One dimensional lobbying firms have been playing a less central role in the public policy arena in recent years, as clients increasingly look for integrated solutions, constructing campaigns that combine direct lobbying, public relations, grassroots, and issues advertising to achieve their strategic objectives. So it makes sense that a leading law firm would see the value of launching its own public relations subsidiary, as Patton Boggs did last year when it teamed with former Shandwick Public Affairs chief Michael Petruzzello to create Qorvis.
Qorvis brought together Petruzzello with three Washington-area boutique firms: The Poretz Group, a specialist in high-end investor relations for tech companies; The Weber/Merrit Group, a public affairs and grassroots agency; and JAS Communications, Judy Smith’s public relations and marketing communications business. The firm was designed to offer a broad array of PR and public affairs services, with a particular focus on the technology sector, which provides a steady supply of local clients—thanks to the booming northern Virginia tech corridor—and is likely to face a host of legislative issues over the coming year.
Petruzzello is known as a formidable rainmaker, and he has lived up to that reputation in his first year at the helm of Qorvis. The agency has brought in some impressive clients, including Core Capital, MicroStrategy, the Northern Virginia Technology Council, Learnout & Hauspie, Arthur Andersen, VHA.com, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association and has annualized billings of close to $15 million already. It has handled IPOs for TeleCommunications Systems and OPNET Technologies, Medicare reform issues for PhRMA, and government affairs support—in partnership with Patton Boggs—to Winstar and Wal-Mart.
Not surprisingly, the firm has been recruiting aggressively too, bringing in senior staffers such as Hillary Bruggen, managing director for technology marketing communications, who joined from technology consulting firm james martin + co.; Sydney McNiff Ferguson, managing director, from Capitol Hill; Amber Zentis, director of investor and public relations, from WorldSpace Corporation; and Jeff Schmidt, director of public affairs, from the American Insurance Association.