Principal: Julie Batliner, president and managing partner
Ownership: Interpublic Group (operates outside Constituency Management Group)
Offices: Minneapolis and New York
Revenue: $20 million to $30 million
In October 2016, Spong rebranded as Carmichael Lynch Relate to reflect its evolution as a creative marketing comms agency rooted in the PR and social engagement disciplines.
"We launched not only the things you can see, but also a revival of culture, making sure everyone knows the big picture and their role," says firm president Julie Batliner. "The change also allows staff to go into new territories to learn something new in different disciplines."
The agency experienced record growth in 2016, which contributed to its success at the 2017 PRWeek Awards, taking home Outstanding Midsize Agency honors. Its target revenue growth was 10%, but the firm achieved a whopping 47% organic rise. In 2015, the firm achieved near-13% growth over the year prior.
Batliner attributed the success to winning in new areas such as tech, fashion, and wellness, and continuing to grow in its longstanding client service areas. She also increased her influence, as she was named managing partner of sister ad agency Carmichael Lynch.
The agency’s 10 new business wins represented 22% of its growth, while 25% came from existing clients. Digital and social media work accounted for 40% of revenue.
"There has been more work in social engagement strategy as well as content strategy and creation," Batliner adds.
Wins included Frito-Lay product Stacy’s, Truvia, Best Buy, Panasonic, Evereve, and Prevent Biometrics. The firm has 26 retained and seven project-based clients. No accounts were lost.
Carmichael Lynch Relate continues to develop new social engagement, content and influencer marketing, and analytics tools. Last year, the firm created a content lab and has since hired a photographer, artists, and content strategists.
"We will continue to expand the lab this year. It will be three times as big to continue the growth we’ve had," she adds.
The agency increased from 70 to 85 staffers. Key hires included Alison Dunning, senior partner, client services director, and Annie Dubsky, a VP who oversees clients in the firm’s food and nutrition practice. Also, Beth Garcia was promoted to SVP.
Staff turnover was 2%, and there were no executive departures.
In 2017, the firm is focused on continued use of analytics, profitable growth, and the further development of its integrated service process and offerings.
"We expect business to increase again in 2017," says Batliner. "Things are looking good in Q1. We want to continue on an aggressive growth path."