By Arun Sudhaman
SAN FRANCISCO: Next Fifteen, which owns PR agencies Text 100 and Bite Communications, has acquired 20-person digital shop Type3. The group will combine its new purchase with its existing digital operation Project Metal to create a new consultancy called Beyond.
The newly-formed consultancy will remain headed by Project Metal executives David Hargeaves and Nick Rappolt in North America and EMEA, respectively, and represents the latest phase of the unit’s plans to merge digital PR capabilities with a broader range of digital services.
Type3, which currently operates offices in London and San Francisco, is best known for website design and development, along with search engine optimisation, and counts such clients as Google, MTV and YouTube. Next Fifteen will attempt to marry these skills with Project Metal’s existing strengths in online research and analytics, via the 12-year-old Context Analytics unit that now sits under the new operation.
Beyond launches with a staff strength of more than 30 and plans to launch a New York office within weeks. Clients include Amadeus, Google, Hilton Group, Virgin Trains and Virgin America.
One of these clients, Virgin Trains comms director Arthur Leathley believes that Beyond’s new offering represents a step forward where digital PR is concerned. “Communications in the digital arena requires a mixture of specialist skills which we don’t believe are currently found in a PR agency. We engaged Beyond to consult with us on the best way to reach our customers through social media, looking at different areas from communications through to customer service.”
Beyond EMEA MD Nick Rappolt says that the consultancy’s approach revolves around conversation analytics, analysing online content to derive insights and then determine communication across paid, owned and earned media.
In particular, Rappolt believes that many digital agencies hail from an advertising mindset, and rely on building expensive properties accompanied by large media spends. “Our focus is about developing a content strategy based on the things that people are proven to engage in, which is fully optimised and delivered through the most relevant channels. The analytical capability of our business gives us the knowledge to do this and makes our approach less subjective.”
A number of PR firms have made similar moves to broaden their capabilities beyond social media by investing in ‘pure’ digital services. These include Edelman’s 2008 acquisition of London digital shop Spook Media, and the launch of digital production hubs at Waggener Edstrom, Ruder Finn and Lewis PR.