Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Small Washington-based public affairs firms are going after business typically won by large agencies. They lure clients with political expertise capable of handling crisis communications, and then expand those partnerships by creating full-scale agencies that can do everything from digital ad placement, to media booking.

Why it matters: They're taking business from NY agencies and the big traditional PR shops. Corporate media consulting and ad dollars are moving from Madison Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Timing: Political experts have been launching public affairs groups after leaving the public sector for years, but the trend has expanded with the digital ad tech boom in 2012-2013 and following the 2016 election.

State of play:

  • On the right(*), firms like IMGE (see more below) and S-3 Public Affairs have added digital capabilities to political messaging and crisis communications expertise to create nimble, one-stop agencies for corporations and interest groups looking to tackle complex corporate affairs messaging in-house. Firms like CRAFT and Targeted Victory that focus on digital have added media booking and legislative public affairs, respectively.
  • On the left(*), firms like Bully Pulpit Interactive (Obama and Hillary's digital agency) acquired "The Incite Agency" this year, a communications firm to win and retain large corporate businesses, like AirBNB and Exelon. SKDKnickerbocker, a progressive public affairs firm that born out of a communications and consulting merger, and has scaled to include ad buying and creative services to serve clients like AT&T, in addition to political clients.
  • (*Though started by political operatives from one side or the other, as they grow the firms often hire from the other side of the aisle.)

Sound smart at happy hour: Glover Park Group, founded by ex-Clinton aides in 2001, is probably the biggest and most notable example of this trend. The firm manages media campaigns for some of the biggest corporations, like United Health Group (and is now owned by global PR giant WPP.)

Here's what some of the key players in Washington have to say about the landscape.

  • "We approach everything like a political campaign," says Amos Snead, founder and CEO of S-3 Public Affairs. "Clients benefit from our collective expertise in winning campaigns, navigating the halls of Congress, and working closely with national media. The narrative is moving quickly so it is essential that your media team understands the policy and knows the influential players. It only makes sense to have each of these expertise represented on one team."
  • "If you're a brand, you cant just wait for the circus," says Andrew Bleeker, founder and partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive. "You need experts who've done this before, who can manage your brand in real-time."
  • "The communications consultancy environment has gotten more competitive," says Robert Rehg, Head of Edelman's Washington DC office. "Not only are consultancies moving into the communications space more aggressively but media companies are themselves too (brand agencies)," Rehg said, referring to consulting groups like McKinsey and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
  • p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 16.0px Times; color: #4a4a4a; -webkit-text-stroke: #4a4a4a; background-color: #ffffff} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} "There was a financial reluctance in New York to get into advocacy campaigns," says Patrick Dorton, CEO of Rational 360. "Washington largely worked on a retainer model instead of high-end billing, which worked when dealing with unexpected political crisis communications."

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px 'Helvetica Neue'; color: #454545}

Go deeper

28 mins ago - Technology

Facebook: Metaverse won't "move fast and break things"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook on Monday said it will invest $50 million over two years in global research and program partners to ensure its metaverse products "are developed responsibly."

Why it matters: "It's almost the opposite of that now long-abandoned slogan of 'move fast and break things,'" Facebook's VP of global affairs Nick Clegg told Axios in an interview at The Atlantic Festival Monday.

Ina Fried, author of Login
37 mins ago - Technology

Facebook presses "pause" on Instagram Kids

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Facebook's announcement Monday that it was "pausing development" on Instagram Kids did little to slow a wave of criticism of the project ahead of a Senate hearing Thursday.

Yes, but: There's an argument to be made for building kids' versions of popular apps, even if their adult versions are causing real-world harms.

Ford's big plans to turbocharge the electric car industry in the U.S.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Ford Motor Company’s new $11 billion manufacturing plan, the biggest component of which will sit just outside Memphis, is part of a much bigger effort to put the U.S. at the center of the electric vehicle revolution, executive chairman Bill Ford says.

The big picture: Ford’s plans — for enormous facilities in both Tennessee and Kentucky, employing a combined 11,000 workers — are ambitious manufacturing efforts designed to minimize their environmental impact.