Brand building PR firm
It’s not quite clear whether Wheatley & Timmons is a hybrid—a cross between a public relations firm and a brand strategy consultancy—or simply a harbinger of a new generation of public relations firms. In any event, while much of the agency’s product looks like traditional public relations work, the process through which it approaches engagements is decidedly atypical.
An example: Wheatley & Timmons was engaged by Serta, one of the big three companies in the mattress business, to help position the brand at the high end of that market. Most mattress marketing campaigns have focused on sleep comfort, but Wheatley’s research—using a consumer anthropology approach—delivered an interesting insight: that people measured sleep quality not by how they felt during the night but by how they felt the next day. Building on that insight, the firm created a program that brought Serta together with partners focused on fitness and nutrition, positioning a good night’s sleep at the apex of a triangle of elements that would help people feel more energized during the day—a strategy that broke the mould of traditional mattress marketing.
Says Serta’s PR director Kally Reynolds: “I have worked with four PR firms over the last six years, and in every respect W&T is the most exceptional. Instead of gradually relegating us to the junior partner on the team, W&T has given Serta frequent access to the extraordinary creativity, experience and vision of its two principals” As for our Client Satisfaction survey, “Wheatley & Timmons is outstanding,” says one respondent. “All too often a client feels it is being taken for granted by its agency after a few years, when the honeymoon period is over. With W&T I feel the opposite. Their performance keeps getting better and better, as they learn more and more about our company, our industry and our customers.” Another client says W&T was chosen for “its strategic insight, willingness to tell us what we need to hear, and targeted, effective communications.”
Wheatley & Timmons differs from the traditional public relations firm is another key aspect: its billing model. Founders Bob Wheatley and Rich Timmons have more than 50 years of experience in the marketing and communications arena—much of it on the client side—and share a conviction that the traditional hourly billing model is not conducive to building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships, so fees are structured on a project basis, an approach they believe encourages greater senior level involvement and a focus on results rather than timesheets.
Because its model looks so different, W&T has built its business one convert at a time, but the conversion rate is clearly improving, and the firm more than doubled in size in 2005, with much of that growth coming from existing clients. The major new business success was Sargento Foods, the number two brand in the