It has been a good year in Florida if you're not an election official.
It has been a good year in Florida if you're not an election official.
Tourism and real estate, two of the state's top industries, have thrived.
And South Florida has continued to position itself as the bridge between Latin America and the United States, with plenty of business stopping off as companies travel both ways.
The growth of Miami as the link between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean has created a wealth of opportunities for companies that can target a variety of markets: the traditional US English-speaking market, the US Hispanic market (and all its subsets, in Spanish and English or a combination), the Latin American market (also far from homogenous) and the diverse South Florida market.
Agencies enjoyed a 17% rise in income last year (see chart). The picture this year is still unclear, as Internet companies targeting the US Hispanic audience and Latin America either folded or were acquired.
But the volatility of the dot-com world also created new PR opportunities, says Patricia Thorp, president of Miami-based Thorp & Company, as firms realized how important good PR was to their survival.
Thriving on tech
'Getting the buzz out and getting media really was one of the successful ingredients to a new startup,' says Thorp, who said tech companies represented about 50% of her firm's business last year.
'PR, instead of being one of the fluffy things that companies do on the side, became an essential ingredient to success,' she adds. She notes that many tech start-ups were small and, unlike major corporations, had few in-house PR resources, leaving the entire job - from press releases to media training - in the hands of the agencies.
Even with dot-coms going out of business, she says her firm has done well focusing on other tech companies, such as broadband and wireless firms. The revenues of Thorp & Co. have grown 116% this year, she says, and the company is turning away several clients a week.
While some PR firms lost money when dot-com clients failed, that setback didn't dim the glow of what was otherwise a banner year in Florida.
'I am very bullish about the PR business down here,' says Leslie Pantin Jr., president of Pantin/ JGR/Public Relations, adding that a nearly year-old 'strategic alliance' with the Miami-based Beber Silverstein advertising agency has enabled the company to triple its billings in the past year, to around dollars 3 million.
Among the new clients the firm has lined up are Goya Foods, the biggest Hispanic food distributor, Allegro Resorts, the largest chain of resort hotels in the Caribbean, and Canalsoftware.com, a Spanish site focusing on computer software that is entering the US Hispanic market.
Pantin attributes his firm's success to its ability to work in a variety of markets. Traditionally, companies have hired separate agencies to handle their Spanish and English public relations needs. Pantin/JGR was one of the first agencies in the Florida market to do both. That has helped the firm thrive in the South Florida market, where dual-language campaigns are essential.
The company has handled McDonald's South Florida marketing for 12 years, as well as being one of three agencies to handle McDonald's marketing to the entire US Hispanic market.
Its ability to work in multiple cultures has also brought Pantin/JGR business from Latin American entities, such as the Costa Rica tourist agency, that seek to reach the US market.
Even companies for whom the Hispanic market is a small part of their business have thrived, finding other profitable niches in Florida's robust economy.
The TransMedia Group of Boca Raton reported a 123% increase in revenue last year, due in great part to their focus on companies that make major news. 'We tend to go after real stars,' says Mark Hopkinson, who took over as president of the agency about a year ago, after 16 years as head of media relations for the British government in New York.
He, too, sees Florida as a location with great opportunities in PR, citing the state's tendency toward boundless optimism as a significant asset.
'I find the (business) climate extremely encouraging,' he says.
Healthcare has also been an important niche for the agency. The firm's reputation from its very successful Cellesene PR campaign for Rexall Sundown has brought it additional healthcare clients from both inside and outside Florida. The firm has just been signed by Viragen, a biotech firm based near Fort Lauderdale, to launch a major media campaign that will kick off this month in Scotland and New York.
Moving beyond local markets
Both TransMedia and Thorp have found success in taking their services beyond Florida. Thorp, which gets about 40% of its revenues from out-of-state clients, is going aggressively after investor relations work, much of it in New York. Transmedia estimates that 30% of its revenue comes from out-of-state clients.
The firms that will succeed in Florida are those that really understand the local market, that can expand outside Florida at times and can attract top talent, a perennial challenge in the Sunshine State.
'Right now it's impossible in a PR firm to find as many people as you need,' says Thorp. Her company averages dollars 6,000 annually per employee for training and provides a plethora of benefits that includes massage therapy.
One bright side of the failure of some of the Florida dot-coms, she says, is that it may free up some more talent for PR agency jobs. (See feature, p. 18)
Many smaller firms are also taking slices of the state's PR pie. 'Ten years ago there was Hank Meyer and the also-rans,' Thorp says. 'There are a lot of small agencies that have done well.'
Some of the larger national agencies have failed to grow at the rate of their Florida-based counterparts, but they are continuing to profit from their location.
Burson-Marsteller launched a Miami-based consulting arm called FastForward in October, designed to provide services beyond PR for Internet and tech companies.
'We view FastForward's methodology as brand risk insurance as companies in the new economy can no longer afford to learn along the way,' says Santiago Hinojosa, president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller Latin America.
Edelman PR Worldwide, which reports 400% growth in the three years since it started its Miami operation, has opened a satellite office in Melbourne to handle tech and business-to-business clients in Central and Northern Florida. It handled two major launches this year: the opening of the American Airlines Arena in Miami and the debut of the city's WNBA team.
Cramer-Krasselt reports its Orlando office is the fastest-growing in the company and its new accounts include Papa John's Orlando Co-op. Recognizing the presence of Hispanics in Central Florida, the firm added a new account executive from Puerto Rico and has won an assignment from the local organ-donation group for a Hispanic outreach program.
And even as the election fight lurches on, PR firms haven been taking advantage. TransMedia wasted no time in helping a West Palm Beach client, Munchies diner, capitalize on its location and the enormous amount of election-focused media in town.
The week after the presidential election, the diner created a 'butterfly ballot' menu with arrows slightly askew pointing to menu items. Those who order the Nader Taters when they meant to get the Al Gore Special do have recourse.
The menu reads: 'Those who feel they may have chosen the wrong menu item due to the layout of the menu can request an immediate recount which can result in a re-order delivered in minutes, not weeks, at no additional charge or litigation.'
RANKINGS: FLORIDA PR AGENCIES
Rank Agency Name Florida income (dlrs) Growth US income
99 98 1999 (%) (dlrs) 1999
1 1 Burson-Marsteller 5,402,000 5,400,000 0 164,850,000
2 2 Weber 4,302,983 3,994,835 8 76,760,938
3 5 Fleishman-Hillard 3,474,000 2,657,000 31 181,152,000
4 4 The Zimmerman Agency 3,343,427 2,714,964 23 3,343,427
5 3 Wragg & Casas 2,990,514 2,954,344 1 2,990,514
6 9 The Nixon Group 1,967,303 1,272,000 55 2,105,303
7 8 Edelman 1,936,772 1,415,871 37 128,174,735
8 6 The Jeffrey Group 1,931,870 1,597,688 21 1,931,870
9 7 PCI 1,629,342 1,569,411 4 5,062,674
10 14 The TransMedia Group 1,504,597 675,341 123 1,504,597
11 11 Thorp & Company 1,341,658 1,054,169 27 1,341,658
12 10 Incepta (Citigate
Dewe Rogerson) 1,292,881 1,139,000 14 23,509,066
13 13 Porter Novelli 914,000 713,000 28 106,606,000
14 12 The Pantin
Partnership 857,805 783,662 9 857,805
15 15 Ev Clay Associates 667,248 656,015 2 667,248
16 N/A Cramer-Krasselt 567,000 N/A N/A 9,074,000
17 16 BSMG Worldwide 433,295 346,731 25 122,062,000
18 17 Carey O''Donnell 397,000 336,000 18 417,000
19 18 Jamison Golf Group 330,000 270,000 22 562,000
20 N/A Chernoff/Silver
& Associates 250,000 N/A N/A 2,300,000
TOTALS 34,716,695 29,550,031 17 823,898,835
Rank Agency Name FL% US income (dlrs) FL% Location
99 98 99 1998 98
1 1 Burson-Marsteller 3 142,815,000 4 Miami
2 2 Weber 6 57,866,543 7 Miami/Southern
3 5 Fleishman-Hillard 2 136,272,000 2 Coral Gables
4 4 The Zimmerman
Agency 100 2,714,964 100 Tallahassee
5 3 Wragg & Casas 100 2,954,344 100 Fort Myers and
6 9 The Nixon Group 93 1,272,000 100 Miami/
7 8 Edelman 2 101,868,218 1 Miami
8 6 The Jeffrey Group 100 1,597,688 100 Miami Beach
9 7 PCI 32 5,699,252 28 Tampa
10 14 The TransMedia
Group 100 675,341 100 Boca Raton
11 11 Thorp & Company 100 1,054,169 100 Coral Gables
12 10 Incepta (Citigate
Dewe Rogerson) 5 23,514,000 5 Miami/Southern
13 13 Porter Novelli 1 79,522,000 1 Fort Lauderdale
14 12 The Pantin
Partnership 100 783,662 100 Miami
15 15 Ev Clay Associates 100 656,015 100 Miami
16 N/A Cramer-Krasselt 6 8,160,000 N/A Orlando
17 16 BSMG Worldwide 0.4 109,573,000 0 Tallahassee
18 17 Carey O''Donnell 95 342,000 98 West Palm Beach
19 18 Jamison Golf Group 59 470,000 57 Orlando
20 N/A Chernoff/Silver
& Associates 11 2,500,000 N/A Maitland
TOTALS 4 669,650,196 4
Source: PRWeek 2000 Agency Rankings Auditing: denotes a full audit or
review; compilation audit; unaudited statements signed off/on by
either the CFO or CEO/partner. A random audit process will be used for
agencies providing unaudited figures.
PRWUS # 04:12:00
PR TECHNIQUE PRESS CONFERENCES: Organizing a last minute press
conference - Being given only a few days, or even hours, to organize a
press conference doesn''t mean that you can''t find a good venue or be
creative with it, discovers Dan Bennett. It''s all a matter of thinking
By DAN BENNETT
It's probably not going to happen, so do the best you can.
When the client says, 'We have some big news, and we need a press conference fast,' what do you do? Most importantly, where do you go?
Media relations specialists say the best advice they can give is to plan ahead. Know your potential venues, keep the Rolodex updated and make a list of needs for potential last-minute press conferences.
Following the recent split of AT&T into four new companies, PR personnel needed a venue to explain to the press how the split would work.
'For a national announcement, we would normally use our New York auditorium facility at 32 Avenue of the Americas,' said John Heath, a PR specialist for AT&T. 'It works well because it's convenient for national media.'
But this announcement was unusual because it had to address both the media and the financial analyst community.
'We had to find a venue that was large enough and suitable for both crowds,' Heath said. 'We didn't have a heck of a lot of time to find a place. '
An added complication was that AT&T did not want word of the conference to leak out. 'If people hear that AT&T is looking for a big room to make an announcement, people talk,' Heath said. 'AT&T has FCC requirements that require a particular order of things. Confidentiality is important.'
By working closely with AT&T's investor relations group a venue was found - the Versailles Terrace and its accompanying rooms and private suites at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers in Manhattan.
'We needed a place that had the technological capacity for media equipment, the capacity for our own equipment, with fax and copy machines, and the suites for one-on-one interviews between company executives and select media,' Heath said. 'By working with other departments within our company, we were able to secure these things on pretty short notice.'
AT&T's press conference involved mostly podium talk and paperwork, but how about when you want to arrange a short-notice press conference, and still somehow be creative?
In Florida, where the mosquitoes are many, companies must devise ways to fend them off while not damaging the environment. Arthur W. Frederick, senior VP of Public Communications in Tampa, FL arranged a press conference for a major mosquito-control company at the local airport, where reporters could gather around the equipment and see how it worked.
'We were able to make that happen quickly because we had planned ahead and thought of ideas,' says Frederick.
Another press conference was on behalf of a paper company, showing the latest techniques for water protection. 'We went out to the banks of the river and had this incredible backdrop,' Frederick says. 'We had a clean, flowing river as the scenic background for the TV cameras. Visual components are important if they fit into the nature of the story.'
So while corporate mergers may lend themselves to the relative sanctity of the podium, there are fast-breaking press conference subjects that can be set up at creative venues.
'Try to make it visual without being theatrical,' advises Frederick.
'We're all aware that TV cameramen aren't particularly enamored with a hotel conference room as the backdrop of the story. Make it interesting without bringing in the circus animals and dancing clowns. It's all common sense.'
When finding a location for a creative press conference at short notice, agency specialists say you'll have better luck if you have previously matched clients with potential press conference locales, made phone calls to property owners, evaluated electronic capabilities at the venue and secured proper permits.
'We try very hard to educate our clients that kneejerk press conferences are not a good idea,' says Frederick. 'Obviously nobody wants a fast-turnaround conference where things can't be done the right way. So talk to the client in advance.'
Kevin Manniko, a specialist for Davis Communications in San Francisco, works with hi-tech clients. He is particularly mindful of planning the technical details.
'When you are scrambling for a venue, make sure it has a T-1 line to do a fast Internet connection for your demo,' Manniko said. 'You can have a great setting with great food, but the technology must be in place for optimum delivery.'
Manniko and others recommend securing an event planner that you work with regularly, who has contacts among hotels and caterers, knows good local spots for impromptu conferences, and can deliver fast. Agency execs say it is important to maintain contacts at a variety of local hotels so you can act quickly at another when your first choice of hotel has no room for you.
But there may come a day when venues don't matter, especially when ventures such as Astound become commonplace. Astound.com has the equipment for online press conferences that allow everybody to stay at home or at the office.
'You can attend a press conference in your bathrobe or while having a drink by the pool,' jokes Julie Mousel of Chicago-based S&S Public Relations.
'It works quickly and better than scrambling for a venue. Last-minute press conferences are an exercise in crisis management. They test your mettle.'
Dos and don'ts
1 Plan ahead for the possibility of last-minute press conferences
2 Discuss with the client 'emergency' scenarios for press conference venues
3 Secure in advance the services of an event planner capable of pulling together last-minute details
4 Make certain the venue offers electronic capabilities, including operational high-speed Internet services
5 Consider the subject matter of the press conference and seek a venue to match 'the mood' if time permits
1 Assume the hotel conference room you usually use for press
conferences is automatically available to you
2 Ask press to attend a conference in a location that doesn't serve their equipment and deadline needs
3 Try to be too creative with a venue when something simple will work just fine
4 Secure a last-minute press conference venue without explaining to the client any possible disadvantages or problems you suspect may arise
5 Panic if you aren't happy with the venue. When you can still make changes, go for it.