SAN FRANCISCO: Edelman has launched a unit called Sprout to provide PR counsel to early stage startup companies, VCs, and small entrepreneurial ventures.
Based in its Silicon Valley office and using a workshop and flexible pricing model, Edelman Sprout will enable the agency giant to work with companies outside its natural comfort zone of large corporate accounts. It will encompass activities ranging from brand positioning and messaging through media planning, fundraising, and product launches.
The Sprout division is already working with StarMaker, a karaoke app for the iPhone and iPad that allows users to record themselves singing, and a number of other pre-launch ventures.
Maria Amundson, GM of Edelman Silicon Valley and interim head of the firm's global technology practice following the recent departure of Pete Pedersen, said: “It's an important part of the business ecosystem here. Young people, especially, want to be involved with startups as well as the top tech brands in the world, so it's good for talent retention to give them those opportunities.”
One young account executive at Edelman Silicon Valley, Hania Abu-Eid, helped by a dozen of her colleagues in the 130-strong San Mateo office, developed Sprout after approaching Amundson a year ago to indicate her strong interest in working with entrepreneurs and startups.
Abu-Eid initiated conversations with entrepreneurs, VCs, and startups and worked with Amundson to create services that connect Edelman with entrepreneurs to help them build their companies. The offer includes individual and group workshops on topics such as developing a master narrative or launching a product. It also spans projects such as pitching stories to press, securing briefings, or developing a press release.
“It's a totally different business model,” explained Amundson. “It would not be appropriate for them to be on a retainer when the minimum we would recommend for a company is $12,000 to 15,000 a month. A lot of them are looking for high-level strategic messaging, so we do that on a project basis plus some office hours, charging in the same way as law firms or accountants.”
Dubbed “Ready, Set, Sprout!,” content includes three group workshops, trans-media storytelling, networking, and social media. The Sprout team is developing further modules to build a curriculum that it will share with interested parties across Edelman.
“We're getting lots of calls from within the Edelman network with similar interests and from people who want to share best practice,” said Amundson.
She added that A&R Partners, where she used to work and which Edelman acquired in 2006, had a strong track record of working with startups, and that heritage still exists in the agency.
As well as helping with talent retention, the aim is for Sprout to establish connections within the Silicon Valley startup and VC community that will grow into larger, committed accounts in the future.