Project acquires Brooklyn-based PR firm Praytell

Praytell is the first PR firm to join Project, which was founded in 2010.

Robert Vallee Jr and Andy Pray
Robert Vallee Jr and Andy Pray

NEW YORK: Andy Pray’s eponymous creative comms firm Praytell has been acquired by Project, an independent, employee-owned agency network, effective August 15.

Praytell is the first PR firm to join Project, which has 13 agencies under its umbrella since launching in 2010. Praytell, which was founded in December 2012, will retain its brand.

Pray and his core leadership team, which includes Beth Cleveland, managing partner and PR director of account services, and Claudio Taratuta, managing partner and digital director of account services, will continue to lead Praytell.

"There will be no layoffs [resulting from this deal]," said Pray, who was one of PRWeek’s 40 Under 40 last year. "If anything, there will be more hiring."

He added there are no client conflicts associated with the deal, noting Praytell’s clients have been briefed and are "thrilled" about it. Praytell clients include Logitech, The High End (a business unit of Anheuser-Busch), the MAC AIDS Fund, Twitter, Google Waze, Kobalt, Guitar Center, and Gold Eagle Co.

Acquisition discussions began when Praytell and Project-owned ad agency Argonaut collaborated on work for Anheuser-Busch's wheat beer brand Shock Top, explained Pray.

Project chairman and CEO Robert Vallee Jr. told PRWeek his holding company initially set out to acquire experiential and engagement firms to extend the reach of George P. Johnson. It later brought on creative and strategic agencies via acquisition such as Partners + Napier and Motive and launched creative and tech shops such as Argonaut and Junior. Vallee said Project brought on Praytell because it wanted a digital-centric PR agency.

"It's difficult these days to have a cutting-edge product or service and not use social as part of the overall marketing and advertising activity," said Vallee. "Community management, analytics, reporting, and social media audits are critical in providing a well-rounded program to our clients."

But the main reason Project acquired Praytell is simply because Vallee likes Pray, he noted.

"Project is people-centric," said Vallee. "We're interested in agencies that add something strategically to what we offer our clients, the most important thing is they're nice people and we enjoy working with them. That's why we're able to work collaboratively throughout the network."

In terms of synergies, Praytell will gain access to Project’s roster of clients; Project will get Praytell’s PR, social strategy, and digital capabilities.

"The challenge for [Pray] will be sorting through the plethora of opportunities headed his way from the broader network," said Vallee. "And managing growth while keeping the work they currently provide at a very high level."

Project, headquartered in Detroit, is employee-owned, with more than 2,000 employees in 47 offices around the world.

Praytell has more than 45 employees and is headquartered in Brooklyn, with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Austin. Praytell received a PRWeek Award for Boutique PR Agency of the Year in 2015. At that time, it was stated the firm's revenue had grown 217% to $2.94 million in 2014.

"PR has earned a seat at the table with digital and advertising," said Pray. "For the industry to grow, we have to be at those tables. In talking to Project, it felt we would be at more of those tables and more discussions where PR is helping guide larger strategies, which is really exciting."

Financial information relating to the deal was not disclosed. Praytell’s financial adviser on this transaction was Palazzo, and the firm received legal representation from Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt.

Vallee said Project has no immediate plans to acquire more PR firms.

This story was updated on August 16 to correct how Project built its stable of firms, specifically that not all 13 firms were acquired.

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