Q&A with Jeff Bradford, President of Bradford Dalton Group
Bradford Dalton Group is a full-service public relations and advertising agency with a staff of more than 90 professionals and offices in Nashville, Atlanta and Jacksonville, Fla. The agency is renowned for its work in several industries – including technology, finance, healthcare and real estate.
The Bradford Group merged with the Dalton Agency on Mach 1, 2020 – just as the COVID pandemic was taking off. What was it like, merging an agency and dealing with the emergence of a pandemic at the same time?
And don’t’ forget, the day after the deal with Dalton was signed, a tornado demolished Main Street in East Nashville – where our office is located. Nashvillians call 2020 the Year of the COVINADO. The planets kind of lined up on us last March.
We were both lucky and skilled in determining how this conflagration of catastrophes played out for us. First, our offices were undamaged by the tornado. As you can see from accompanying photographs, the rest of Main Street did not fare so well. The Fifth and Main Building, where we are, lost an HVAC unit off the roof, and roofing and siding suffered some damage – but luckily no damage to the front of the building where our offices are.
Second, early on in the pandemic, we spun up a new section on our website dedicated to COVID communications: links to the CDC, Johns Hopkin, FAQ from the WSJ, charts – and advice on how to emerge from the pandemic a stronger company. I also started also publishing stories in business and communication trades on the same topic.
The basic prediction we made early in pandemic, which is not mine, is that when the market opens back up, there will be two types of companies: 1. Those that prepared to launch immediately, with copy, art and marketing materials produced, and 2. Those that did not prepare. The prepared companies would have a 3- to 6-month lead on the unprepared companies. I see this playing out today. It certainly did at our shop, and with many of our clients.
Third, the merger with Dalton added tremendous resources – people, money, services, locations – that made it possible for the Bradford Dalton Group to prosper through the pandemic. Financially, last year was the second-best in the history of our original company, the Bradford Group, because we were able to meet so many other needs of our clients and prospects.
The Dalton merger opened up new business opportunities, and also raised our profile to incoming calls – which is the source of all the growth last year. I believe that our incoming request calls are also sparked by all the content on our website – literally hundreds of original articles, resulting in great SEO – and the bylined columns our staff place about PR and marketing in business and trade media. In short, PR works.
The fourth reason, again luck, is being in Nashville. This city is on fire. The downtown skyline has literally (and I don’t mean figuratively) doubled in the last five years. It’s a very strong, resilient economy moving from traditional business sectors to technology – rapidly. Bradford Dalton’s focus on technology puts us ahead of this local trend.
Sounds like a year of tremendous change. Tell us the origin story of your agency.
My partner, Gina Gallup, and I started the original agency, the Bradford Group on March 1, 2000. Gina and I both came from Bill Hudson & Associates, a mid-sized advertising agency in Nashville where I was SVP and head of business development and Gina was production manager – and defacto manager of the creative department. All of my Hudson clients came with me when we started the Bradford Group – even though I did not say anything to any of them before leaving. So, we started our first month with about a dozen clients and a nice stream of recurring revenue – and we’ve never missed a payroll or an accounts payable in 20 years.
I started my career as a newspaperman, first editing a little weekly in a rural county, then as a reporter for the daily Kentucky New Era in Hopkinsville, Ky. Newspapering was a great job, but the pay was abysmal. I discovered PR and it looked like a way to do pretty much what I was doing and make more money. And I’ve been doing it ever since I came to Nashville on June 15, 1985, at 29 years old, to take a job with Holder Kennedy PR, most legendary PR agency in the city’s history.
The Bradford Group became the Bradford Dalton Group on March 1, 2020 – exactly 20 years after we founded the original company. It has been a great combination. Before, we were about a dozen PR and social media pros. Now we are part of a 90-person organization with offices in three cities – Nashville, Atlanta and Jacksonville, Fla. – and deep resources in video, digital advertising, social media, creative, web, SEO – even virtual and augmented reality. We are truly a full-service agency that can handle any assignment, and that is lots of fun.