The Seattle PR scene

An inside look at the trends, people, and media affecting PR in this city.

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 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.”

5. Philanthropy
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.

Area agencies

Agency: APCO Worldwide

Key accounts: Rural Development Institute, Washington State Board of Education, Kennewick General Hospital
Office leader: Maggie Brown, SVP and MD

Agency: Edelman
Key accounts: Microsoft, Starbucks, Expedia, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Office leader: Jason Hunke, GM

Agency: Frause
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
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. – $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"

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