black woman and an Asian woman.

The rising presence of remarkably realistic computer-generated beings in ads is startling and can lead to manipulated videos that can make Nancy Pelosi appear to be slurring and Mona Lisa speaking.

Yes, these are boldly creative, digitally-treacherous times as humans become more adept at faking reality.

Has “Fake News” now gone digitally into online advertising?

About the Author: Thomas Madden is CEO of TransMedia Group, one of the largest independent PR firms in Florida, where it currently operates. The firm’s clients have included AT&T, American Red Cross, City of New York, GL Homes, Jordache Enterprises, McCormick and Schmick’s, Rexall Sundown, Stanley Steemer.       


Leadership Coaching and Development Service for Public Relations, Corporate Communications and Agency Leaders Launched

CommPRO Editorial Staff

CommunicationsMatch has partnered with Ken Jacobs, ACC, CPC, to provide leadership coaching and development as a service to corporate and agency public relations, advertising,  communications and marketing leaders and executives. Jacobs’ industry experience, combined with the rigorous discipline of a professionally trained coach, helps executives strengthen their leadership skills, address blind spots, navigate through change, and meet and exceed their organizational, career, and personal goals. Using a six-step process customized for each client,
coaching engagements empower leaders to realize their full potential and address issues that are getting in the way of their and their organization’s success.

“Ken is uniquely qualified to help C-suite executives, their next tier leaders and team members achieve ambitious goals by become more motivating, inspiring, and effective leaders,” said Simon Erskine Locke, founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatch. “We’re delighted to partner with him and look forward to establishing additional relationships with exceptional service and technology providers to the communications industry.”

The new service is offered through a new Coaching & Development page on CommunicationsMatch. In a new “Communicators-to-Communicators” 3-Minute Insights Video interview, Jacobs outlines why he became a coach, the coaching process, and potential outcomes of an executive coaching engagement. “Many industry executives are promoted into positions of leadership because of their track record in public relations, communications, client service, and business-building.” said Jacobs. “Issues related to leadership can have a significant impact on the ability to attract and retain talent. In addition to helping leaders realize their ambitions, coaching has a key role to play in an agency or corporate communications department’s success.”

Find out more about coaching for public relations and corporate communications leaders and set up a complimentary session with Jacobs to discuss your or your organization’s goals.
CommunicationsMatch offers communications, PR and marketing agency search, search consulting, next day PR opinion surveys, programmer and developer search and agency promotion services and tools.

With more than 5,000 agencies and individuals on the platform, CommunicationsMatch helps companies find,  shortlist, and engage communications, marketing, digital and branding agencies, consultants and freelancers by industry and communications expertise, location and size, membership organizations, diversity and designations.

Kathy Ring Named Recipient of the Chicago Advertising Federation 2018 Silver Medal Award Editorial Team

The Chicago Advertising Federation (CAF) has named Kathy Ring, CEO of Starcom USA, as the 2018 Silver Medal Award winner.

Kathy Ring is the 24th professional and 4th woman to receive the prestigious award. The Silver Medal Award recognizes a distinguished member of the Chicago advertising community for his or her career contributions and accomplishments. This criteria includes:

Creative ability

  • The candidate must show evidence of a consistent and high degree of creative, original thinking in whatever phase of advertising he or she has worked.
  • Contributions to the general advancement of advertising
  • The candidate must have worked towards increasing the stature and raising the standards of the advertising profession.
  • Contributions to specific area of advertising
  • The candidate must have achieved success working in one of the following areas of advertising: advertising agency, advertiser, media or advertising service company.
  • Contributions to the community
  • The candidate should have been active in civic, religious or other groups dedicated to some phase of human or social welfare.

Past recipients have included Burrell Communications Co-CEO, Fay Ferguson, Spark Foundry CEO, Chris Boothe, Former Digitas North America CEO, Tony Weisman, among many other inspirational leaders within the advertising industry.

“Kathy Ring is a stand-out leader within the Chicago advertising community and the industry overall,” said Kim Theiss, VP, Disney Advertising Sales and President, Chicago Advertising Federation. “Kathy’s passion and dedication to mentoring and developing talent, combined with her commitment to the Chicago and Midwest market was truly what made her stand out for our Board of Directors at the Chicago Ad Federation. Kathy is committed and consistently giving back to our Chicago community, and she is making a difference each day.”

“I am truly honored and have been lucky to be surrounded by inventive clients, industrious activation partners and, of course, tremendous co-workers,” said Kathy Ring, Starcom USA CEO. My passion continues to be mentoring, inspiring and supporting talent – and watching them grow into authentic, strong leaders throughout our advertising community.”

A celebration honoring Kathy will be held at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019 and will be open to CAF members and the general public. Sponsorships and congratulatory ad placements are available and will be posted at

PR Agency Search Consultant Checklist: Questions to Ask Before You Hire      

Agency Search Consultants


When it’s time to hire a mid or senior level employee, companies use headhunters to conduct a search, vet candidates, coordinate interviews, conduct a background check, and help the hiring manager select the strongest person for the position.

Why go to all this effort? Because companies want to get the very best people. They want the recruiter to conduct a broad search, to shortlist the most qualified candidates, and use a proven process to evaluate the candidates’ capabilities and fit, before making the decision to hire. And, of course, this all takes time, something busy executives simply don’t have.

Why Use An Agency Search Consultant When Hiring An Agency?  



When you are ready to identify and hire a public relations/communications firm or consultant, you’ll want to ensure you’re getting the very best firm for your business. Since the agency will play a key role in building and managing your brand and reputation, this is one of the most important decisions companies make. You don’t want to get it wrong. And, let’s not forget that the budget may be equivalent to multiple employees.

As with recruiting for employees, getting expert help in the form of an agency search consultant or “agency headhunter,” helps companies manage and navigate the search process to select the best agency for the project. In the process, the business, communications, or marketing leaders responsible for the search save time and can remain focused on their day jobs. 

Hiring an Agency Headhunter

The principal role of an agency search consultant is to help companies identify, evaluate and, ultimately, choose a public relations or communications firm with the expertise, capabilities, strategic approach and culture best-suited to the scope of work, the budget, and the communications and business goals of the client organization.

This is a significant responsibility. A successful relationship with an agency search consultant requires an effective partnership based on knowledge of the industry, search expertise and experience, the alignment of incentives, and a clear understanding of the client’s business and goals.

Although a very limited group of agency search consultants have been working with clients to find PR agencies for many years – RFP Associates has a decade of experience – a growing number of consultants have been hanging out their singles. Consultants that have traditionally focused on advertising have added PR search to their offerings. As a result, there are a range of consultants to choose from with varying backgrounds, expertise, and business models.

To help companies find and select agency search partners, we’ve developed an Agency Search Consultant Checklist with questions to ask before engaging an agency search partner.



Here are some of the key considerations the checklist addresses:

Experience & Track Record of Search Consultants 

Does the agency search consultancy have a track record of success? 

Agency search consultancies should be able to point to successful searches and productive client-agency relationships. Companies engaging a search consultant need to ask for references. When reviewing them, it’s important to ask not only about the outcome of searches but about the process itself. Did the consultancy help achieve desired outcomes? Did the consultant work effectively with them? Would they hire the search consultancy again?

Knowledge of PR Agencies and the Industry 

Are the search consultants PR experts?    

One issue that makes PR agency search and selection so challenging today is the sheer number and breadth of agency candidates. While there are large agencies with dozens of offices across the country and around the world, there are also hundreds of excellent mid-sized independents, boutique agencies, “virtual” firms, and individual consultants who might be a good fit.

An agency search consultancy should have a deep understanding of the practice of PR, how agencies operate, and how they bill for their time. Having industry knowledge and expertise is essential to help companies assess agencies and develop a scope of work with an appropriate budget.

Agency Search Services – Network and Search Tools


 How extensive is the search consultant’s PR agency network and how do they find agencies that match needs? 

There are thousands of agencies and consultants that may be a great fit for clients. It’s important that an agency search consultancy has the ability to conduct a comprehensive search to identify those with the industry experience and communications expertise that match each client’s goals. The combination of search tools, extensive relationships, and being plugged into the industry, combined with technology-driven tools to engage firms, offers a powerful path to pulling together a focused shortlist of agencies that are qualified and a good fit. 

Transparent Business Model

What is the business model for the agency search consultant? How do they get paid?

Agency search consultants should work exclusively for the client on a fee-for-service basis. If they are paid as brokers by agencies, and/or receive a portion of the first year’s fee, consultants will be motivated to steer you toward a preferred agency based on compensation, or recommend agencies that are likely to charge the largest annual fees. And remember that consultants who are in fact brokers for agencies may not charge the client for the search, but that’s because they receive compensation from the agency that has engaged them. The financial incentive is to sell you on who they represent, not the firm that’s best for the assignment.

To avoid conflicts of interest, a search consultancy should be “agency-agnostic” and offer services and transparent pricing based on the search assignment – your search assignment. 

Well-Defined Agency Search Process 

What is the agency search process?    

The process a search consultancy uses to help you identify and hire a PR agency matters – a lot.

It should start with a comprehensive search for agencies with capabilities that match needs then detail how they will shortlist agencies and select firms for a request-for-proposal (RFP). It should map out the path to identifying finalists for presentations and selecting the agency best-suited for your business or organization. And, the process should be fair to candidate agencies – a level playing field is essential to uncovering the very best agency to meet your needs.

Agency Search Consultant Support Services & Chemistry 

How do consultancies support companies during an agency search and what’s their approach to working with clients?



It’s important to ask about the ways in which the agency search consultants will support and engage with your company during the search process. One issue to explore is whether they’ll work with your company to define the scope of work and ensure that you are ready to start a search. Asking about the way the search consultancy supports clients to on-board agencies, and if they remain engaged to ensure agency-client relationships are working, will provide insights into whether the search consultants are transactional or relationship-oriented.

As with the engagement of agencies, a search consultant’s fit with an organization is an important consideration. The agency search process, which can take as long as three months, will require on-going engagement and dialog between the company and search consultant to make sure it’s as efficient and effective as possible. While knowledge of an industry is a plus, it’s essential to have a productive and collaborative working relationship.

Using these points as a guide when you’re negotiating with or retaining the services of an agency search consultant will lead to a more effective and efficient search process. Most importantly, it will save you time and instill confidence that the PR agency you hire is best positioned to meet the specific communications needs of your business.

Find out more about our agency search consulting services or visit

About the Authors

Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO, CommunicationsMatch

Locke developed and launched CommunicationsMatch, an agency search and engagement platform with 5,000 listed firms and professionals in 12 countries, to help companies find and engage agencies, consultants and freelancers that match needs. A founder of communications agencies and startups, he previously headed communications functions at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank. 

Steve Drake and Robert Udowitz founded RFP Associates in 2011 after observing the agency selection process from “both sides of the aisle” and recognizing the need to streamline and improve the way searches are made and agencies selected from an honest, unbiased approach. Over the course of their careers Robert and Steve have worked at agencies, corporations, and trade associations in New York, Washington, and, for Steve, in Beijing, China, where he opened Fleishman-Hillard’s first Asian office. In recent years they have also been sole practitioners for a variety of clients seeking media, crisis, and strategic counsel. 


PR Agency Search Consultants: Why Use An Agency Search Consultant? A Primer   


In the pre-digital world, searching for a PR agency was easier. There were fewer agencies and PR was, simply, PR. Today, finding agencies that are the best match for needs is a challenge. Agency search consultants and technology are streamlining the process to improve outcomes.         

In the digital communications world there are tens of thousands of “communications” agencies with PR, digital, SEO and other skillsets companies need to build their brands. In an age of highly specialized firms and teams – focused around industry and specific PR and digital marketing skillsets – the best agency or consultant for your project can come in all shapes and sizes.

How can companies find the agencies that are the strongest fit for an assignment? And, how can agencies with the skillsets companies need get found?

There are a number of digital search solutions. Trade media and associations offer agency directories, others use recommendation-based tools and, of course, there is Google. But, until CommunicationsMatch™, there wasn’t an industry-wide online search and engagement tool to find agencies, consultants and freelancers by a broad range of search criteria important to companies or with online RFQ and RFP tools required to shortlist agencies that match needs.

But technology can only take us so far. The human vetting and selection process for an agency is critical to hiring success.

This is where agency search consultants can play a key role, and one of the reasons CommunicationsMatch and RFP Associates partnered to support companies in their search process.

Search consultants have always been a resource available to heads of communications. Their role has evolved along with the industry in ways that aren’t necessarily understood.

So, here’s a primer:

What do search consultants do?

Search consultants not only identify and shortlist agencies, but also work closely with clients on strategy and materials to achieve desired outcomes. A well-written RFP, for example, is just as important as a well-executed search, in that all agencies need to be clear on the scope of work, budget, timeline, and other hiring criteria and measures of success.

While creating an agency shortlist is a key starting point for a thorough agency search process, the real value – and time savings for the client – is for a search consultant to manage the process of engaging with candidate agencies to ensure they are both qualified and not conflicted for an assignment, and then to manage the RFP process in a way that helps select finalists that are truly well-matched for the client’s assignment.

Good consultants work with their clients on the preliminary vetting of agencies and understand the requirements of procurement departments in order to satisfy the third-party hiring rules of an organization and to ensure a transparent and well-documented process.

Why use an agency search consultant?

There are a number of reasons why companies may – as has long been the case in the advertising industry – want to engage a search consultant.

Limited time and capacity for a search is one reason companies choose this path, along with the strategic counsel and knowledge of the agency landscape a search consultant can offer. Although agency search consultants won’t entirely eliminate the burden of search on business, marketing or communications executives, they can significantly reduce it. By taking a flexible approach to consulting, companies can determine where consultants can provide the greatest ROI in the search process based on needs and capacity.

By using a search consultant companies can also maintain the client’s anonymity while they identify potential agencies for confidential assignments.

What role does the client play when working with an agency search consultant?

Clients should remain involved in every step of the search process to ensure the hired agency is, indeed, the best fit – in much the same way a manager works closely with an executive search firm when hiring an individual. Bottom line: searches and the client’s role in them must be structured around their needs and preferences.

How much do agency search consultants cost?

Search consulting fees will be driven by the size and scope of the assignment, so it’s important for both parties to be clear about expectations and deliverables. A turn-key search for a large company will take several months and likely constitute a small portion of the overall agency budget, but save a company hundreds of hours of their time. Smaller assignments to consult on the process will have a more modest price tag. The best way to look at fees is in terms of the value provided across a range of dimensions.

The value delivered when the right agency is found – similar to when a company hires someone who goes on to be a star performer – may be multiples of the fees involved, simply because of the quality of the work that agency is able to do.

And, this is key: Any search consultant should be an honest broker with no ties to particular agencies. The transaction should only be between client and consultant and, more importantly, it should be based on a consultant’s fee scale versus any formula that takes into account the final budget a client has determined for the ultimately selected agency.

Find out more about our Agency Search Consulting and PR RFP services. For guides, research, articles and videos on agency search visit our Agency Search Resources page. 

About the Authors

Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO, CommunicationsMatch

Locke developed and launched CommunicationsMatch, an agency search and engagement platform with 5,000 listed firms and professionals in 12 countries, to help companies find and engage agencies, consultants and freelancers that match needs. A founder of communications agencies and startups, he previously headed communications functions at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank. 

Steve Drake and Robert Udowitz founded RFP Associates in 2011 after observing the agency selection process from “both sides of the aisle” and recognizing the need to streamline and improve the way searches are made and agencies selected from an honest, unbiased approach. Over the course of their careers Robert and Steve have worked at agencies, corporations, and trade associations in New York, Washington, and, for Steve, in Beijing, China, where he opened Fleishman-Hillard’s first Asian office. In recent years they have also been sole practitioners for a variety of clients seeking media, crisis, and strategic counsel. 



The Variable Named Ad Age’s Southeast Small Agency of the Year Editorial Team

The Variable, a business growth company based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is now a three-time Small Agency of the Year. Ad Age, the leading global advertising news publication, named The Variable its Southeast Small Agency of the Year – Silver, the company’s third Small Agency of the Year recognition in the last four years.

The Ad Age annual awards recognize the nation’s best advertising agencies with 150 or fewer employees based on innovative creativity, impact on clients’ businesses, evolving the agency business model, and financial performance. There are more than 120,000 advertising agencies in the United States. Only 29 were selected for the 2018 awards.

“A few years ago, we evolved the ad agency business model to combine the thinking of a management consultancy with the doing of an advertising agency, and we’ve brought together a ridiculously talented team from different backgrounds to deliver it,” said David Mullen, partner and president at The Variable. “We help our clients drive growth by creating real value for their companies, their people and their customers through sharp business strategies, innovation roadmaps, indifference-fighting advertising, and engaging experiences and content.”

According to The Variable, the secret behind its model and the results it’s producing for clients is its core conviction that creativity holds the answers to overcoming challenges and creating new opportunities.

“Receiving this honor three times in the last four years is a tribute to our agency’s founding belief that advertising itself is not dead, but a process that results in only advertising is,” said Joe Parrish, partner and chief creative officer at The Variable. “We are deeply rooted in the truth that creativity delivers new possibilities and solutions, and we unleash the power of creativity on more than just ad-like objects, including new business models, product and service concepts, and experiences.”

The Variable counts a number of local, national and global brands among its partners, including Lowes Foods, Char-Broil, BASF, P.F. Chang’s, Duke Health, Biscuitville and TIKI Brand. Since 2014, the company has experienced significant growth and quadrupled in size.

“Being named a Small Agency of the Year our first time in 2015 was amazing recognition that we were on the right path and winning again in 2017 was fantastic validation,” added Mullen. “But to win again in 2018, our third time in four years, is proof that our team is doing something incredibly special. And it’s another piece of evidence added to all of the other evidence happening around us that proves Winston-Salem companies punch well above their weight class – regionally, nationally and globally. We’re really honored and humbled to a part of that.”

The Variable also recently launched a sister company called 100watt, a business accelerator that provides outsourced commercialization to founders who have an idea and capital, but not the time or flexibility to create it. 100watt is launching its first two new companies over the next three months, with a third launching in the fourth quarter.

What Is Programmatic Advertising?

Brandon Andersen, Chief Strategist, ceralytics

Programmatic advertising sounds really fancy, but in reality, it has made media buying a much easier and more exact process than it used to be.

Utilizing programmatic advertising, you can reach your target audiences across multiple publishers at once, without having to negotiate multiple contracts.

Building off of the PESO post from last week (which was also published on Waxing Unlyrical if you missed it), a major component of paid media is something called programmatic advertising.

It’s an impressive sounding term, and I bet you hear it thrown around a lot. But what is it? And how can you be utilizing it if you’re not already?

Just like the graphic above suggests, programmatic advertising takes the middle-man out of placing ads and replaces it with automation. In traditional media buying, an advertiser would buy a certain number of impressions on a publisher’s site. These impressions are calculated as CPM, or cost per 1,000 impressions (M being the Roman numeral 1,000). The advertiser and publisher would then agree on the number of views for the ads, the CPM, and hammer out a contract.

Advertisers would have to do this for every publisher they advertised on. That’s not very efficient.

A new model emerged that combined the demand that advertisers have for getting their ads in front of specific audiences, and the supply of ad space that publishers have. This new model was programmatic advertising.

Advertisers use a demand side platform (DSP) to choose which audiences they want to target and how much they are willing to pay to reach those audiences. Suppliers utilize a supply side platform (SSP) to show those buyers the inventory they have on their sites.

Computer algorithms then match up advertisers with suppliers in real time, fulfilling a guaranteed order on both sides. Often, multiple publishers will be on the receiving end of the deal, spreading the advertiser’s message across many sites.

No back and forth negotiating. No messy paperwork. Just results.

Targeted advertising

Another advantage of programmatic advertising is the ability to target specific demographics or audience interests.

In the sketch above, the advertiser using programmatic advertising can determine that they only want their ads to reach cat lovers. Only publishers who have those audiences, such as Cats-R-Us, and TomCat Times, would then be matched to display those ads. But, because publishers understand a lot about their own audience’s interests, publishers like Gadget World could also be matched if certain subsets of their audiences are cat lovers too.

Other forms of targeted advertising utilize existing data you have about your clients and/or prospects. Utilizing the information you know about your existing audiences, lookalike models can be made, showing that people who buy your product often exhibit certain interests or behaviors you can now target.

The result is more focused advertising to the audience you truly want to reach.

Next steps

Unlike a lot of the micro-lessons here, programmatic advertising, in its true sense, isn’t something you can easily pick up and run with. Many organizations defer this task to an agency or specialists within their organization.

But understanding the fundamentals of programmatic advertising will help you have more informed conversations with your agency or in-house specialists when it comes to helping you develop and promote your own campaigns to specific audiences.

Public Relations: Advertising’s Red-headed Stepchild

Gregg Castano - PR: The Small Cap Company’s Underappreciated Secret WeaponGregg Castano, CEO, Castano Communications Consulting

I’ve written several pieces recently about the importance and value of effective public relations for small cap companies. But there’s another key market segment that could also benefit from an increased focus on public relations – SMB’s (small and medium sized businesses).

Unlike the EU, the United States has no official criteria for identifying an SMB (called SME’s in Europe). However, Stamford, CT-based Gartner, one of the world’s leading research and advisory firms, defines it as a business with 0-999 employees (0-100 = small, 101-999 = midsized). SMB’s can also be defined by annual revenue, and Gartner classifies businesses with revenues of less than $50 million as small and businesses with between $50 million and $1 billion in revenue as medium-sized.

For small cap companies, which are publicly traded entities, of course, effective public relations most impacts shareholder value. For the private SMB, the rewards are somewhat different but no less impactful to the business.

There are multiple important benefits that SMBs can derive from a good, sustained public relations program. To me, the most important of these is that PR enables an SMB to tell its story to a broader audience than advertising, which is usually reserved for narrower vertical markets. From that, other good things flow.

Foremost among those “good things” is that when an SMB can get its story told via earned media, it raises the all-important brand awareness quotient. Brand awareness is perhaps the most vital outcome of effective storytelling, because being known is the first step towards being respected, admired, liked and trusted.

While listed small caps have the fallback of investor relations to achieve at least some connection with the public, privately-held SMBs do not, as they are not legally obligated to communicate with shareholders. In one sense, this is helpful because it excludes them from costly, burdensome and often restrictive regulatory responsibilities, freeing up money and resources for other communications activities.

The problem is that most of these companies do not direct those funds or resources to public relations pursuits, but rather to advertising strategies. While advertising is a necessary ingredient in the communications stew, it should not be the primary component, because it is not as potentially effective or cost-efficient as public relations.

Colorful Virgin Group founder Richard Branson agrees, and he ought to know. Virgin Group controls more than 400 companies. Branson once stated that “a good PR story is infinitely more effective than a frontpage ad”.

Enough said. The fact is that SMBs can get far more “bang for the buck” from a solid and persistent public relations effort than is possible through traditional advertising. But apparently, nobody has told them.

The silver bullet that PR can offer that the other disciplines cannot is “earned media”. When a story is covered or discussed by an objective third-party journalist or social media influencer, the public is far more inclined to trust that content than they would a bought-and-paid-for advertisement.

Of course, earned media is not easily achieved, which is why it’s called earned. You must work for it. Since most senior executives at SMBs lack the expertise, inclination and bandwidth to tackle these tasks, it’s essential to employ a professional public relations practitioner or agency to help. Their job is to develop the message, define the target audience, create and deliver content, and most importantly, persuade respected journalists and/or bloggers to write about the SMB in a positive light.

To many, if not most, C-Suite denizens, this all sounds difficult and costly. Isn’t it easier to just hire an ad agency to place ads in popular industry publications and call it a day? Yes, it’s easier, but far less effectual and economical than a successful PR campaign.

With limited budgets and minimal name recognition, most SMBs do not have the luxury of squandering communications dollars on ineffective strategies. The practice of public relations has been proven to provide the most value and the greatest impact on public awareness, perception and approval of brands, yet it lags well behind advertising as a means of establishing a rapport with the public with which it seeks to bond.

With today’s perpetual squeeze on budgets and hyper focus on ROI and analytics, the time is right for SMBs to embrace public relations as a primary engine of brand-building.

The Five Key Factors PR Agency Acquirers Look For in an Acquisition Candidate (On-Demand Recording)



Webcast Overview

Will they want my PR firm as is? In this instance we’re not talking about a new business presentation. This is a question virtually every PR agency owner asks herself or himself when considering the possibility of selling their agency. Will a buyer, any buyer, be interested in what we have to offer now? In this second in a 6-part series of webcasts sponsored by The Stevens Group and brought to you by CommPRO, Peter Finn, Founding Managing Partner of Finn Partners, shares his insights with agency leadership on what he looks for in a seller agency before he either decides to take a pass, or to start taking the necessary steps to integrate the seller’s firm into his firm. Further, Peter shares what are in his opinion as one of the most methodical buyers of PR agencies in the US, the five key factors that any PR agency buyer is most likely to look for in an acquisition candidate.


Special Guest

Peter Finn
Founding Partner
Finn Partners

Peter Finn plays the central role in the creation and ongoing initiatives of Finn Partners and the development of the practices and offices that now make up the global agency. Over the years his contributions as Founding Managing Partner have included the recruitment of key executives, and the orchestration of domestic and global acquisitions of agencies specializing in technology, consumer marketing, tourism, branding, public affairs and social and digital practices. He’s developed a powerful team, acquiring top notch agencies and integrating them into the firm, building what began as a small agency in 2011 into one of the top independent agencies in the world. 

Under Peter’s direction, Finn Partners was selected by the prestigious Holmes Report as “Best New Agency” in 2012 and later was “Midsize Agency of the Year” by PR News and Holmes Report.  Finn continues to grow rapidly and is currently ranked by the O’Dwyer’s report as the 4h largest US based independent PR firm. Through Finn’s efforts, the firm has more than tripled in size over the past five years and now has approximately 600 members internationally.

Prior to launching Finn Partners, Peter was Co-CEO of Ruder Finn, Inc., He first joined Ruder Finn in 1976 and played a key role since the 1980s in turning the firm into one of the largest independently owned public relations firms in the world.

Peter is co-founder, with his wife Sarah, and Chairman of the Catskill Mountain Foundation, one of the largest arts organizations in the upstate New York, where he continues to work with many public officials at the local, state and federal level, impacting the region’s economic development. He is the recipient of the 2017 Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts award.

Peter has a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from Columbia University.


Rich Jachetti
Senior Partner
The Stevens Group

Rich joined the firm as Senior Associate in January 2015 and in October of the same year was named Senior Partner. Rich owned his own public relations agency for eight years and in 1987 merged his firm with LobsenzStevens. For nearly a decade, Jachetti served as an executive vice president and group manager of LobsenzStevens where he worked side-by-side with agency founder and CEO Art Stevens on, among other things, the selection and due diligence of L-S’s subsequent multiple PR agency acquisitions.

Before joining TSG, Rich founded emotionmapping, LLC, an integrated marketing communications company based in Westchester, New York that specialized in providing advertising, PR, sales promotion and digital marketing consultation and services.

In 1996, he joined one of the country’s leading, and award-winning sales promotion agencies, DVC Worldwide, and served for eight years as part of that agency’s team of senior executives responsible for new business development and the expansion of business among the firm’s existing client base.

In his career, Rich has helped companies in multiple industry categories become wealthy, famous, respected winners. Advertising, promotional marketing and public relations campaigns he has developed over the past 40+ years have helped convince customers/stakeholders to choose, trust, try, recommend, respond, read, write, stop smoking, start exercising, contribute, vote, take their medicine, travel, merge, hire and buy depending on the clients’ business objectives.