Olson PR: Agency Business Report 2012

Chicago-based Olson quietly went through a major transition in mid-2012 as Pete Marino—who founded the PR firm as Dig Communications in 2004 and sold it to the Minneapolis-based ad agency Olson in 2010—left to take a job as VP of communications at agency client MillerCoors.

Principals: Kevin DiLorenzo, CEO; Dennis Ryan, chief creative officer; Bryan Specht, president
Ownership:
Division of Minneapolis-based advertising and marketing firm Olson
Offices:
Chicago (headquarters), Minneapolis, San Francisco
2011 Revenues: $14 million
Headcount:
70 (up from 60 at end of 2011)

Chicago-based Olson quietly went through a major transition in mid-2012 as Pete Marino—who founded the PR firm as Dig Communications in 2004 and sold it to the Minneapolis-based ad agency Olson in 2010—left to take a job as VP of communications at agency client MillerCoors.

Brian Specht took over as president of Olson PR, but stresses the agency will continue along its current path, adding, “We have been on a steady and very healthy growth trajectory for the last eight years and I don't see any reason to change the way we've been building our business and delivering for a growing roster of great clients.”

One thing that helped to drive growth has been Olson's ability to retain key talent, even if those staffers moved away from Chicago—Olson now has people in New York, Los Angeles, and Milwaukee, which leaves the company well positioned as it considers adding new offices.

“Finding the right talent requires a very diligent and thoughtful approach and that requires an investment of time and resources,” Specht explains. “We have never had a shortage of talented people interested in joining us, but talent defines our business and it is critical that you get it right. We've had an outstanding batting average and we've built the kind of agency that I think talented people want to be part of.”

If also helps that Olson has been on a winning streak over the past several years, with new clients wins such as Reynolds Consumer Products, Mars internal communications, tool maker Dremel, Terlato Wines, Kraft Foods, and several brands and programs for PepsiCo and General Mills. As for client losses, Specht reports no client losses notes they haven't had any save for a few one-off projects that ran their course.

While Olson's PR and ad divisions are run separately, Specht notes everyone puts interoffice competitiveness to the side when it comes to sitting down with a brand to find the right solutions. 

“We are focused on putting the client and their needs in the center and then drawing in the right expertise to meet those needs without the P&L fights and needless drama that often plagues holding companies and traditional agencies,” he adds. “There are always some growing pains, but we are getting the opportunity to deliver deep PR expertise while simultaneously driving innovative ideas that deliver for our clients. It's a lot of fun and we think it's the direction the industry is headed.”

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