Airfoil: Agency Business Report 2012

Airfoil Public Relations set a target growth rate of 10% for 2011, but ended up growing nearly 20%, something agency cofounder and president Janet Tyler attributes to a mix of increased consumer technology work, expanded global work for current clients, and increased digital service offerings.

Principal: Lisa Vallee-Smith, CEO; Janet Tyler, president
Ownership: Independent
Offices: Southfield, MI; Mountain View, CA
Revenue: $8,177,627
Headcount: 54

Tech communications specialist Airfoil Public Relations set a target growth rate of 10% for 2011, but ended up growing nearly 20%, something agency cofounder and president Janet Tyler attributes to a mix of increased consumer technology work, expanded global work for current clients, and increased digital service offerings.
 
When the firm exceeded revenue goals, the staff benefited. All employees received additional contributions to 401k funds and $700 gift certificates for health and wellness, technology, or professional wardrobes.
 
With revenues just north of $8 million, it also produced a 9% profit margin. Fifty-one percent was organic growth, while new business comprised 47%. In February, Airfoil promoted Kevin Sangsland to VP of sales and marketing where he is the first employee dedicated to new business development.
 
Account activity

Recent account wins included LinkedIn, Brookstone, Nvidia (auto telematics), Microsoft Worldwide OEM, and eBay Sellers and Local. Account losses include Zoomerang and RatePoint, which were both acquired. The firm also parted ways with Carbonite and YouSendIt.
 
"The clients our agency lost that hurt the worst were due to merger and acquisition activity," Tyler explains.
 
Airfoil has worked to shift from an organization around practice areas to management by portfolio. In January, the firm reorganized "the entire company and the way that we look at these practice areas," says Tyler. The reorganization emphasizes "hybrid PR pros" who work on a variety of accounts across sectors, rather than sticking to silos, she adds.
 
Headcount increased 10% over 2010, while the agency had 15% staff turnover. Airfoil is focused on acquiring mid-level talent and bringing in non-traditional hires, such as those with advertising agency and corporate backgrounds.

The firm developed a tech-acumen professional-development program last year in which staff of all levels present information they have researched on emerging technologies, social media, tech strategies, and other topics to fellow employees.

Airfoil expects to open a third office next year, but leadership remains coy on those plans, revealing only that "it will likely be outside of the US," marking its first global presence.

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