Fahlgren Mortine: Agency Business Report 2012

While 2010 was a year of acquisitions at Columbus, OH-based agency Fahlgren Mortine, 2011 was the time for integration and breaking down silos among disciplines such as PR, advertising, and digital.

Principals: Neil Mortine, president and CEO; John Fahlgren, US chairman
Ownership:
Independent
Offices:
Nine, based in Columbus, OH
Revenue:
$10,532,642, all in the US
Headcount:
59 practitioners; 65 total staff

While 2010 was a year of acquisitions at Columbus, OH-based agency Fahlgren Mortine, 2011 was the time for integration and breaking down silos among disciplines such as PR, advertising, and digital. The agency bought PR firm Edward Howard & Company, ad shop Sabatino/Day, and Web design and technology agency Grip Technology in 2010.

“In 2010, we made three acquisitions, and 2011 was about assimilating those into the culture and also reorganizing it all into one brand. We collapsed PR, advertising, and digital into one brand, and in 2011 we saw the benefits of that,” says president and CEO Neil Mortine. The firm was named a finalist for Small PR Agency of the Year at the 2012 PRWeek Awards.

The firm reported a 2011 revenue increase of 11.3% to $10.5 million compared with the previous year. Of that, a slight majority (51%) was organic growth. Both revenue and growth performance exceeded expectations, according to the agency. The firm also expanded its staff size by 12% in 2011, but saw 11% turnover during the year. Senior hires included Christy Bykowski, a former VP of public affairs at Cox Communications. The agency lost EVP Wayne Hill and managing director Kathy Obert to the Woodwalk Reputation Group last year.

The firm's significant 2011 wins included the Myrtle Beach Convention and Visitors' Bureau and Chamber of Commerce, which Mortine said the firm beat out numerous large, national agencies to win. It also obtained work from the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, organ donation group Donate Life Ohio, retailer The Limited, and Parker Hannifin Hybrid Technologies. Mortine says the firm had no major client losses in 2011 or the first half of 2012, however it did see some budget reductions. It lost a new business pitch for Nevada's Commission on Tourism to Burson-Marsteller in May, he adds.

This year, the company saw a strong first quarter on the coattails of a prosperous Q4 2011, but business slowed down in April, said Mortine, who explained that the company is ahead of overall projections for 2012.

The agency's goals for 2012 include growing its public affairs and social media work, as well as its “Fahlgren Mortine University” career-development program. The firm's employees are also involved in philanthropy efforts, such as organ donation initiatives.  

“Culture is king for us, and we think that if you have a great culture, you attract great clients,” said Mortine.

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