ANALYSIS: Profile - De Pinto takes Stoorza into the fast lane - In less than a year at the helm of Stoorza, Ziegaus & Metzger, Dave De Pinto has had his share of ups and downs. But he’s successfully leading the California public affairs shop

It’s a PR pro’s worst nightmare. You wake up to screaming front-page headlines suggesting one of your biggest clients, a top-level state official, is a crook. And the crisis gets bigger, becoming a national story with new revelations that threaten to tie your agency to the alleged fraud.

It’s a PR pro’s worst nightmare. You wake up to screaming front-page headlines suggesting one of your biggest clients, a top-level state official, is a crook. And the crisis gets bigger, becoming a national story with new revelations that threaten to tie your agency to the alleged fraud.

It’s a PR pro’s worst nightmare. You wake up to screaming

front-page headlines suggesting one of your biggest clients, a top-level

state official, is a crook. And the crisis gets bigger, becoming a

national story with new revelations that threaten to tie your agency to

the alleged fraud.





Welcome to the world of David De Pinto.



As president and CEO of Stoorza, Ziegaus & Metzger, one of the top

independent PR shops in California, he’s been diversifying the agency at

warp speed, scoring over dollars 1 million in new technology business in

the past two months.



De Pinto has also bolstered Stoorza’s public affairs domain, but the

agency now derives less than 50% of its income from that discipline. In

fact, there have been so many high-level comings and goings (both Alan

Ziegaus and Bobbi Metzger are now gone) that De Pinto plans to change

the firm’s name.



The firm’s evolution into a full-service operation has been going on for

several years but gained momentum when De Pinto arrived last August

after leaving Ketchum under less-than-amicable circumstances. Under De

Pinto’s stewardship, Stoorza has placed increased focus on hot sectors

like e-commerce, telecom and medical technology while not abandoning the

firm’s roots. ’We remain an elite public affairs and campaign-management

company,’ he says. And he has the results to prove it, as the firm’s

political consulting arm was behind 13 winning ’Super Tuesday’

initiatives in California earlier this year.



Robert Deen, managing partner of Deen & Black Public Relations in

Sacramento, who pitched some accounts with De Pinto years ago, calls him

’intent, hard-core, with a take-no-prisoners approach and determination

- which hasn’t always meshed well with people who worked with him.’ In

fact, some claim that this abrasive style hastened his departure from

Ketchum, whose CEO, Dave Drobis, declined comment. But Bob Feldman,

president and CEO of GCI Group and De Pinto’s boss while at Ketchum,

says he ’combines the rare talent of a keen intellect and an

understanding of our business with a warm, engaging style. He has the

ability to build and motivate staff.’





Learning to play ball



De Pinto’s intensity almost led to a career in baseball, which remains a

big part of his life. Stoorza handled the campaign for the San Diego

Padres’ new ballpark, and De Pinto, a former pro soccer player, high

school baseball star and rabid NY Yankees fan, once used his baseball

savvy to land an account. After learning that a business prospect was a

hard-core Boston Red Sox fan, he had a company associate come to the

next client meeting wearing a Sox cap.



So why is a guy from California a Yankee fan? Well, he’s actually from

New Jersey, where he worked on many statewide and national political

campaigns for various state officials, including the governor. He moved

to the left coast ’with just the shirt on my back in 1982’ and got his

MBA at the University of Southern California.



When it comes to new business, De Pinto’s batting average is Hall of

Fame caliber, says Dan Durazo, EVP of LA-based Durazo

Communications.



Durazo, who has known De Pinto since 1993 when he was with Pacific/West

Communications, says, ’He never lost a new-business pitch when he was

there. Never. It was a killer for other agencies to come up against him

because he always won.’



One new client representative of De Pinto’s push toward technology is

Gateway. After talking with several top national agencies, Gateway’s

worldwide communications director, John Spelich, was convinced that ’we

were more concerned for Gateway’s success than we were for our own,’ De

Pinto recalls.



Adds Brad Shaw, Gateway’s VP of corporate communications: ’We needed an

agency that was nimble, fast-moving and as entrepreneurially focused as

we are. They brought all that to the table.’



In April, the firm helped launch ideaEDGE Ventures, a business incubator

based in San Diego, and will also service the companies it hatches with

a matrix of cross-practice and multi-office account teams. Asked about

the risks of deviating from the firm’s successful formula, De Pinto

counters, ’It would be risky not to. San Diego, Orange County and Los

Angeles are each developing their own niche in the technology world.

And, secondarily, these markets are somewhat converging because the

interplay between telecom, the Internet, wireless and hardware is

interconnecting California’s technology communities.’



To that end, De Pinto is expanding the firm’s tech focus from San Diego

to the entire state and is currently searching for a senior member to

further grow the practice. Thanks to this influx of new business, De

Pinto expects revenue to grow from dollars 8.6 million last year to over

dollars 10 million this year, including dollars 2 million in tech work.

And Stoorza will do that, he says, while retaining long-time clients

like City National Bank and Pardee Construction, as well as new ones

like Waste Management and Jaycorp.



The 90-strong firm plans to hit the 100-employee plateau this year. San

Diego remains the base, with some 40 staffers. Los Angeles has 15, with

35 scattered between the Sacramento, Riverside and Fresno offices.



Account stability and client loyalty is what drew De Pinto to the firm

in the first place. ’(Chairman) Gail Stoorza is the consummate

client-relationship builder and maintainer,’ he says. ’We are

experiencing more than 70% retention of client revenue from last year -

remarkable, given the changes we’ve made in the past year. And with my

own m.o., we’ve got a balanced, yin-yang relationship that works.’





An innocent man



As for that nightmare story, which involves California insurance

commissioner Chuck Quackenbush, De Pinto spent a good part of last month

proving to the media that Stoorza’s work on the account ’was completely

honorable and effective.’ Quackenbush is charged with selling out to

insurance companies and mishandling the funds set up by a fraudulent

settlement he arranged to pay for TV spots to further his career. The LA

Times’ story, he claims, confused the funds, and he eventually convinced

the Associated Press reporter who had been tracking the affair to file

his own version of the story, giving De Pinto and Stoorza good marks.

All in a day’s work.





DAVID DE PINTO



President and CEO Stoorza, Ziegaus & Metzger





1984



Director, market development and PR



Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of LA





1988



EVP



Pacific/West Communications Group





1994



Partner and GM



Ketchum PR





1999



Named president and CEO



SZM.



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