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Thursday, Jul 18, 2024

PR Firms Boost Headcounts by 11%

Headcounts across OC’s base of public relations firms increased this year as the industry continues to expand beyond media coverage to include services like influencer marketing.
“Right now, PR is sort of a combination of everything,” Ladera Ranch-based Bluetone CEO Jonathan Abramson told the Business Journal.

“Every 21st century PR pro needs to know how to do more than just earned media [coverage],” Reveille Inc. CEO Brenda Springer told the Business Journal. “They need to know things like how to create a brochure, implement a social media campaign … PR is now more integrated in marketing and communications.”

Bluetone, whose clients range from healthcare companies to interior designers, over the past two years has added influencer relations, digital marketing, design and SEO to its host of services.

New PR specialists and digital marketers accounted for the firm’s local headcount growth of 300% to eight employees over the past year.

Bluetone, No. 17 on this week’s Business Journal list, saw the highest rise in headcount out of the companies on this week’s list. In total, the 17 largest OC firms saw an 11% rise in local payrolls to 327, up from last year’s 9.4% boost.

Only three PR firms reported smaller headcounts from last year, all of which saw decreases of less than 10%. Three other firms reported no changes in employee count, while the 10 remaining companies—excluding Bluetone—posted staff increases ranging from 6% to 63%.

Rise of the Podcast

Getting coverage in national publications is becoming less of a priority for companies hiring PR firms, according to Abramson.

Rather than making TechCrunch or Forbes, Bluetone’s clients are more interested in getting on trade-specific podcasts and publications.

“About 75% of our clients” want to be on podcasts, Abramson said. “Many already know what they want. They’re a lot better educated in PR than they were years ago.”

Though companies now have more direction in their PR strategy, many of Bluetone’s potential clients are not aware of PR’s limited impact on sales.
Abramson said he often gets prospective clients who believe PR will quickly boost sales and save their company.

“I have to tell them … we’re not the end-all, be-all,” he said. The return on investment from PR “doesn’t happen overnight. PR is a long game and we support sales, we’re not in charge of it.”

Bastion Merger

Like Bluetone, Laguna Hills-based PR firm Bastion Amplify also reported a higher headcount.

Bastion’s total employees jumped 63% to 26 over the past year, after the firm—previously Costa Mesa-based Bastion Elevate—merged with IMW Agency in Laguna Hills.
The deal aimed to “create a new type of full-service firm” by combining the companies, officials said.

It also positioned the firm’s U.S. subsidiary of parent company Bastion Agency to become the largest full-service independent marketing company on the West Coast, Bastion USA CEO Dax Cornelius said in a statement.

Prior to the merger, Bastion Elevate ranked No. 6 on the Business Journal’s 2022 list of PR agencies, while IMW ranked No. 7.

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