Spark Public Relations
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Holmes Report
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Spark Public Relations

Holmes Report

When browser pioneer Netscape was acquired by AOL in 1998, corporate communications executives Donna Sokolsky and Chris Hempel didn’t have to think particularly hard about their next move: with many of the company’s senior executives leaving to launch their own technology start-ups or join other Silicon Valley leaders, they found their services in considerable demand. So in January of 1999 the two launched Sparkpr, which enjoyed considerable success in its first year—working with VA Linux to take the company through what was the most successful IPO of all time—and has gone from strength to strength since, establishing itself over the past nine years as one of the best of a new generation of technology public relations firms.


Sokolsky continues to serve as senior managing director, drawing on her deeply rooted connections within the influencer community and responsible for creating new service offerings, providing ongoing strategic counsel to  clients, and new business development, but the day-to-day management of the firm is handled by a strong team led by chief executive Alan Soucy, a Silicon Valley veteran with more than 20 years of experience at companies including Philips Electronics, where he was responsible for establishing Philips’ Mobile Computing Group, and a former Spark client. He is supported by senior management directors Rebecca Fuller, who heads the firm’s  open source technology practice; Tim Smith, Outcast veteran and enterprise technology practice leader; Amy Burke Bessette, consumer technology chief; Diane Schreiber, the firm’s resident media maven; and Tim Turpin, who leads the venture capital and financial services practice and previously worked at Blanc & Otus. In addition, senior director Rachel Bremer was recently dispatched to London where she heads the firm’s new European operations


Sparkpr enjoyed better than 20 percent growth in 2007, ending the year with 33 employees and revenue in excess of $6 million. The firm established a presence in Europe, expanded to new office space in San Francisco, launched two new practice areas—focused on emerging companies (through its new alphaSpark unit) and clean tech—and picked up new business from a lengthy list of companies including Virgin Green Fund, Barclays, NEC, Alien Technology, DASH Navigation, Farecast, Yahoo! Celebrities, The Economist, and Viagogo. They join a roster that includes EA, Index Ventures, Trolltech, and Fonality.


Highlights of the past 12 months include working with Barclays on the transition to an entirely new management team as the British bank sought to build its U.S. brand; announcing the acquisition of popular social media brand LiveJournal by Russian media conglomerate SUP; corporate positioning and business press visibility through the acquisition of by CBS; publicizing an online debate series for The Economist and the magazine’s foray into blogs, podcasting and social networks such as Facebook; and introducing the concept of conversational marketing to the media and to brands for Technorati.


“The Spark PR team working on the EA Mobile business is an extension of my internal PR team,” says – Trudy Muller, PR director for EA Casual Entertainment. “They are strategic in thinking of ways to generate stories, push our executives with messaging that makes them stand out, execute to secure key media coverage and are honest when they think our internal strategy is off. To have frank discussions with your agency where they voice an educated and insightful opinion is key for me in that they are better experts in the mobile industry than I am and I rely on their expertise.”


In addition to establishing its own operation in London, Spark works with Leafy Communications in

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