Blattel Communications’ 20th anniversary is today. Impressive! Ellen Blattel started the agency with a vision, and now, after more than two decades, Blattel Communications is considered one of the top PR agencies in the nation for professional services and business-to-business communication.
So what’s the secret to Blattel Communications’ success? We asked Ellen to share her experiences, discuss industry changes and reveal her projections for the next 20 years.
Q: What made you decide to set up shop?
A: I was a VP at another PR agency and had become more and more involved in running the business, generating clients and managing employees. I became consumed with the idea that I could run my own agency if I was willing to accept the risks involved. I also wanted to be able to focus my efforts on industries in which I had a true interest.
Lucky for me, I already had a good reputation since, at that time, there were only a handful of PR consultants nationally focusing on the legal industry. I firmly believe that integrity is everything, so I wanted to start my own agency with a clean slate – taking with me NO clients from my previous employer.
Within three months, the agency – OK, basically a colleague and I – had a handful of clients to keep us busy, and after only five months, we started adding staff.
Q: What were some challenges?
A: I think the biggest challenge now is that there is a lot more competition out there, including mega-agencies with legal divisions and a growing number of freelancers focusing on specific professional service sectors.
The key to our success is that we really are committed to the professional services industry. Initially, we represented only legal clients but eventually diversified and expanded our roster to include real estate, construction, architecture, accounting and other general business-to-business clients.
Q: How has professional services PR changed over the years?
A: Professionals now recognize the need, importance and resulting benefits of a strong PR strategy. When we first started, we had to explain to prospective clients what PR was and why they needed to do it. We rarely do that now. I consider that progress.
Also, technology has changed drastically. At the beginning of my career, we didn’t even have a computer! We physically cut and pasted together press releases, made Xerox copies, used vats of “white out” and snail mailed the news to reporters. I remember getting our first fax machine – that was a big deal!
Now, thanks to the Internet, scores of people are accessing their news and information via a variety of media and on a continual basis, and the traditional print papers are waning because of it.
The onslaught of social media and its application to professional services is another huge change. We have to identify the best way to communicate with the next generation of decision makers who are incredibly tech savvy. This provides PR strategists with new challenges and opportunities to engage our clients and their audiences through integrated marketing and public relations. It’s exciting to be a part of the evolution of communication.
Q: What do you predict in the next 20 years?
A: Hopefully, I will be retired with my husband and have 22 cats! And the agency might occasionally take me out to Yank Sing for dim sum and sage advice.
In all seriousness, I anticipate technology will continue to change how we do business, but the fundamentals – relationships and name recognition – will always be dominate elements in developing business, both for us and our clients.
– Jennifer Chan