Every midsize market has a PR firm like Barkley Evergreen & Partners. Often affiliated with large local ad agencies (as BE&P is), these firms claim to offer the complete range of PR services, from local media relations to national crisis management. They claim to provide the same depth of strategic thinking as their larger counterparts, combined with the nimbleness and service orientation that larger firms often seem to lack. The only difference is that while most of these firms struggle along with an ever-changing roster of local clients, BE&P delivers consistently, not only in its own market but also on a national basis. As a result, the firm continues to pick up clients who have spent big money with big agencies and come away disappointed and disillusioned.
The leadership of Mike Swenson, who has risen through the ranks at BE&P over a 12-year tenure with the agency and helped transform the PR operation from a sleepy subsidiary dependent on its ad agency parent for clients to a stand-alone PR firm that offers a range of services not normally available in a market the size of Kansas City. The firm has been nationally recognized for its work in cause-related marketing and has an impressive track record in crisis and issues management. It also offers—in addition to solid media relations capabilities and the consumer and business-to-business marketing expertise one would expect in a mid-market agency—strategic counseling and employee communications services. And it does so with a sense of partnership and urgency that clients love.
This year, the firm has picked up new business from Farmland Industries (a longtime Fleishman-Hillard client), Lee Company (which consolidated its PR account at BE&P after the firm handled its Lee National Denim Day program), and the Monroe Shocks subsidiary of Tenneco, Payless ShoeSource, and ServiceMagic.com, which the firm handles in conjunction with partner agency JohnstonWells of Denver. But at the same time, BE&P cut back its client roster from 25 to 15 companies, focusing on long-term partnerships and steering clear of purely tactical support. The result is that revenues were up only slightly, to about $2.3 million.