Shift Communications: Agency Business Report 2012

Shift Communications' revenue increased 17.2% over 2010, mainly due to new business wins, but also in part due to some project work and service offerings, including media training and event support.

Principal: Todd Defren, principal; Jim Joyal, principal
Ownership: Independent
Offices: San Francisco; Newton, MA; New York
Revenue: $12,136,266
Headcount: 91

Shift Communications' revenue increased 17.2% over 2010, mainly due to new business wins, but also in part due to some project work and service offerings, including media training and event support.
 
Major 2011 wins were McDonald's, H&R Block, Salesforce.com, and StumbleUpon. Client losses include Lithium, mBlast, UberMedia, and Affinnova, mainly due to consolidation or client conflicts.
 
Healthcare addition
Shift splits business mainly between tech and consumer clients, but it did launch a healthcare practice in 2011 led by VP Catherine Allen with a staff of about five. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, a trade group that holds the US' largest healthcare trade show, was a major account win for the practice in 2012.
 
Principal Todd Defren says Shift is increasing hires from outside the traditional PR space, including developers and those with creative and interactive backgrounds as it ramps up investment in content creation, marketing, and distribution capabilities.
 
“When you think about social media, it's becoming increasingly voracious in terms of the need for content to stay apace,” he notes.
 
In 2012, Shift will boost its new interactive services adding website and blog design, video creation, infographics, and mobile app development.
 
Headcount has increased 12% over 2010. Key hires included Aaron Heinrich, MD in San Francisco, and Molly Mandell, MD in New York. Additionally, Amy Lyons, previously MD in Boston, was promoted to president. She oversees all offices and handles day-to-day talent management and agency operations.
 
Senior-level exits included John Carter, VP in New York; Mandy Mladenoff, MD in San Francisco; and Parry Headrick, VP of marketing in San Francisco.
 
Defren points out that hiring employees with the right skills is a challenge. In 2011, the firm hired fewer than 2% of the people who sent in résumés. Online and interactive skills are key at all levels, he adds.
 
“The whole industry is changing,” notes Defren. “There is a shrinking number of colleges that are doing superb work for preparing their students for this field.”

Defren says hiring is hardest at the mid-tier level, such as for account managers, but it can also be very challenging at the director and VP levels.

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