Three years ago, confronted by a world seemingly divided between large multinational agencies—most of them owned by publicly traded holding companies—and specialist boutiques, Clarke & Company found itself facing a choice common to many midsize generalist agencies. Determined not to concede its independence—a move founder Terry Clarke equated with putting cash concerns ahead of clients—the firm restructured around a handful of key competencies: technology, which was booming in the New England region; public affairs, particularly in the energy sector; and crisis management.
It is in the latter arena that Clarke has made a name for itself on the national stage. Its Crisis Communication Center, launched two years ago and headed by agency president Brian Delaney, competes successfully against much larger firms for work that ranges from boycotts and corporate campaigns to layoffs and litigation. Delaney is a former press secretary and legislative director to Senator Edward Kennedy, and other members of the crisis team include attorneys and a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, providing a breadth and depth of expertise few smaller firms can match.
After a year of impressive growth last year—close to 50 percent in the crisis arena, plus significant increases in the technology and energy arenas—Clarke closed out 2000 with billings of better than $5 million, and a client list that includes blue-chip clients such as Cabletron, IBM, Miller Brewing, and Thomson Financial/First Call.