Looking at just the numbers, RF|Binder’s growth over the past six years—since it was spun off from sister agency Ruder Finn in 2001—is not particularly spectacular: five years of growth in the mid-teens, followed by a modest 6 percent increase in 2007. But examined at in context, the firm’s first six years of existence are quite impressive: launched with a focus on technology and dot-com business at precisely the wrong moment (the bubble was just about to burst), RF|Binder was quickly reinvented as a more generalist firm, but with a distinctive focus made possible by the combined experience of its senior leadership team, its commitment to research, and the vision of chief executive Amy Binder.
So the mix of business today bears virtually no trace of the firm’s dot-com legacy. It is split almost evenly between the corporate and consumer realms, with the food and beverage sector accounting for 25 percent of the $12.2 million in revenues record last year, followed by health and wellness and financial services (including investor relations) with just under 20 percent apiece, and consumer and lifestyle (about 15 percent). But most of the firm’s work defies easy labeling: a lot of the work for consumer brands involves high-profile, high stakes issues, particularly in the energy and environment arena, where the firm has created programming for clients such as Bosch, ECD, New York Regional Interconnection and Staples, and in the nutritional space, where clients include Bob Evans, Cargill, and Wines of Chile.
While growth was just 6 percent last year—slowed significantly by the loss of the Splenda account—there was plenty of new business: more than $2.6 million in new assignments from clients as diverse as Bank of America, Cargill, Dunkin’ Donuts, Johnson & Johnson, McGraw Hill, Miller Brewing, NASDAQ, NYU’s Stern School of Business, Procter & Gamble, and Staples.
In addition to Binder, the leadership team includes president Frank Walton, former chief knowledge officer at Ruder Finn and head of its Research & Forecasts division; chief marketing officer George Drucker, who has led consumer campaigns in senior positions at Edelman and Burson-Marsteller; and executive managing directors Robert Ferris (an IR expert), Joe Fisher (former president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller USA), Della Burns, David Kalson, Nancy Moss (who leads the firm’s Boston office) and Atalanta Rafferty. In addition, there’s a four-person research team, led by research director Sonum Atuk, and a growing new media capability, helmed by new media strategist Kate Farber.
The firm has also been devoting a good deal of energy to internal matters in an attempt to position RF|Binder as an employer of choice in the increasingly competitive battle for talent. The firm’s Binder U has emerged over the past couple of years as one of the top training programs at any midsize firm, with an uncommon emphasis on programs that help people get under the skin of their clients’ business, from courses at Columbia Business School (focused on new media) to the opportunity to learn from the American Sommelier Association (the firm represents Chilean wines). As a result, the New York State Society for Human Resource Management and the Best Companies Group named RF|Binder one of the best 15 midsize companies in the state last year, and the firm has been climbing up The Holmes Report’s Best Agencies to Work For lists.