Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
News and insights from the global PR industry


Holmes Report

Twenty years ago, the best public relations understood the media and their core competency was delivering great publicity for their clients and their products or services. Ten years ago, the best public relations firms understood brands, and their core competency was delivering campaigns that built or protected brands. Today, the best public relations firms understand the consumer, and their core competencies include delivering genuine insights into the consumer mindset, and then creating campaigns that make an emotional connection and ultimately drive changes in consumer behavior. Kaplow is one such firm.


Kaplow’s expertise is in lifestyle public relations, specifically in the consumer technology, luxury goods, retail, food and wine, and youth sectors (although 2008 saw the creation of a new corporate practice), and its hallmark is creativity, specifically an approach that focus on insights and ideas rather than specific delivery channels. So while Kaplow’s media relations capabilities are second to none—historically, the firm has been known for its strong personal relationships with top-tier lifestyle reporters and can draw on the experience of an editorial advisory board that includes experts from the print and broadcast realms and helps account teams “think the way journalists think”—its capabilities include guerrilla marketing, event marketing, and an impressive digital capability, all of which can be deployed as appropriate to make sure that the insights and ideas deliver genuine impact.


Economic conditions meant that 2008 was a challenging year for Kaplow, but the firm continued its partnerships with long-term clients such as Target Stores, CVS/pharmacy, Avon, Skype, LeapFrog and Alberto Culver, while adding new business from Weight Watchers, Warnaco, e-commerce site CafePress, Rowenta, toy company SpinMaster and Timex Group meant that the firm ended the year with fee income pretty much unchanged over 2007, just over the $10 million mark.


More important, the firm continued to innovate and expand its portfolio of services. K:drive, the firm’s creative and digital services division, has evolved into a core part of the business, and the firm developed a new offering, K:corp, which extends the Kaplow approach to consumer brand PR work to clients wishing to tell their corporate brand story. The firm also continued to invest in staff development programs and pro-bono initiatives. Kaplow U, its employee education program, is one of the most robust in the midsize agency world. And for the third year in a row, Kaplow employees traveled 90 miles outside of New York City to participate in Project Morry, a youth development organization with a superb residential summer camp. The agency also supported New York Cares, spending a day in the Bronx helping refurbish Crotonah Park.


Even more important, the firm continued to create killer campaigns for clients. For Target Stores, for example, Kaplow created the Bullseye Bodega, reinventing the pop-up store concept pioneered by Target nearly a decade ago and showcasing the retailer’s offerings in home, beauty and fashion designer goods. The campaign began with a blogger preview event, followed by a star-studded opening night private shopping party with attendees including Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld,  Emma Roberts and Vanessa Minnillo. The effort generated feature coverage in The New York Times, CBS Evening News, CNN, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, NPR, and more. Kaplow conceived and executed a program that put CafePress at the epicenter of history, turning the site into the premier election merchandise destination, while for hair care client Nexxus Salon Quality the firm created an online video that taught would-be donors how to properly cut off their hair for Locks of Love, a national charity that provides high quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.


“The guerilla strategy we developed with Kaplow was all about a dialog with our customers throughout the election season, then culminating at a once in a lifetime event—the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama,” says Amy Maniatis, vice president of marketing for CafePress. “Our guerilla strategy at the inauguration was a hands-on way we made a huge connection with our customers and extended the CafePress experience.” Adds Mischa Dunton, senior public relations manager for LeapFrog Enterprises: “We set bold objectives for our Kaplow team to tell our brand story across major media and emerging digital influencers. Through abundant creativity, an unsurpassed knowledge of our company and culture, and just plain tenacious staff, our communications program surpassed every mark we set.”


Kaplow maintains an impressive and impressively stable senior leadership team remains unchanged, including founder and CEO Liz Kaplow, general manager David Herrick (formerly of Ruder Finn and Bristol Myers Squibb), executive VP Tina Haskins Chadha, and senior VPs Leah Schmerl (Internet and e-commerce practice leader) and Danielle Arceneaux (retail, food and wine practice leader). There were promotions to senior VP level for Shannon Eis (head of the youth and luxury practice groups) and Joanne Amorese (finance and operations) while a notable new addition was former Today Show producer Dana Glaser, who joined the agency as vice president, media strategies.


Finally, Kaplow extended its geographic reach in 2008, forming a strategic alliance with one of Europe’s leading agency networks, Trimedia, which has close to 50 offices in 29 European countries.

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