Burson grassroots firm buys digital advocacy agency

WASHINGTON: Direct Impact, Burson-Marsteller's grassroots advocacy firm, has acquired Seattle-based digital management and advocacy agency Crowdverb.

WASHINGTON: Direct Impact, Burson-Marsteller's grassroots advocacy firm, has acquired Seattle-based digital management and advocacy agency Crowdverb.

The deal will allow Direct Impact to use Crowdverb's proprietary technology to complement its traditional offerings.

“Our greatest asset has always been the network of grassroots teams we have on the ground, and I really do think the missing piece for us has been true online advocacy expertise,” said Nicole Cornish, CEO of Direct Impact. Crowdverb will operate as a subsidiary of Direct Impact.

Previously, Direct Impact partnered with digital firms around the country to meet clients' online needs. When the agency began to look for acquisition opportunities, many previous partners did not have all the pieces Direct Impact wanted to seal the deal.

“What we found we were encountering was that a lot of experts for overall design functionality [could] build websites, but they were missing what [Crowdverb] had, which was a true understanding of grassroots mobilization,” Cornish said. Cornish became Direct Impact's CEO in January.

She added that if Direct Impact had decided to stay with a siloed approach, it would have ignored the fact that consumers don't get their information from one source. Therefore, it would have missed opportunities to impact consumers.

Four-month-old Crowdverb consented to the acquisition after realizing that having physical networks on the ground were critical to a client's success, said Cyrus Krohn, co-founder of Crowdverb. Direct Impact will eventually migrate Crowdverb under its own brand.

“For us to truly be truly effective with mobilization, we needed to acquire traditional mobilization experience,” he said.

Crowdverb uses a data-driven approach to mobilize activists to impact issues and legislation, manage reputations, and promote products. Its clients include American Crossroads, an organization that raises money for Republican candidates, and conservative blog RedState. It will operate as a subsidiary of Direct Impact.

Crowdverb founders Krohn and Todd Herman served successive terms leading digital strategy for the Republican National Committee. Krohn has also worked as a senior director and executive producer at Microsoft and a director at Yahoo, while Herman has also served as a general manager at Microsoft and director of advertising and business strategy at MSN. Crowdverb founder and owner Sally Poliak has also worked as COO of Nyhus Communications and as a global marketing lead at Microsoft. No layoffs will occur as a result of the deal, and Crowdverb staffers will keep their titles, Burson said.

Cornish declined to release the cost of the acquisition.  

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