Shift Communications PR: Social Media Needs Public Relations

Shift Communications

Shift Communication’s first claim to fame is they were the PR firm launching the first social media press release (SMPR – download *.pdf template). The firm started in Boston, but now have four locations by adding offices in New York City, San Francisco and their most recent in Austin, Texas.


In that first Shift Communications social media press release, they forged new territory, making life easier for journalists and bloggers alike to do their job. They set it up in a similar format to an e-newsletter with structured information, written content, and visual/audio content to boost the understanding of content. In the process, they turned good information into a great story. Using all the elements of the best social media press releases we know today. Looking back, it’s easy to wonder why no one did it before them – seems almost a no-brainer, but the best innovations often feel that way after they happen.

What is commonplace now, having PR firms with their own blogs and social media divisions has only been happening for the last couple of years. Guess what, Shift Comm. was an early leader in that as well as they combined their efforts with Powered, a content and blogging service in January 2009. Both companies gained a lot when they joined forces.

Shift currently focuses much of their time, talents, and efforts in developing communications programs and grabbing the attention of financial and industry analyst groups. They help their clients break into new territories and markets, and drive reseller and channel programs.

They also assist clients with research for start-ups and launches, brand building, investment attraction, media training, social media efforts, marketing and repositioning in markets, lead generation, and reputation and crisis management. They offer help with strategic planning, blog consulting, PR metrics, event planning, and editorial services. They do all that while working almost exclusively with private and public technology companies, and assisting with major annual event planning within the technology industry.

They are an independent PR firm with Todd Defren as CEO, Jim Joyal as Partner, and Amy Lyons as President. They have between 100-140 employees, and their annual revenue approaches $20 million. They took a bit of a hit to their revenue in 2014 losing three big clients, Honeywell, Pitney Bowes, and Salesforce.com. Defren explained each situation, and they are moving forward. He believes those losses were natural and necessary at the time and ultimately have not damaged the firm’s bottom dollar beyond a momentary blip.

They opened their marketing technology group division in 2012 and have been expanding that area focusing on data and analytics. This addition allowed Shift Communications to become a Google Analytics Certified Partner in 2015 to help their clients better understand the return on investment of their marcomms work. They may not be the first company doing this, but they are still ahead of many as they incorporate the power of big data and what those analytics offer clients. Big data has an almost unlimited and barely tapped potential.

Defren explained, “Marketing technology is the single biggest thing going on right now and probably the biggest thing we have done in our 12-year history.” He continued his explanation, “Data-driven PR is the future of the industry and without research capabilities, data and analytics, any impact you generate is just luck.”

Shift’s goal is to add analysts to every account team for their clients’ benefit. Though math skills are not always prevalent in creative types, the junior staff of Shift have adopted the idea and are running with it. When they get that down well enough to translate the data, they will focus on helping clients understand what is happening and what can happen, it will be another big step forward for a firm welcoming big steps. Data analytics helps in a myriad of ways, of course, PR and marketing are enhanced, but big data analytics can help companies find ways to cut unnecessary costs, automate maintenance and utility usage for climate control in buildings. When money is saved from one area of the budget, it frees it up for marketing or adding to the company in other ways.

Over the years, Shift has built a solid B2B and beyond reputation with their personalized data-driven approach to PR making them attractive to CEOs and company Presidents looking for a new approach. Shift joins with clients to build campaigns impacting the marketplace using the research and analytics expertise and forward-thinking of its creative services team.

Defren has made a name for himself globally in social media, public relations, as a lecturer, and big thinker. His blog, PR-Squared is often among the top 50 blogs listed on AdAge’s Power 150.

Shift PR has received many honors over the years including being listed as one of the 10 Fastest Growing PR Firms in the U.S. according to US World PR Report recently, and Observer’s 2013 Power 50 List. They have also been named Digital/Social Agency of the Year in 2012. Shift represents many clients including McDonald’s, Engadget, AdTech, T-Mobile, Canadian Club, H&R Block, and Tyson.

The company recently made another big step as they gave stock in the company to their employees, making it employee-owned. This move allows the employees to share in the profits, but also in the pride of accomplishment whenever new milestones are met. Good work should always be recognized and supported. Let’s face it, when employees own a piece of the rock, they are more likely to put in just that little extra bit of effort now and then. All those extra moments and deeds add up fast in a company that knows how to use every advantage.

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Comments

  1. says

    Liliana – thanks for raising this issue, and thanks to you and Aaron for the kind compliments about SHIFT. I think you have all hit the main point here already– that Powered’s services and public relations, while related, are not the same.

    While social media is now a very big part of most public relations campaigns, it is more than the tools, but how we use them, that differentiates us all.

    The SHIFT team (and I am working directly with Aaron from the SHIFT side) is more than pleased to be working with the powered folks.

  2. Aaron Strout says

    Well now Liliana, you pretty much just made my day. Thanks for the kind words and your vote of confidence. ;)

  3. Aaron Strout says

    Liliana – thanks so much for your thoughtful post. You raise a great question regarding why a social marketing company would need a PR firm i.e.

    What we can already say though, is that public relations and social media are complementing each other. In the modern online spectrum we can no longer speak of public relations without acknowledging the power of the social media.

    As the chief marketing officer at Powered, I can tell you that while we are great at creating programs for our clients, they are much more online community-centric than PR/blogger focused. One of the valuable lessons I learned during my time at my last company, Mzinga, was that the combination of traditional marketing, PR and social media efforts was the MOST effective way to build a brand.

    Given the fact that we don’t do PR (even though I blog, Twitter and podcast regularly), we wanted to go out and get the firm best equipped to help us with our press & media relations. For us, SHIFT was the perfect fit.

    Best,
    Aaron Strout, VP Marketing – Powered
    @aaronstrout

    • Liliana Dumitru-Steffens says

      I was expecting your answer, Aaron – this is pretty much what I intended to explain in one of my future editorials. For this post however, the best answer could only come from you, and I am personally very happy you gave it. :) You chose an excellent company to represent you. Congratulations from all of us!

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