DeVries: Agency Business Report 2012

DeVries Public Relations has a number of long-term, high-profile consumer brand clients, including a 28-year partnership with Procter & Gamble, which first hired the firm for its beauty PR, and an eight-year relationship with Campbell's.

Principals: Jim Allman, CEO; Stephanie Smirnov, president
Ownership: Interpublic Group (part of Constituency Management Group)
Office: New York
Revenue: $10 million to $65 million
Headcount: 115

DeVries Public Relations has a number of long-term, high-profile consumer brand clients, including a 28-year partnership with Procter & Gamble, which first hired the firm for its beauty PR, and an eight-year relationship with Campbell's. Today, DeVries has expertise in fashion and beauty PR, as well as practices devoted to food, spirits, wine and beer; homecare; and health and wellness.
 
Despite its history of focusing on a relatively small number of large, longstanding accounts, DeVries seeks to grow through new business. Last summer, it hired Tom Goodwin, formerly with digital agency Huge and ad agency Lowe & Partners, as only the second person in the role of director, new business development.
 
“We were focused on organic growth for so long and we're midsize, so we needed someone dedicated to being proactive in finding clients,” says Stephanie Smirnov, agency president. “We want to be around for another three decades, so we need to grow.”
 
DeVries did that with 6% revenue growth and a number of new clients, including the GoGo squeeZ brand for Materne North America. “We also had a lot of growth that was technically organic, but we did have to compete against other agencies for those assignments,” says Smirnov. “Those were very gratifying to win.” For 2011, the firm attributes revenue growth as 30% organic and 70% new business.
 
Social media is a key component for all its practice areas. In fact, DeVries executed 84 social media campaigns last year. Still, Smirnov laments how clients are often uncertain of which agency partner should have ownership of social media.
 
Staking a digital claim
“Sometimes we get a community management assignment or responsibility for blogger strategy for a client and feel as if we can take two steps forward,” she explains. “But then we take three steps back because somebody on the client side says, ‘Wait, shouldn't the digital agency be doing this?'
 
“Everyone is still figuring it out,” adds Smirnov. “Our challenge is to stake a claim and not have to constantly defend it.”

DeVries last year coalesced expertise in digital, research, analytics, and social media into an eight-person creative and strategic services team and will undertake a client road show to promote it. “We want every client to understand we bring tons of firepower to insight-driven ideas,” she says.

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