Three years ago, Craig Kaminer was one of the youngest managing directors at Shandwick International, the world’s third largest public relations agency, and head of Shandwick Interactive, the firm’s new media unit. But Kaminer had a vision for a different kind of agency, one that combined traditional corporate communications and branding expertise with cutting-edge thinking about e-business and the new media. He launched Influence in 1998, focused on Internet-related start-ups and established bricks-and-mortar companies that recognized the need to reposition themselves for the digital economy, and he has built what is probably the best firm of its kind in the Midwest.
Influence employs a proprietary corporate communications process, adapted for the high-tech world, designed to build brand awareness and to build support among the media, industry analysts, investors, and employees. But it also offers an impressive array of Internet marketing services, including web development and design. It also served as an incubator to e-business companies, although April’s market correction put a crimp in that part of its business.
That hasn’t hampered the firm’s growth, however. In addition to its St. Louis headquarters, Influence has added offices in Kansas City and Detroit, and has added clients such as Yellow Corporation, Transportation.com, Delphi Financial, Haystack Tous, and the St. Louis Zoo. That activity helped spur revenue growth of 123 percent in the first two quarters, and Kaminer says he expects the firm to come close to $10 million in revenue for the year. At the same time, Influence has been rounding out its management team, adding Brigit Spears, former international PR manager at MetaCreations Software as senior vice president of communications and Keith Yahl, a former senior manager at Arthur Andersen, as chief technology officer.