The twists and turns on the road to the Mid-Size Agency of the Year award. First, Informatica walked out on its three-year relationship with Applied Communications. Then San Francisco-based Applied came up short in the competition for the AltaVista account. But AltaVista, intrigued by Applied's independence in a market dominated by large agencies, turned around several months later and offered Applied its Business Solutions Group account.
Then, a year after going public, Informatica's senior management called on Applied once again.
Applied's staff also finds it hard to stray: domestic turnover was a low 25% last year in a hot dot-com Bay Area PR market roiled by an average 50% turnover rate. Revenues at the eight-year-old firm, a pioneer in communications research in technology marketing, grew to dollars 8.2 million in 1999, doubling the previous year's, and 2000 revenues are estimated at dollars 11.2 million, another 37% increase. In March 2000, Applied was rated the fastest organically growing PR agency in the US.
Meanwhile, the number of Applied staff specializing in communication consulting for Internet businesses rose to 65 in San Francisco and 10 in Amsterdam, from 1999's total of 48.
Believing the Internet to be the next proving ground for strategic PR firms, Applied has built a solid client base of Internet infrastructure and business-to-business companies. And these are not fly-by-night dotcoms we're talking about. High-profile clients include Oracle Corp. - which has been with Applied for more than six years - and Sun Microsystems Professional Services. After reviewing a dozen PR firms early last year for its 'Invent' branding efforts, Hewlett-Packard gave Applied its Internet infrastructure, information appliances and e-services accounts.
Applied credits its success to PR strategy and ideas focused on competitive advantage, rather than information, publicity or even reputation management.
To that end the practice includes a five-strong research team.
Applied is also an innovative employer. An independent firm, it prides itself on its range of incentives, as well as training programs to recruit and retain top-level talent. Founder Alan Kelly says the firm tries to stay ahead of the market in pay and benefits. The firm's Applied Upside program, launched in April 2000, allows employees at all levels to benefit from the growth of its Internet clients through a fund of their stock, options and warrants through a variety of means including purchases and grants. The majority of Applied's clients are represented in the benefits program.
Sloane & Company
Sloane & Company's business - split between technology and financial/investor relations - has been looking up. PRWeek's Boutique Agency of the Year in 1999, when it had a staff of 12, now has 27 employees. Its 2000 profits were dollars 1.3 million, up from dollars 300,000 the year before, on revenues of dollars 5 million, which was a nearly five-fold increase over 1999. All new business in 2000 came through referrals, nearly 40% of it from existing clients. Management's emphasis in 2000 was on new clients who needed strategic services, as well as maintaining its creative edge in an entrepreneurial environment. The company also stresses employee training in such areas as client relations, presentations, management and writing.
Phase Two Strategies
Working exclusively with clients in the do-or-die IT industry, Phase Two Strategies ended 2000 with income up 50% on 1999 and major client wins including PeopleSoft and SRI International. San Francisco-based Phase Two also opened a Phoenix office and expanded its New York City quarters. The agency places a premium on hiring the right people - its staff includes a full-time recruiter, professional development manager and director of marketing - a philosophy not lost on its clients.
Winner 2000: Stanton Crenshaw Communications
Recognizes a PR firm whose annual PR income (fees plus mark-up on disbursements) is between dollars 2 million and dollars 20 million, and which has shown financial and client list growth, client retention, and PR creativity and innovation.
- Carter Ryley Thomas
- Vorhaus & Company
- Applied Communications
- Phase Two Strategies
- Sloane & Company
BURELLE'S INFORMATION SERVICES
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