Five issues impacting Seattle's PR community
1. Large tech sector
Agencies in Seattle work with clients in a number of practice areas from retail to healthcare, but the PR market is primarily centered on the tech sector.
Steve Bryant, EVP at Publicis Consultants speculates that the recent economic woes will have an impact on many tech companies, which could affect agency work.
“In general, this market is dominated by retailers and technology,” he explains. “So when tech retrenches, the firms here feel the pinch.”
2. Transportation improvements
Seattle is filled with bridges and frequently plagued by traffic, mainly because its transportation infrastructure is struggling to handle large population increases over the past few years. The city has started to invest in developing some new transit options, which will likely create opportunities for PR professionals, explains Will Ludlam, EVP and GM at Hill & Knowlton.
“We've seen a need for active communication on solving some... transportation issues,” he adds.
3. Seattle Post-Intelligencer sale
On January 9, Hearst put the 145-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer, one of the city's two dailies, up for sale and announced that the paper would close, or possibly be turned into a Web-only publication, if it wasn't purchased within 60 days.
“There are fewer media outlets in the area, and the number of employees at these places has been reduced, says Suki Dardarian, managing editor at The Seattle Times. “So getting the message out may be more challenging.”
4. Many corporate headquarters
A vast number of companies call Seattle home, including Costco Wholesale, Starbucks, Microsoft, Weyerhaeuser, Nordstrom, and Amazon.com. While many utilize internal PR teams, most rely on relationships with local agencies as well.
“Many [of Seattle's corporates] tend to be unique in their respective business sectors and are initiating global trends,” explains David Blandford, director of PR at the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There's a need in this region for strong communicators.”
“These organizations... have a global impact and they're brands that people know,” adds Tara Darrow, manager of reputation and issues management communications at Starbucks. “It makes PR work exciting, fast paced, and definitely impactful.”
Seattle has become a center for philanthropy, so there are many options for people who want to work in the nonprofit sector, Bryant says.
“We've really seen an increase in the number of public health companies and nonprofits that are being drawn to Seattle,” Ludlam adds.
Besides the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, World Vision, The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Casey Family Programs – a foundation that focuses on foster-care issues –and PATH, a nonprofit that focuses on global public health, are also in Seattle.
Agency: APCO Worldwide
Key accounts: Rural Development Institute, Washington State Board of Education, Kennewick General Hospital
Office leader: Maggie Brown, SVP and MD
Key accounts: Microsoft, Starbucks, Expedia, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Office leader: Jason Hunke, GM
Key accounts: Duraflame, Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), Skanska, Pacific Continental Bank
Office leader: Bob Frause, chairman and CEO
Agency: Hill & Knowlton
Key accounts: Safeco, Qualcomm, Airbiquity, Group Health
Office leader: Will Ludlam, EVP and GM
Agency: MWW Group
Key accounts: CreateSpace, Tetris Online, Wine Yakima Valley, American Seafood Group
Office leader: Bob Silver, SVP and GM
Agency: Parsons Public Relations
Key accounts: Seattle Public Utilities, Suquamish Tribe and Foundation, Xeko Games, CellNetix
Office leader: Joanie Parsons, president
Agency: Publicis Consultants
Key accounts: Nestlé, Purina, Nespresso, United Soybean Board
Office leader: Hannah Coan, MD
Agency: Vandenberg Communications
Key accounts: Pearl Jam, Choice USA, Music for America
Office leader: Nicole Vandenberg, president
Agency: Waggener Edstrom
Key accounts: Microsoft, T-Mobile, Trubion Pharmaceuticals, HTC
Office leader: Melissa Waggener Zorkin, CEO
Influential media outlets
1. The Seattle Times
2. Seattle Post-Intelligencer
3. KIRO-7 CBS
4. KOMO-4 ABC
5. KING-5 NBC
6. KCPQ-13 FOX
7. Puget Sound Business Journal
9. Seattle Metropolitan
10. Seattle Magazine
Top Fortune 500 companies in the region*
1. Costco Wholesale – $64.4 billion
2. Microsoft – $51.1 billion
3. Weyerhaeuser – $16.8 billion
4. Paccar – $15.2 billion
5. Amazon.com – $14.8 billion
6. Starbucks – $9.4 billion
7. Nordstrom – $8.8 billion
8. Safeco – $6.2 billion
9. Expeditors International of Washington – $5.2 billion
10. Alaska Air Group – $3.5 billion
*revenue in billions
Source: Fortune 2008
Most influential locals
Bill Gates, cofounder of Microsoft, cofounder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Paul Allen, cofounder of Microsoft, cofounder of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation
Greg Nickels, mayor of Seattle
Christine Gregoire, governor of Washington
Howard Shultz, chairman and CEO, Starbucks
The title of this story appears in print as "Seattle"