Spotlight: Austin

Valerie Davis, chief executive of EnviroMedia Social Marketing, discusses how a rich blend of music and tech makes Austin a hotspot for PR pros.

Valerie Davis, CEO, EnviroMedia Social Marketing, discusses how a rich blend of music and tech makes Austin a hotspot for creative PR pros.

When people hear about Austin, TX, the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival is usually the first thing that comes to mind, but what most don't realize is that the city has a rich culture of music and technology outside of the annual event.

Austin, the capital city of Texas, is where Dell got its start in 1984 when Michael Dell created PC's Limited in his dorm room at the University of Texas at Austin, says Valerie Davis, CEO of PR and advertising agency EnviroMedia Social Marketing.

Davis, who has lived in Austin for more than 30 years, says an interesting aspect of the city is the overlay of industries, such as technology, philanthropy, music, and government. This unique intersection even happens in the PR industry, she adds.

Fast Facts

1. While media offices are rare, the city is full of writers and editors based in Austin from outlets such as People, Rolling Stone, NPR, and Wired. There is also an AP bureau and several Reuters freelancers in the area
2. Earlier this summer, Austin was rated the number one city for young, single people because of its low unemployment rate of 5.1% as of April, as well as its 530 bars and restaurants for a population of about 820,000
3.More than 19 million tourists visit Austin every year, and the city has about 30,000 hotel rooms in the metro area, 7,000 of which are located downtown
4. Two of Davis' favorite places for client dinners are Perla's, a seafood restaurant, and Bess Bistro, which is owned by actress Sandra Bullock
5. The city is often called the “live music capital of the world.” With 100-plus live music venues, Austin hosts the three-day City Limits Music festival every year, and the annual South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival, which attracts more than 30,000 attendees
6. Austin's growth will likely maintain momentum. For example, Apple and HID Global have launched capital investments in the area worth hundreds of millions of dollars

A membership appreciation event her firm held in May for its Daimler Car2Go client is the perfect reflection of “how you do PR in Austin,” Davis explains. “A local band called Band of Heathens and Black's Barbecue restaurant from just outside of Austin were involved. Car2Go is all about innovation for car sharing. The [event reflected] the feel of the city.”

Philanthropies are also a major part of Austin, with more than 7,000 nonprofit organizations in the city, according to Greenlights for Nonprofit Success.

EnviroMedia has worked on PR projects for Dell throughout the years, as well as the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, which promotes the improvement of children's health and education in Central Texas. The agency has also worked with the Texas Department of Transportation on drunk-driving prevention, motorcycle safety, and child passenger safety and with the Texas Department of State Health Services on flu prevention and promoting immunizations.

In March, the city launched an online-giving event called Amplify Austin, where it asked businesses and individuals to help raise $1 million via social media in 24 hours. Davis says many companies, including Whole Foods and shopper network Bazaarvoice, contributed to the final tally of $2.8 million.

While nonprofits and Dell make up many of the jobs in the area, the city of Austin and the University of Texas at Austin are also big employers in the region. When it comes to talent, Austin is “a creative town,” so the PR industry doesn't struggle to find new staffers, says Davis. Also, with the businesses, the university, ad agencies, and PR firms in the area, such as Hill+Knowlton, Waggener Edstrom, W2O Group, and FleishmanHillard, there are many places from which to draw talent, she adds.

In addition to the hip, trendy feel of Austin, Davis says many people go to the city and wind up staying because of its “laidback atmosphere,” both in terms of lifestyle and business, as well as the popular outdoor highlights, such as the Colorado River.

Reach out
Local PRSA chapter
401 W. 15th Street, Ste. 695
Austin, Texas 78701
(512) 652-8240

Austin City Hall
301 W. 2nd Street
Austin, TX, 78701
(512) 974-2220

Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau Tourism Department
301 Congress Avenue,
Ste. 200, Austin, TX 78701
(512) 474-5171

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