SAN FRANCISCO—Alan Kelly, founder and chief executive of high-tech public relations specialist Applied Communications, has sold the firm’s public relations operations to Next Fifteen Communications Group, parent of international tech agency Text 100. Kelly will continue to operate and manage the firm’s research and analytics division.
Next Fifteen will merge Applied’s San Francisco public relations operations into its Bite Communications Group subsidiary, originally launched as a conflict agency as Text 100 grew and took on large clients such as Xerox and IBM. The merger will create an agency with $14 million in revenue, in excess of 100 employees and 55 clients around the globe.
In a move that indicates how seriously U.K.-based Next Fifteen is taking the U.S. market, Bite chief executive Clive Armitage will relocate from London to San Francisco to oversee the company.
According to Next Fifteen CEO Tim Dyson, “This is a rare opportunity to marry the international growth ambitions we have for Bite with Applied’s decision to refocus its operations away from traditional PR. The blending of Applied with Bite, offers our combined clients and staff access to the resources of a larger agency and group, and allows us to further expand our service offerings, such as Bullet and Soundbite.”
Bullet, the interactive division of Bite, provides online and new media services to the PR and marketing industries. Soundbite specializes in helping clients reach their target audiences through direct communications programs such as seminars and conferences.
Kelly, meanwhile, says the sale will allow him to focus on the research and analytics business, which is his primary interest.
“We have doggedly funded research for the past 10 years, and have always seen it as the way to have an analytic basis for our programs,” he says. Over the past year, Kelly has been developing a new communications methodology, which he calls “play-making,” that draws on models from the realms of politics and gamesmanship to define various communications strategies and the various results they are likely to achieve.
He says his firm will provide research and analytics services to corporate communications and also to agencies, and that it will compete on the same turf as research providers such as Carma, Delahaye, and Echo. “One crucial problem in the research sector is that reports are produced and sit there gathering dust. They don’t drive through into logical programs.” Kelly’s playmaking methodology will help translate research findings into action plans.
Clients of the research group, which is led by Kelly and former Golin/Harris research chief Forrest Anderson, include Cisco, Genentech and Sun MicroSystems.
Meanwhile, other Applied clients such as Autodesk Location Services, BEA Systems, SeeBeyond, TechNet, VeriSign and Wind River, will be served by Bite, which currently represents tech companies including Etagon and ACCESS Systems America in the U.S. as well as European clients including Apple Computer, Sun Microsystems and Toshiba.
Dyson says the firm will continue to take the distinctive, competitive approach to PR that has differentiated it from its competitors. “Bite has a very similar approach,” he says. “Everything we do is about positioning the client against its competitors. That’s a very European style of PR, which is more focused on sales than on the financial community.”
All public relations team members based in San Francisco and most of Applied’s operations staff will transfer to Bite, and Kelly will consult to Next Fifteen through the remainder of the year to help in the transition.
“Applied has helped write history in the technology industry, and this sale will allow our clients and staff to continue writing history through Bite and Next Fifteen,” said Kelly.