OC’s PR Firms Report Steady Worker Count

Headcounts for Orange County’s public relations firms remained relatively steady in the county in 2024, compared to last year.

May 13, 2024

View original article from Orange County Business Journal

The Business Journal’s PR agencies list includes 21 companies with offices here, ranked by local employee count.

The companies reported a total of 361 employees in OC this year, versus 371 last year. Companywide, the firms showed growth of 2.7% with 601 employees across all locations.

The biggest firm companywide is No. 2 Global Results Communications, which has 212 employees.

Seven firms reported a drop in employee count compared to last year, while eight companies said they hired additional people to their local offices in the last 12 months. Five reported no changes.

Rocket Launch Marketing & PR shed seven employees at their Orange office following a ramp up last year “to service several new client initiatives and contracts,” VP and Account Director Dan Nasitka said.

“We have since diversified our portfolio of clients and adjusted our full-time Orange County PR staff to reach the balance we had before 2023.”
Costa Mesa-based The Brand Amp is the largest firm by local headcount, with 63 employees in OC and 85 companywide.

Newcomers to the list this year include Newport Beach’s Gateway Group, ranked No. 4 with 26 local employees, and Echo Media Group, tied at No. 9, counting 14 people at its Tustin headquarters.

Gateway first worked mainly in investor relations before adding public relations and digital media services in the last few years. The firm was founded in 1999 by Chief Executive Scott Liolios and it specializes in working with publicly traded companies.

“I thought to approach the company with the mind of an analyst, helping C-suite [teams] with their narratives,” Liolios said.

Gateway’s headcount doubled in the last five years, the executive added.

The firm’s clients include Compass Diversified (NYSE: CODI), the parent company of Costa Mesa’s 5.11 and Lugano Diamonds in Newport Beach, and Gen Restaurant Group Inc. (Nasdaq: GENK), which went public last summer.

Echo Media Group, founded 30 years ago, manages PR for Great Park Neighborhoods and the University of California, Irvine.

Anaheim-based Curt Pringle & Associates also joined the list for the first time, tied at No. 14, with 10 employees. The 25-year-old firm works with clients in government, healthcare, real estate and technology, such as Shea Properties and Verizon.

Making Moves

For many of the firms on the list, the field of public relations has required increasing flexibility.

The biggest change of the last decade has been how consumers have been seeking, interacting with and retaining news and information, The Brand Amp’s co-founder Marc Altieri said.

Traditional “media is now only one little lane of how to access information,” he said, speaking of the recent dominance of social media as a news source. Influencer content has become “another leg of the PR stool” at the firm.

“The priority is to never fall behind. Something new is always going to emerge,” he said.

Powerhouse+Co., headquartered in Santa Ana, is working to diversify its client portfolio to avoid “having all our eggs in one basket,” CEO Kristin Daher said.

The firm currently specializes in working with clients in the franchise and food service industry. Powerhouse is becoming more open to working with companies that are “food and beverage adjacent,” or any consumer-facing businesses, Daher said.

“We’ve been able to stretch creatively,” she added, while noting it will take time to grow their client list extensively.

The Santa Ana firm is tied at No. 14 with 10 people employed locally.

“Boutique doesn’t necessarily mean small” when it comes to making moves for clients, Daher said.

“If what we’re doing and what our clients are doing is working the way it should, then sales should move. If not, we have to go back to the drawing board,” she said.

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