Five agencies team up as Lumin network

Richmond, VA: Five midsize agencies have banded together to develop new PR products and provide business education for their employees.

Richmond, VA: Five midsize agencies have banded together to develop new PR products and provide business education for their employees.

The quintet has formed Lumin, calling it an "intellectual collaborative" to distinguish themselves from agency networks already in existence.

Two Lumin firms - Minneapolis-based Padilla Speer Beardsley (PSB) and New York-based PT& Co. - already belong to networks of independent agencies.

"We would not have joined this if we thought it was just another network," said Matt Kucharski, one of two PSB executives serving on Lumin's board.

Other Lumin agencies are Richmond, VA-based Carter Ryley Thomas (CRT), LA firm PainePR, and New York-based Peppercom. The agencies have a combined $35 million in fees and 300 employees in 11 offices.

Each agency has committed to having staffers develop new PR offerings that Lumin agencies will offer clients.

"We're talking about nontraditional PR products," said Mark Raper, chairman of CRT and the driving force behind the establishment of Lumin.

Research the agencies did in the past year found that clients wanted PR agencies to understand their businesses better and to provide them with more innovative ideas.

"They felt that at times, agencies had become stale," Raper explained. As a result, Lumin "will first and foremost be about creating new products that address business issues," he

said. The group hopes to announce three new products by the end of this year.

It is also creating an MBA-like curriculum that its member firm employees will be able to take via online courses and tele-seminars. Each agency is developing part of the curriculum and recruiting business experts to teach the courses or guest lecture in them.

Lumin's business boot camp will offer two classes a year with 10 students in each class. "The mission behind this is to put business acumen behind our people," said Kucharski.

Each member firm has invested an equal amount in Lumin, which has a board of directors with two representatives from each agency.

Lumin has hired an executive director, Darryl Salerno, former president of Creamer Dickson Basford, to keep it focused on its stated missions, Raper said.

While it could pitch for new business, the Lumin name more likely will begin surfacing on the products it develops that agencies will offer to their clients.

The firms also plan to look at how they can achieve cost-efficiencies - in areas such as purchasing - by acting as a group.

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