Some of the newest players in Vancouver’s public relations sector have become some of its largest. A quarter of the companies on Business in Vancouver’s biggest PR companies list were started after 2010.
Laura Murray, founder of Laura Murray Public Relations, attributes her success to identifying a niche she was passionate about. Her background in the arts and passion for the community gave her a natural focus when she launched her new firm back in 2011. Exclusively serving the arts industry, Murray’s firm has grown to 10 full-time staff, and her clients include major organizations like Bard on the Beach and the Vancouver Opera.
“I wanted to open a one-stop-shop that offered arts organizations everything, from media relations to online design. We tend not to break away from that focus, and that has certainly served us well.”
Murray said that while her staff have diverse skills, almost all of them have been trained in an artistic discipline. That level of dedication to the arts appears to be working. Murray estimates the company has retained approximately 95% of its original client base.
The company’s local reputation is generating opportunities outside the city.
However, a niche doesn’t need to be found in a specific industry. Yulu PR was founded with a goal of fostering social change through public relations. According to co-founder Melissa Orozco, the firm selects clients that align with Yulu’s social responsibility ideal.
“We saw an opportunity to hang our hat on our corporate values, which is to only work with companies that have a social mandate,” Orozco said in an email to BIV. “Industry peers asked us if this mandate would limit us from landing accounts with large non-social enterprise businesses, but it’s in fact been the opposite.”
Companies are starting to realize the importance of giving back, Orozco said, and if potential clients aren’t already involved with making positive change, Yulu will require a “community or social impact component” be included in their PR solution.
Jennifer Maloney, who co-founded Yulu with Orozco, said a big change in the industry is in the role of the “influencer,” which used to include only certain news outlets and personalities. But the rise of social media has expanded the role to include anyone with a niche audience.
According to Talk Shop Media co-founder and principal Beth Boyle, knowing where the money is in its market and playing to the strengths of the Vancouver economy has helped Talk Shop to become one of the city’s biggest firms.
“We’re really going where the business is going, and it happens to be that the three specific [areas] that we specialize in – technology, lifestyle and real estate – are booming sectors in Vancouver.”
But Boyle said a big challenge for the industry is in how firms deal with clients wanting to spend more of their marketing and PR budgets on creating an online presence, especially because proving the financial returns on that investment can be more difficult.“In the last year, we’ve had some companies switch all of their marketing, advertising and communications budgets just to being online. You have to know whether an online strategy meets the needs of your company; you can’t just start a Twitter for the sake of starting Twitter.”