In times of economic stress, companies typically slash their advertising and communications budgets first.
This trend should be hurting those who make a living in the communications field, but one regional company is weathering the storm quite nicely so far.
Eric Mower and Associates, a full-service marketing and communications firm handling various aspects of communications including public affairs, public relations, business to business communications and interactive Web development, has thrived in the past year.
In 2008, Eric Mower and Associates made three “combinations,” Bob Bellafiore, senior partner and director of public affairs said. The company merged with Sarasota, Fla.-based Clarke Advertising and Public Relations in January; in June, it combined with Mark Russell and Associates, an advertising firm with offices in Syracuse and Atlanta; and in August, it combined with Sawchuk Brown, a prominent Capital Region public relations firm of nearly 30 years’ standing.
Pamela Sawchuk Brown, who founded the firm in 1979 with her husband, David Brown, said she hired a New York City broker to look into her options after her husband unexpectedly passed away in February 2007.
“Without a doubt, the very, very best firm was Eric Mower and Associates, and it ended up being a good move for the staff at Sawchuk Brown and for me,” she said.
Eric Mower and Associates includes 275 employees operating out of seven offices from Florida to upstate New York. The founder, Eric Mower, works in the company’s Syracuse headquarters. The Albany office, located in Corporate Woods, opened in 1996. It had a humble start, Bellafiore said.
“There was one person with no clients, and there was a lot of talk that EMA wouldn’t make it in the region because it was crowded with marketing and communications firms and Eric was from out of town,” Bellafiore said.
However, Eric Mower thrived, winning various large accounts like Price Chopper, Garden Way and Fidelis Care. It was the only agency outside of Manhattan to win an I Love New York account.
Eric Mower and Associates started as a traditional advertising marketing and communications firm but in the past two years has begun to lean more and more toward public relations and public affairs.
Among the company’s clients are the New York State Council for the Humanities; the New York State Health Facilities Association, a trade group of nursing homes and rehabilitation homes; Tech Valley High School; MVP Health Care; Key Bank, which they represent nationally, regionally and locally; Picotte Companies, the area’s largest commercial real estate developer, which owns Corporate Woods among other properties; and Iberdrola SA, the world’s largest wind energy company, based in Spain.
While Eric Mower and Associates has been growing and getting stronger in recent years, the company is not immune to economic challenges, Bellafiore said. However, he added, EMA is posed to weather the storm based on its business model, large pool of on-staff talent and reputation for success.
One of the reasons it survives is its consolidated bottom line, Bellafiore said. All of the offices share services and work together on various accounts. The benefits all go into one pot that serves all of the offices.
“It’s like a family-style thing; we’re all eating off the same plate,” Bellafiore said. “It allows a firm with most of its people in upstate New York to thrive regardless of what’s happening in upstate New York economically. We can take advantages of the good things that are happening in Atlanta, Charlotte and other parts of the country.”
Eric Mower has high-quality employees that Bellafiore said “no other firm in this market can claim.”
Many of EMA’s personnel have been in the field for years. They come from various communications-related fields, including journalism, business and politics.
Bellafiore said EMA has had a solid record of achievement but recognizes that often the dollars spent on communications are very discretionary.
“It’s a competitive business. If what you’re doing for your client isn’t working, they’ll go somewhere else,” he said.
Most of EMA’s clients have weathered the ups and downs of the economy for years, and there is no hard evidence that any of them have been affected by the recent economic downturn. However, Bellafiore said the company realizes that the economy is in an unprecedented state and is planning for the future.
“Eric Mower is 40 years old and Sawchuk Brown is nearly 30 and we’ve had considerable ups and downs in those years, but we’re still here and going strong,” he said. “We’re cautious, and that comes from the top.”
Bellafiore said he couldn’t say for sure how the economic downturn would affect EMA, but he wouldn’t be surprised if it might actually help the company.
“On the one hand, many organizations are cutting back and advertising and communications always goes first, but also, governments and other organizations are going to need to communicate, more than ever now, and that’s our specialty.”
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