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How We’re Doing: A Midyear Update from Richard Dukas & Seth Linden

July 11, 2024

Google the phrase, “How am I doing?”

You’ll get a long list of self-help results.

Although principals of financial PR agencies are not the traditional sources for tips on how to live a better life, the question of how one is doing is very relevant to our daily lives and conversations.

When we’ve asked our clients how they’re faring, most have responded similarly:

Our business is doing well.” “We’re doing better than last year.” “Our pipeline is good (or sometimes “strong”).” “We see opportunities picking up.” “We’re cautiously optimistic.”

The same goes for DLPR. From a revenue perspective, as of June 30, we are ahead of where we were vs. the first half of ’23. We’ve also continued to add impressive clients – and the talent to help them reach their business goals.

What’s interesting to note, however, is that the positive sentiments that we and our clients express reflect our outlook for our businesses. Once our conversations inevitably move on to geopolitics, the upcoming elections or regulatory dynamics, personal feelings of uncertainty seep in quickly.

Despite how well the markets and our economy are performing, there’s a pervasive sense that the fundamentals don’t quite reflect what everyone believes will be a volatile and eventful ride to Election Day (and beyond). This divergence between business reality and personal anxiety isn’t new. As business leaders, we empathize and sometimes also find ourselves worrying about what’s ahead, as do most Americans.

Nonetheless, as business conditions prove to be resilient, clients are moving full steam ahead, and so are we as an agency. 

With that, some day-to-day industry and agency observations:

  • We are seeing strong interest and activity among wealth and asset managers to enhance their reputation and be seen as thought leaders by their key audiences. At the same time, as investor interest in private markets grows, private equity and private capital firms are increasingly committed to building their brands and standing out in the crowd.
  • As artificial intelligence transforms more and more aspects of our personal and business lives, we see that its impact on the financial services and investment landscape continues to grow. In turn, we’re starting to see that flow into client mandates; in the first half of the year, DLPR secured two new clients that leverage AI in portfolio construction.
  • Yet even as AI proliferates in the financial industry, in the PR industry, there is no substitute for human expertise and experience. Human capital is the core of our specialized offering, and senior counsel is essential as clients align a thoughtful public relations strategy with their evolving needs.
  • After years of virtual meetings, we’re embracing the value of face time once again. We’re increasingly getting opportunities to meet with clients in person, and more clients/prospects from outside of NYC are coming through the city regularly. Similarly, we’re on the road more. Boston, Tampa, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco/Menlo Park and Seattle are back on the agency travel list.
  • The hybrid/flex model is in full swing. People crave—and need—in-person contact with their colleagues but want the flexibility to make their own schedules. While a select few companies have returned to full-time in-person arrangements, many clients are still grappling with changing standards in flexibility.
  • Versatility continues to be a must. We are increasingly seeing mandates that require a combination of multiple services, including media relations, executive coaching, message development, thought leadership content, crisis/reputation management, stakeholder message development, speaking engagement programs and award submission preparation.

Some observations on the media front:

  • The news environment is growing even more competitive, not only from a journalist’s perspective, but also from a PR practitioner’s standpoint. Recent reports say there are now six PR people for every journalist. It will only get more crowded and competitive as we work through the volatility of the Republican and Democratic conventions and the general election.
  • As we saw with the recent UK and French elections, politics has and will continue to dominate the news cycle. Reporters want to hear from spokespeople on the ramifications and impact of a potential Trump or Biden win on policy, regulation, economics, taxes and tariffs. Clients need to be extremely well-messaged in order to engage in these discussions. The choice of media outlet matters, and spokespeople require a high degree of confidence and expertise. It’s not for everyone.
  • To generate high quality media exposure, clients must have distinct points of view, weigh in on the hot-button issues of the day and share substantive insights that go beyond those of peers. As the media environment has gotten more competitive, the days of “I got a guy” (who can be pitched as a subject matter expert) are long gone.

We can’t predict, of course, when life will feel calmer. There is so much in the news cycle to get through—and then there’s always the next big story, political crisis or surprise. But we can say that even in a turbulent environment, the financial industry, and our business, are strong.

We remain optimistic and energized in a world where it sometimes is hard to answer how exactly one is doing.

By: Richard Dukas & Seth Linden