Silicon Valley’s next generation agency
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
COO & Senior Editor

Silicon Valley’s next generation agency

Aarti Shah

Earlier this week, we reported on tech PR veterans Brandee Barker, Sean Garrett and Brian O’Shaughnessy combining their communications prowess to form a power consultancy. Of course, the buzz around their venture derives, in part, because they are alumni of enormously successful tech companies: Barker of Facebook, Garrett of Twitter and O’Shaughnessy of Skype. Like this venture shows, we’re at a point where those who launched their careers building the tech mainstays of today, are naturally, now testing their own entrepreneurial chops. The hot agencies that ruled as the social web emerged, like OutCast, SparkPR and Atomic, seem to be enjoying continued success, but there’s been a shift in the overall agency landscape. On top of the trio’s unnamed venture, you have firms like the Hatch Agency that was started last year by OutCast alumni Amy Swanson and Reema Bahnasy. Much like OutCast in its early days, Hatch’s services are formed around the needs of growing companies:  launches, events, debuts, acquisitions, exec changes, etc. And this makes sense, if you consider their client portfolio includes Zynga, Path and Quora. Similarly, Borders + Gratehouse’s leadership includes former Text 100 VP Kathleen Gratehouse. And somewhat refreshingly, unlike many agencies that are quickly abandoning “traditional” communications, their services fall into the conventional PR bucket - messaging/positioning, media and analyst relations, social media and media training. And their clients reflect an interesting mix of household names, like YouSendIt and IBM, and startups like Prezi and Rocket Lawyer. Even the agency heavyweights are aligning themselves with this entrepreneurial ethos. WPP, for example, launched North of Nine in 2011 with leadership from Burson’s tech team, presumably to help sidestep the conflicts the agency ran up against with clients like HP and SAP, as well as to appear more approachable for startups. Led by Jennifer Graham Clary, former chair of Burson’s global tech practice, North of Nine positions itself as a boutique with global reach and its clients include Snapchat and Gazillion, as well as work with Intel.
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