Happy Birthday To BPR.

September 28, 2010

Every once in a while you need to break the rules, and today I’m going to break my own rule, the one that states: PR agencies should not promote themselves. This week marks BPR’s 12th birthday and as such I’m going to take a page from the playbook of MWW, Weber, Edelman, Hill and Knowlton, and all the other cookie-cutter agencies and talk about why we’re so great. I guess this is my version of “knocking a few back on your birthday.”

In September of 1998 I was fed-up with the PR industry – kind of like the guy on JetBlue – except without an emergency slide. Having worked at Imagio I knew I loved the art and science of PR – but I loathed the bullshit that seemed inescapable. What bullshit you ask? All of it. From telling clients what they wanted to hear to gouging them with charges and calling them “service fees or administrative expenses.” I was bothered that reporters didn’t like PR people (for the most part) and I completely sympathized with them realizing that I didn’t like PR people (for the most part). I knew there had to be a better way and was determined to prove it. After a small tiff with my now ex-wife about the risks of starting a PR firm, and armed with $10K and one client on the runway – BPR took off. From our first day in business I knew in order to avoid the pit that most every agency falls into we had to do things differently. And, by taking this approach I had to accept that not everyone was going to like us, agree with us, or want to hire us. I asked everyone in the company at the time (2) if we were cool with the approach – and the vote was unanimous: cool.

Soon our client base of 1, ShopNow.com, turned into 2 when we added Cisco, then Encoding.com (Loudeye) then Concur, Classmates.com and so on. We did kick-ass work, hired smart people, and created the foundation upon which PR minus the BS was built. As time went on we realized that people really liked our “secret sauce” – which included telling the truth, setting proper expectations, charging a fair rate, and not allowing the agency to fall into the category of a vendor. Things were going great, we had more business coming our way than we knew what to do with, then the dot.com crash of 2001 happened – and guess what? We were totally fine. To this I attribute the very important decision of not growing too fast. Admittedly it was tempting when, throughout 1999 and 2000, we received calls from newly venture-backed companies who had monthly budgets of $25K or more and needed an agency yesterday, but we said “sorry we’re full.” Â It wasn’t until the bottom fell out on agencies all around us that I really understood how important it was to keep things manageable no matter how alluring the $$ may be. We sailed through 2001 – completely unscathed.

Fast forward to 2010 and here we sit at the intersection of Wickedly Smart and Totally Different. While those around us continue their firm grip on the safe way of doing things, BPR has put the proverbial stake in the ground and said NO – we don’t roll like that. Let them charge thousands of dollars for a messaging session, let them bill a client $20 for a FedEx that cost them $9, let them allow bitches to run rampant in the agency, let them bring their best people to the initial client meeting – never to be seeing again-, let them use thrilled/pleased/excited in every quote, let them win ridiculous awards that are nothing more than public masturbation, let them write books about PR, let them distribute press releases on themselves that no one cares about, let them hire and fire based on what “corporate” tells them to do, and let them spend hundreds of hours per month looking for new business like rats in a sewer. Let them do it all; we’ll do none of it. Instead we’ll be doing something totally old-school: we’ll be taking care of our clients. It’s worked for the past 12 years and I’m confident it’ll work great for the next 12 years.

So a big thank you to all of our past and present clients, and to the amazing team at BPR who everyday prove that you don’t need to be a Pinocchio or a doormat to be a great PR person, you don’t need to use the word “strategy” to be strategic, and you certainly don’t need a silly little title like SAE to be an MVP. We’re going to keep on keepin on, having fun, and changing the PR landscape one long day after another.

Happy Birthday to us.

Howie

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