Carmichael Lynch Spong
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
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Carmichael Lynch Spong

National multi-specialist with brand-building expertise Minneapolis, New York, Denver, Chicago, San Francisco

Holmes Report


In 20 years at the helm of Carmichael Lynch Spong, the public relations unit of Minneapolis-based, Interpublic-owned advertising agency Carmichael Lynch, Doug Spong proved himself one of the most capable PR executives in the country. Pound for pound, CLS has been the most award-winning firm in the North American public relations business, earning 30 Silver Anvils and more than a dozen SABREs over the past decade. It has consistently ranked among the Best Agencies to Work For in our annual survey. And it has grown into a powerhouse, not only in the Twin Cities (where it overtook rival Padilla Speer Beardsley to become number one four years ago, according to the Minneapolis/St Paul Business Journal) but nationally.
“Doug goes out of his way to ensure a cohesive client relationship,” says Micheal Lane, former vice president of sales and marketing at Cargill. “I worked directly with his organization on the communications plan for a $500M acquisition in addition to a multi-year relationship for PR services for our organization. The project was absolutely flawless as a direct result of the detailed, well thought out, step-by-step plan Doug and his team developed. He knows the PR business, focuses his team members on producing bottom-line results, and absolutely walks the line on accountability.”
So on one level, it should come as no surprise that when Carmichael Lynch was looking to replace longtime chief executive John Colasanti, it named Lynch as president of the integrated agency, working alongside chief executive (and chief creative officer) Mike Lescarbeau and chief operating officer Mark Feriancek. (On another level, it’s always a slight surprise when an ad agency recognizes the important contribution that PR can make to agency and client success.) The result has been a greater degree of collaboration between advertising, PR and digital disciplines at the firm and some impressive new business successes.
With Spong now devoting more time to the parent company, Julie Batliner has been named managing director of Carmichael Lynch Spong, assuming day-to-day operational responsibility for the firm’s clients and staff. Formerly the firm’s chief client relations officer, Batliner joined CLS five years ago from Fleishman-Hillard. She is supported by a leadership team that includes several senior principals: corporate practice leader Jill Schmidt, a veteran of the client side of the business with International Multifoods; lifestyle practice leader Maria Reitan, an expert in marketing to women; and business-to-business and technology chief Sarah McNeil, another Fleishman veteran.
CLS has already proven itself capable of winning blue-chip clients in competition with national and multinational firms, with offices now on both coasts as well as its native Midwest and a client portfolio that is equally geographically diverse. The firm is distinguished by its unwavering 17-year devotion to three founding principles: to be the undisputed champion of best practices in the public relations industry; to represent a very select, but envied portfolio of big-name clients; and to attract like-minded achievement addicts with a passion for producing their career-best work. It’s an approach that has fueled its strong, steady growth—CLS is aiming for fee income of $25 million over the next couple of years.
Last year saw the addition of several important new and expanded client relationships: Seventh Generation (environmental cleaning products), Calphalon (non-stick cookware), Trane (heating and cooling manufacturer), American Standard, Fortune Brands (manufacturer of cabinets and patio doors), and Briggs & Stratton (small engine manufacturer). The firm also continued its impressive work with big brands: a five-year relationship with Jack Link’s (a client that draws on advertising, PR, social media, experiential and sports marketing capabilities); Cargill (the firm’s third longest-tenured client), and Sherwin-Williams (for which the firm has won a host of SABRE Awards).
One other particularly interesting initiative in 2009 saw the firm striving to be “the greenest agency in America.” An impressive commitment to the highest environmental standards includes a LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified office environment, wind-sourced energy, energy-efficient lighting, subsidized bus and light rail passes for employees (winning the firm a Commuter Choice award in Minneapolis), and recognition as one of the nation’s most bicycle-friendly workplaces.
Carmichael Lynch Spong represents clients in several international markets through its sister agencies in the Interpublic Group or through independent PR firms in specific markets. It is also a member of Converge, a network of seven leading U.S. strategic communications firms with dominant market positions and notable client portfolios.
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