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Creating Buzz for Your Agency

Advertising professionals know how to build consumer brands, but too often, they’re confounded when it comes to building their own agency brands, according to DiGennaro Communications founder and CEO Sam DiGennaro, who compared the phenomenon to “the cobbler’s kids who don’t have shoes.”

DiGennaro made the observation during a co-presentation with Melanie Wells, her company’s managing director and chief content officer, at the Mirren New Business conference on May 3 in New York’s financial district.

“Creating Buzz for Your Agency,” their 40-minute break-out session to a packed room, offered practical and actionable guidelines for getting news coverage in the increasingly complex media marketplace. DiGennaro and Wells outlined how to align a PR strategy with the agency’s new-business goals, which should also include raising the profile of the C-suite, building pride of place, recruiting star talent and establishing category expertise.

Wells referenced the famous quote from Microsoft founder Bill Gates who once said, “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”

In the age of social media, it’s easier than ever to raise an agency’s profile outside traditional media outlets, Wells said. But first, the agency must have or develop a platform—what the company stands for.

From the platform, the agency’s leaders can offer their points of view through blogs or guest columns in select outlets.

Wells told the story of how DGC client BzzAgent felt it had lost its “cutting-edge” quality. DGC worked with and developed a unique platform for CEO Dave Balter that repositioned him and the company in a more positive light.

Balter admitted during a PR strategy session that he made some ego-based decisions that hurt his company, Wells said, and she worked with him to develop his platform, which became “The Humility Imperative.” Shortly thereafter, reporters were calling him for insights, and he was making the rounds on the speaking circuit. Last year, a unit of Tesco bought BzzAgent.

In developing a platform, Wells said CEO’s need to “be honest about who you are. Be transparent and a little fearless.” She also advised agencies to embrace social media in promoting their news because these channels increase reach. Besides, she said, “It’s free and it’s effective.”

DiGennaro cited other agency success stories such as Arnold Worldwide, Woods Witt Dealy, Organic and Optimedia, a former DGC client, all of which exercised the patience and persistence required in executing PR plans that paid off with new business leads, wins and media recognition. Advertising Age named Arnold to its 2012 Agency A-List and named Organic “Comeback Agency of the Year.”

“Momentum begets momentum,” DiGennaro explained. “Clients and prospects want to be attached to agencies they think are hot.”


DGC’s Melanie Wells on Content

Melanie Wells, our very own Chief Content Officer, recently sat down with PRWeek‘s Danielle Drolet to discuss DGC’s Shine practice and share a few tips executives can use to develop strong content strategies for their brands.

Want to get in on the action? Start by determining your passion and purpose then translate it into content that feels right to you. In today’s world, it is critical that you develop a distinct point of view and think like a publisher to develop content that outlets (and their readers) can use.

Click here to learn more and see Melanie’s interview in full.

A Different Type of Pitch…for Tomorrow’s PR Talent

We all know that identifying a newsworthy trend is a critical strategy in persuading a reporter to jump on a story. Well, there’s one such trend that’s not getting much coverage, and yet it deals directly with the media themselves. In fact, from where I sit, it’s having perhaps the single biggest impact on elevating the strategic counsel we’re delivering to our clients. The trend I’m referring to is the leap to a career in PR that so many business and marketing editors are pursuing nowadays.

Whether it’s a contraction in publishing, work/life balance, the opportunity to try something new, or financial upside, it seems each week we’re hearing from another influential journalist looking for insights about making such a switch.

Here at DGC, we’re thrilled to have added three former journalists to our growing team and the results could not be more positive. Our Chief Content Officer, Melanie Wells, joined us late last year from Forbes Media, where she served as an executive editor; Kathy Sampey is a seasoned former journo from Adweek; and Megan McIlroy cut her teeth as an agency beat reporter at AdAge. These outstanding execs took to PR agency life like a fish to water, and certainly much of it is because we specialize in an industry they already understood.

For us, their editorial training delivers incredible value every day – the ability to quickly synthesize complex business stories, package them for media just as they would have wanted to receive them, and, sometimes, call a story b.s. if it has too many holes. Of course, it should go without saying that their writing is exemplary, too, which benefits our entire team.

I’m not a fan of giving away any ingredients to our secret sauce, but it’s clear the cat’s out of the bag on this one. Journalists are flocking to PR fast, and I encourage my peers to give them great consideration. They’ll be your superstars of tomorrow.

Advertising’s Star Search

Advertising holding company leaders gripe that the industry lags in tapping and nurturing good talent.

WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell, appearing on a panel with IPG’s Michael Roth and Omnicom’s John Wren at the 4A’s conference in Austin, blasted the advertising industry’s “criminal neglect” in finding, recruiting, and keeping top talent. Instead of devoting time and resources to executive development, “if we need talent, we steal them.” he said. Holding companies should have a “chief talent officer” who identifies and nurtures good performers.

The three execs, in a rare appearance together, agreed that the industry needs to do a better job recruiting from business schools, film schools and art schools.

Sure, the ad biz competes with other industries for talent. But with so many people out of work and young college graduates eager to join the workforce, are promising, potential stars so hard to find?

These top industry executives probably weren’t around for earlier sessions at the conference when college students studying advertising and marketing in Austin asked questions about opportunities in the industry. (Perhaps the 4A’s should include promising ad students in part of their program next year…?)

Three cheers for Ronda Carnegie, TED’s global partnership director. She spoke up after the bigwig panel, saying “the best talent is sitting in your organization and you don’t know who they are…They’re there.”

“Agency of the future” talk at Transformation 2011

There is a lot of talk at the 4A’s Conference in Austin this week about the “agency of the future.”  One view: This agency won’t have 500 people in a building. It will have 50 people spread around the country. The crowdsourcing mentality will rub off on full-time employees. (“Freedom is something you have to put into your salary,” says Ignacio Oreamuno, president of GiantHydra.)

Draftfcb Executive Chairman Howard Draft says if he were starting an agency from scratch today it would be a digital agency with no more than 50 people. (Draftfcb has 10,500 employees.) Clients would have to pay a minimum of $1 million a month to work with the agency.

Nuts? Despite an industry in turmoil, there is, at last, optimism among ad makers about what’s next. Because of the chaos, says Peter McGuinness, chairman & CEO of ad agency Gotham, “there has never been a better time to be in this business.”

Takeaways from 4A’s Transformation 2011 Conference

Transformation can be a scary and difficult journey for companies and individuals, as Sam noted in her introductory post.

Traditional agency executives certainly know that’s true. They have been blasted, as a group, in recent years for being head-in-the sand types who are reluctant to adapt in changing times. How many years have we been reminded at this conference that “the 30-second TV spot isn’t dead”? That came up as recently as last year at the ad group’s conference in San Francisco, where there was a lot of hand-wringing as one top marketer urged the jittery group to, at last, think beyond the 30-second TV spot. Embrace social media, they were told. Well, duh.

But, finally, signs of change. At the the 4A’s Transformation Conference in Austin this week the group is facing up to changing and challenging times–and agencies are trying to adapt. Many of the sessions and cocktail discussions (before the second cocktail) are about mobile apps, online video, crowdsourcing design, virtual collaboration, and brand-created content. Attendees—there are some 1,000 people at this conference—are eager use technology that’s transforming advertising.


  • Web video is big and growing. In 2011 twice as many videos will be viewed than searches queried we heard Tuesday from Tremor Media. Marilyn Mersereau, CMO of Cisco, says 90% of all Internet traffic by 2013 will be video.
  • Crowdsourcing  is part of the future of advertising. “Collaboration is here,” Winston Binch, partner/managing director of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, said. One conference speaker, Tim McClure, co-founder of GSD&M, used the term “curativity,” noting that it may take some traditional agency jobs away. (How long before there’s a Chief Curator at agencies?)

Welcome to The Hit Board

Dear Friends,

Welcome to The Hit Board, the official blog of DiGennaro Communications.

We decided to launch our blog during the 4A’s Transformation Conference because DGC is deep in the throes of its own exciting Transformation.

The Transformation Conference kicked off this morning with a robust program of high-level content, punctuated by its “Transformers” presentations, quickie interstitials that offer points-of-view about how the industry is regularly evolving. In the spirit of the 4As Transformers, here are a few of our own…

  • Fast & Furious Five: In January 2006, DGC had its official ribbon-cutting as a two-person team. Five years later, DGC now has close to 25 full-time practitioners – and our very own President, Howard Schacter– who strive each and every day to make our agency the leading PR partner for marketing communications, digital, media and entertainment companies. Thanks to this growth we relocated in January to a cool, new loft space in the Flatiron District. That’s a step up!
  • Content is Queen: Melanie Wells, a former executive editor at Forbes and creator of its highly successful CMO Network, recently joined DGC to lead a new practice that we call Shine. Shine is a thought leadership and content development offering that focuses on executive positioning for organizations’ C-suites. This is an exciting new foray that we believe will help differentiate our clients from the industry’s indelible white-noise.
  • The Hit Board: Since its inception, DGC has guided the thought leadership and social media efforts for clients ranging from global agencies to hotshot boutiques. Now that we have our own internal bandwidth (no time to focus on ourselves when there’s client work to do!), it’s time to practice what we’ve been preaching. The Hit Board is one of several new distribution channels you’ll be seeing from DGC in the coming weeks. This blog seeks to be a wellspring of ideas, news, videos, photos and commentary that are relevant and useful to the marketing communications industry at large.

Transformation can be a scary and difficult journey for companies and individuals. Believe me, in 2006 nobody was sure about what was next for the industry and that hasn’t changed a bit. But DGC opened its doors confidently in the middle of the nascent stages of the social-media boom, and we continue to be just as excited now as we were then about the future of our industry. More important, we are better equipped than ever to participate in its continued evolution.

We welcome your engagement and feedback in our social-media efforts, which start right here in Austin, Texas, at the 4A’s Transformation Conference.

You’ll hear from executive attendees via video interviews and editorial postings. Thanks for your continued support.

Next up is SXSWi, where we’ll continue our live blogging updates. Hope to see you in Austin…or on The Hit Board!




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