Kelly O’Malley and Todd Hansen worked together on the McDonald’s account at international public relations giant Fleishman-Hillard, the former focusing on consumer marketing and food and nutrition communications, the latter on corporate positioning and issues management. They launched their own firm in 2006 with an approach that recognized the increasing influence of consumer conversations on corporate messaging and the growing convergence of corporate and consumer PR as once distinct stakeholder groups increasingly interact, and sought to help clients address three disruptive trends: the fragmentation of media channels; the growing ability and willingness of audiences to participate in conversations with media and brands themselves; and the increasing need to make communications less formal and more authentic.
The firm’s blended approach can be seen in its work for Hanesbrands, one of its largest and longest-standing clients. O’Malley Hansen started out handling corporate and issues management work, most notably helping the company respond to criticisms about the apparel industry’s use of cheap labor in Latin American countries. The firm supported several corporate responsibility initiatives, focused on issues such as employee welfare, health education, and disaster relief. But more recently, it pitched for and won several brand-building projects, and has been handling mainstream and multicultural marketing assignments.
The diversity and substance of the firm’s work has also helped with talent acquisition. Senior vice president Elizabeth Castro came from Weber Shandwick, where she focused on corporate reputation and issues management; vice president Kim Yurkovich, meanwhile, worked on the client side with Anheuser-Busch and before that Stanford University Medical Center.
The firm now has total of 16 employees split evenly between its St. Louis and Chicago offices, and saw fee income increase by 15 percent last year, to around $2.4 million. In addition to Hanesbrands, the firm’s clients include a mix of big blue-chip brands and smaller, more entrepreneurial companies: Sara Lee, Furniture Brands, Nature’s Variety pet food, St.Louis-based marketing communications firm Group 360, and St. Louis brewery Schlafly.
Highlights of the past year’s client work include award-winning projects such as the Expedition Hanesbrands campaign, which featured a trek to Mt. Everest to test the company’s Champion and Duofold brand apparel, and Sara Lee Deli’s Sharing the Mama Sagas campaign, which provided online resources for moms through various social media platforms.
“O’Malley Hansen Communications is a tremendous partner to Sara Lee as the agency is fully committed to the success of our brands, our company and our consumer-customer relationships,” says Jon Harris, senior vice president for global communications at Sara Lee Corporation. “The team works as a collaborative partner with our communications and marketing teams on various initiatives across our organization. O’Malley Hansen brings tremendous enthusiasm to the Sara Lee brand, [and] continues to demonstrate strong creativity, using traditional media, event planning and the online environment to communicate a complicated nutrition message… They demonstrate their commitment to great thinking in whatever we ask them to do, so we have been able to do great work together. OHC is one of the best agencies I have ever worked with.”