For Waggener Edstrom, it was as if the PR industry hadn't seen a single hardship in recent years. So for its stunning resiliency, textbook growth, and ambition, Wag Ed is a deserving winner of PRWeek's Agency of the Year award.
Wag Ed grew by bucking every trend. Despite a tough economy, this leading independent firm increased fee income, expanded nationally and internationally, won 31 new accounts, attracted new senior leadership, achieved a high staff-retention rate, and provided a dynamic work environment – all the while serving its clients.
The agency backed up claims with several facts and figures. Wag Ed saw revenue jump 19.5% for the first nine months of 2003 as compared to the same period in 2002. The firm secured 31 new clients with annual budgets totaling $11.6 million and increased revenue from existing clients by $9.3 million. It also opened offices in Boston, Paris, and San Francisco, all of which are operating within budget and on-plan for 2003. Operating expenses were also lowered for the fourth consecutive year, reduced by more than 16% over that period. During the same time, Wag Ed grew staff head count by 11.2%.
These figures are “impressive,” said one judge, who continued, “it's a very compelling story. Wag Ed clearly met all the standards it set for itself, and more.”
The firm was named Microsoft's first ever “vendor of the year” for fiscal 2003 and earned “premier” vendor status in recognition of its delivery of consistent results. Wag Ed is Microsoft's AOR.
During the year, the firm launched two new practice areas (consumer marketing and public affairs) and acquired the innovative New York consumer shop Maloney & Fox, which specializes in viral marketing and integrated branding efforts.
Wag Ed also developed WE Measure, a state-of-the-art method that measures client impact through media results that substantiate PR's value. The firm also launched PR Client Extranet, a suite of cutting-edge tech tools created by its Web Solutions Group, to enhance collaboration and communication with clients and other partners. Additionally, the agency developed a brand-messaging training-based program to teach company spokespeople how to use messages, tone, and manner consistent with Wag Ed's brand.
The firm achieved an admirable staff retention rate of 81%, while offering employees worldwide 50 training courses on a wide range of topics. During the year, the firm's employees invested a combined total of 11,177 hours in training. As one judge noted, “This is clearly an agency that values its employees.”
Community outreach was another area in which Wag Ed made its mark, as it offered 4,216 paid hours to employees so they could volunteer where they chose. The agency also honored Employee Volunteers of the Month.
The firm also did its part to bolster the industry as it collaborated with the Council of PR Firms and the University of Oregon to develop “Managing the PR Firm,” a new course for journalism, communication, and MBA students in the spring 2003 semester called Overall, judges were won over by the firm's “solid growth in nearly all areas.”
Kirvin Doak Communications
This 14-person firm in Las Vegas may be small, but it stood up admirably to the big boys and thoroughly deserves this honorable mention. Over the past year, Kirvin Doak undertook a series of new initiatives to grow from the inside out, restructuring its account teams and refining the employee-performance and appraisal processes. The result was better service for existing clients, and the signing of several new ones over the past year. The firm didn't lose a single client to the agency-review process, and realized 30% revenue growth, to $1.3 million. The agency focuses primarily on the travel and entertainment practice areas, helping local clients build awareness outside the market. The look within its own walls helped change the mindset of several clients, which no longer look outside Las Vegas for national PR capabilities. In the past year, the firm has picked up the accounts of MGM Mirage, Cirque du Soleil, Desert Passage, and several other short-term hospitality and entertainment projects.
Kirvin Doak Communications
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