PROFILE: Jenny Halpern, Halpern - Diversification is key to Halpern's growth

Jenny Halpern's rebranded agency makes a firm move into event territory

There are few PR agencies in robust enough health to host fortnightly lunchtime networking events at top West End restaurant Nobu, or that can boast frequent phone calls to 'Victoria and David' asking whether they'll sport a client's gear. But Jenny Halpern's eponymous agency - which celebrates a decade in the business this month - is one of them.

With the firm - which last month rebranded from Halpern Associates to Halpern - now boasting 30 staff and an annual turnover of almost £2m, there's clearly ample business-worth in the high-end fashion PR market.

This is some achievement given the current downturn and the traditionally lower fees paid at the more glamorous end of PR.

Halpern signalled the latest stage in her agency's development last week, launching a marketing arm as part of a joint venture with Event Vision, which organises the famed Grand Prix Balls. Although she has organised client events for years, the creation of a dedicated division - Halpern Marketing - sees the agency firmly fixing its flag in event territory.

She began her PR career aged 19, as an in-house press officer for high-fashion chain Joseph, where she stayed for four years, before leaving to set up Halpern Associates, based out of her house in Fulham.

For Halpern - whose high-profile father is the legendary Burton Group chief exec Sir Ralph Halpern, dubbed 'Five-times-a-night' after salacious tabloid revelations more than a decade ago - receiving initial media coverage (for her own firm, at least) proved easier than for most start-up firms.

Indeed she says she won her first client - Daniel Hersheson, the Mayfair-based stylist who remains on her books to this day - when the Evening Standard alerted readers to the fact Halpern was setting up a PR firm.

What many agencies would give for such a kick-start.

Since then she ascribes many new business wins - clients include Liberty, Bhs and Miss Sixty - to the power of networking, saying: 'My business is not about cold-calling.' All the staff are required to get out and about, each with an informal target of meeting five journalists a week face to face. This is the hard-working grit behind the glamour.

Her agency is based in Chelsea, where she also lives. The offices are in the former Chelsea Town Hall, the lobby enlivened by an Andy Warhol print, along with scented candles, a roaming golden retriever called Mickey ('he puts people at ease'), and racks of sample clothes for the models and celebs to try on.

Halpern says the expansion from an agency that 'ten years ago was basically just doing PR and placing editorial' to one that has five divisions, spanning fashion/style to interiors, travel and now events, partially reflects increased client demand for integrated marcoms.

Flush with plans for expansion, Halpern reveals that she would also like to open an office in either New York or Los Angeles before the end of the year.

In addition, she wants the agency to win business with FMCG brands; she talks of targeting the drinks sector and even financial services, saying: 'Basically, we can make brands sexy.'

Halpern's diversification mirrors that of other similar-sized agencies, such as Borkowski PR, which earlier this year created a series of sub-brands under the overall Borkowski banner.

Halpern says: 'It's all about reciprocal deals now. Everyone wants editorial coverage but link-ups, third-party links, are more important. All the department stores we speak to are looking to do link-ups with brands and celebrities.'

On the subject of celebrities, she says the launch of a 'celebrity and social' division four years ago has 'transformed' her business, enabling link-ups between clients' brands and stars such as Liz Hurley and Victoria Beckham.

Posh and glitz aside, Halpern stresses that all the work she does must boost the clients' sales: 'Right from the start I was aware clients were giving me money and I needed to pay them back.'

She remembers hawking the wares of a former client - Cavenagh Shirts - around City offices, selling to pin-striped finance types: 'That philosophy - the importance of sales - is maintained today.'

'We create business stories. Whether we're talking to Red or the FT, they both want to know about business successes. Clients are motivated by the results of articles, not just the articles,' she says.

Jo Malone, who runs her eponymous cosmetics chain, and has retained Halpern for three years, says: 'Jenny gets on the sales floor and sells herself. If something goes wrong, she'll be there at seven in the morning.'

It is this commitment to clients, and a willingness to roll up her sleeves and work hard, that has paid off for Halpern.


1989: Press officer, Joseph

1993: Founder, Halpern Associates

1998: Launches celebrity and social division

2003: Sets up Halpern Marketing

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