Learning their lesson from the recession—which had a particularly dramatic impact on the San Diego market—Tom Gable and partners Jon Schmid and Rick Cook, created a new firm that turned the traditional agency model on its head. GCS is top heavy, with a senior counselor actively involved in every account (and the senior team boasts an average of 20 years experience in the business and includes two former Pultizer nominees), and focused on complex reputation and issues management challenges; but it’s also “semi-virtual,” so overhead is low and savings can be passed on to clients. (Says Gable: “We invest in talent, not trappings.”) The model enables partners to lead customized teams of specialists with the specific industry knowledge and media relationships
In its third year, GCS had revenues of around $1.1 million, up 40 percent over 2003, with growth in transportation; pharmaceutical and biotech; technology; real estate development; and entertainment. Among the success: GCS partnered with New West of Louisville, Ky., to win a 30-month, $2.25-million educational program for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, leading up to a vote on a possible site for a new airport; the firm also expanded its work for Pfizer in California; and the San Diego Film Festival, which in only its third year was selected as one of the top ten in the country.
The firm also added a couple of senior personnel: Erin Koch, manager of public affairs, who is working on the airport account; and Maya del Guidice, a cause marketing expert, who is working for the San Diego Film Festival and another new GCS account, the National Foundation for Autism Research.