I’ve worked in the tech communications field for more than fifteen years, and in that time witnessed a veritable boom in the number of public relations firms devoted exclusively to serving technology clients (just Google “tech PR firm” and you’ll see what I mean).
No doubt, the majority of these firms do fantastic work. Many a start-up (not to mention established company) has benefited from a PR agency’s help in defining their public voice and attracting press attention they wouldn’t receive otherwise.
But the model isn’t perfect.
Too many young, budget-constrained companies – often full of PR promise – are priced out of hiring a traditional PR firm. Agencies charge high fees to cover office rents and pay for talent in cities like San Francisco, New York, and Boston – some of the nation’s priciest and most competitive.
Moreover, the long-term retainer model many agencies favor – which ensures a stable revenue stream to cover their fixed costs – simply doesn’t work for start-ups on unpredictable paths. Companies like that can’t typically plan beyond a month or two, let alone commit to a year-long relationship.
That’s why I find Just Drive Media intriguing.
Yes, the agency does great work (if I do say so myself). But what I think is uniquely notable is that it operates on an entirely different model. The founders come from Silicon Valley tech backgrounds, and they committed themselves to creating a firm that addressed the shortcomings they witnessed in the PR agency world.
The single biggest decision they made to do that?
JDM would operate entirely virtually.
Without a “home” office, its overhead costs are a fraction of what an SF-or NYC-based agency incurs. That means its fees don’t have to cover expensive rent, so nearly all client dollars go into actual work that generates results.
The virtual set-up delivers other collateral benefits. Because JDM can invest a high percentage of revenue in its talent, the team is considerably more senior than what traditional agencies could afford, and isn’t limited by geography. Team members here average 8+ years professional experience, and the most senior of those (15+ years) are involved in day-to-day client work. With a dispersed workforce, clients often have on-the-ground representation in multiple major markets, like SF, NYC and Chicago as part of their one team.
The team structure also makes it easier to accommodate short-term projects. JDM can enlist the best team members, no matter their location, for any particular project, and can turn up or down the volume on a project easily.
It’s a nimble, flexible, cost-effective form of staffing, in line with the way many potential clients work today.
Like any industry, PR and communications changes with the time. Older models give way to new. JDM’s virtual model represents, I think, a way of doing business that fills a need unmet by brick-and-mortar, long-term-retainer-based agencies whose model has long defined the industry.