Gibbs & Soell succeeds by blending a wide range of skills—strategic counsel, creativity, quality writing and professional media relations—with deep industry knowledge and a strong commitment to client service to deliver impressive public relations results across a wide range of markets: agribusiness, advanced manufacturing, energy, building products and financial service clients, science and technology companies, and more recently consumer-oriented categories, including healthcare. It has broad experience in each of those areas, and is quite comfortable turning away business that doesn’t match its expertise.
Like most midsize independents—and it ranks among the top 12 in the U.S. market, with fees of just over $19 million last year—Gibbs & Soell has had numerous opportunities to relinquish its independence. Its principals have no reason to regret rejecting all of those opportunities. “This is a great time to be an independent public relations agency,” says chairman and chief executive Cos Mallozzi, who believes “clients seem to value more and more midsize independent firms who get engaged and thoroughly involved in their business.”
Last year the firm made a series of moves designed to ensure it can continue to thrive as an independent in a new era. It made significant investments in digital and social media through its professional development program, GSU, which incorporated a focused effort on new and emerging media. It also hired a full-time executive to spearhead and expand the agency’s own marketing outreach, but perhaps most significantly it announced the promotion of agency veteran Luke Lambert to president (Mallozzi remains CEO and takes on the new title of chairman), while senior vice president Jeff Altheide took on expanded responsibilities, driving the firm’s growth strategy and focusing on innovation. G&S also hired Roger Ardan as vice president in late 2007, a move that paid off in terms of an expanded professional services practice in 2008.
The firm continues to use a formal, strategic, proprietary process that takes a pragmatic approach to building each client’s business. The process begins with an evaluation of the current situation, determines what impact events will have on the clients’ business if left unaddressed, evaluates what impact PR and integrated communications can have on the situation, determines the best way to accomplish the client’s objectives, and then applies the appropriate tactics. A major development in recent years was the launch of I Power, designed to equip companies with credible, relevant and clear messaging that penetrates and moves stakeholders. The powerful process assists an individual, team or entire organization in sharpening select messages to achieve impact, consensus and consistency. And G&S is firmly committed to measurement, customizing the firm’s approach on a client-by-client basis.
It’s an approach that has helped Gibbs & Soell build numerous client relationships that have endured for 10, 15, 20 years or more. Among the firm’s long-standing clients are industry leaders such as The Dow Chemical Company, Dow Building Solutions, Syngenta Crop Protection, American Woodmark Corporation, Delta Faucet, Firestone Building Products, Georgia-Pacific, and Million Dollar Roundtable. New additions in 2008 included American Society of Home Inspectors, ERA Real Estate, Kaldewei, Novartis Animal Health, Ply Gem Industries, Seward & Kissel, Trade Commission of Spain, Trustmark Insurance Company, and Willamette Management Associates.
Among the firm’s high-profile work in 2008, Gibbs & Soell initiated a new campaign for The Million Dollar Roundtable that focused on accelerating its evolution into a global organization representing a diverse range of life insurance and financial services professionals. The firm employed its I Power message development system to establish relevant messages and position its key leaders as opinion influencers in media campaign that addressed the looming retirement crisis faced by Baby Boomers. To help Syngenta maintain excitement for its Avicta Complete Cotton treatment, meanwhile, G&S developed a three-month long community awareness campaign and multimedia tour featuring blimp rides for customers across 11 Cotton Belt states. And for Dow Water Solutions, , the firm worked to maximize exposure at the 2008 Singapore International Water Week, a major conference and trade show that brings together global leaders to discuss water supply issues in Asia.
Gibbs & Soell’s ability to maintain strong client relationships is underscored by an October 2008 study conducted by an independent research firm, which found clients overwhelmingly likely to recommend the agency (89 percent). “Gibbs & Soell is skilled at communicating with a variety of audiences, across different markets,” says Kim Dawson, head of marketing services for Syngenta Crop Protection. “They approach execution of our plan tactics with a strong standard of high performance, solid, professional writing skills and with a strong attention to detail. We have great people working on our account who are very dedicated and bring tremendous talent to the table.”
The firm continues to offer an extensive international reach, with an office in Zurich and gateways to both Asia and Latin America via strategic alliances with partners in Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo and Miami.