If you had told me back in 2020—as the pandemic began and I opted to move my family halfway across the country—that I would soon find myself working in public relations, I would have quickly googled “what is PR” and then laughed with a forceful shake of my head. Traditional PR and my creative agency background seemed to exist in two separate worlds with little to no overlap.
But when Fearey’s President and CEO Aaron Blank, a long-time, trusted, and admired family friend offered me the chance to join him in the Seattle-based agency’s next chapter, I jumped. Neither of us knew what we were getting ourselves into or that we would end up melding design into every aspect of our company’s offerings, but we did know that the media landscape was changing, and we wanted to be at the forefront of where it was going.
With the support of Fearey’s leadership, I joined the 40-years young public relations agency in 2021, forging a path that would transform and modernize what our company had to offer organizations seeking to amplify their brand.
So, what does it take to create an in-house creative and digital marketing department? And then get your clients to think of you—and utilize you—as an integrated agency?
It’s hard to say for sure, but here are the first three things I did:
1. Rebranded Fearey
What better way to convince clients of what you can do than by showing them you can do it for yourself? We shortened the agency’s name to Fearey (previously known as The Fearey Group) and refreshed all our branding and marketing—from the logo and website, to social, templates, and swag.
This was no small feat for an agency that has been a part of the public relations landscape since the first episode of Late Night with David Letterman debuted on NBC. It required us taking a long look in the mirror and reflecting on the question all organizations should ask—who are we now? How did we get here? Where are we going?
Are we committed?
The Fearey rebrand was a commitment to our future. A commitment to the 40 years of connections, relationships, clients, and employees Fearey had cultivated. And as we entered a new era of content consumption—a dynamic era that seemed to be ever-shifting, evolving, and downright uncertain—Fearey leaned-in, buckled-up, and fearlessly exclaimed “let’s go.”
2. Said yes to creative challenges
In my career, I have worked on creative projects that range from app development to website design, company rebrands to guerilla marketing, and every form of design and storytelling in between. I’ve created more PowerPoint templates than I care to count, helped design brand loyalty materials for clients like Verizon and Dunkin’, learned a new program overnight when the previous agency was “done,” and studied extended color theory simply because I love colors. I haven’t done it all, but I’ve done a lot—and I committed to leveraging my experiences into the power of “yes”.
So, we started saying yes to—*almost*—everything. Can you design a new logo? Yes. Can you make us a PowerPoint template? Yes. Can you help make a video about bananas? Obviously.
The more work we did, the more work we got. A testament to my abilities—maybe. Proof there was opportunity—absolutely.
3. Hired smart
Thirdly, I hired not just to our needs, but also to the work we wanted to do more of—my own version of manifestation.
Starting a new division, you might think that you should hire small and hire junior, i.e., keep your money in your pocket until there’s proven success. And hey, maybe you should.
My first hire was a designer—but not just any designer. A designer that I knew and trusted. A designer that I had worked with in the past and who was not just a Swiss-Army Knife in talent and skill, but a true partner who I could rely on to continue in my pursuit of yes.
I believe that has been a key differentiator in our success—to aim high and lean on relationships I had made in the past (I mean, it was why I was at Fearey in the first place). I knew exactly what my designer was capable of, how they interacted, how they took feedback, and that our communication styles were already in sync. In short, hiring a trusted team member took all the guesswork out of it and allowed us to push on full steam ahead.
Then, we sold. We created ads no one asked for, pitched campaigns without request, and added a touch of flair to every deck that went out. It wasn’t without effort, or resilience, or fearlessness—but it paid off.
Today, just two years after jumping in headfirst, we have a fully staffed creative and digital department. Current and new clients now come to us not only for our phenomenal PR chops, but for our approach to an integrated strategy, where we can do more than just tell your story, we can create it—in print, in the media, in social, in ways you’ve never considered—as we help define the next era of PR.
He doesn’t know this (I suppose now he does), but I think it was risky for Aaron to go all in on me. To trust me with part of his business, and more so, his reputation. But if I’ve learned one thing about PR since joining the agency, it’s that it’s all about cultivating relationships. Past. Present. Future.