Home Blog Uncategorized Why haven’t there been more small PR and social firms founded in the last 10 years?

Why haven’t there been more small PR and social firms founded in the last 10 years?


I was all set to write a post I was going to title “The PR agency family tree.” I was modeling it after a great article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune last weekend featuring the Minneapolis advertising agency family tree.

But, as I started to research this “family tree” I started to see a trend. There really aren’t that many “new” small PR or social firms. Unlike our advertising partners, PR and social has NOT seen a big jump in smaller firms in the last 10 years in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

Sure, there are a number of small firms that started about 10 years ago that have seen an uptick in growth in recent years. My friends at Bellmont Partners come to mind (big uptick!). Lemke Anderson is another. And when I think of social firms, The Social Lights comes to mind.

But, there simply hasn’t been a big jump in small PR or social firms (or, reputable social firms for that matter) founded over the last 10 years. And, that kinda surprises me.

Because the conditions have been ripe.

Let’s see–in the lsat 10 years, we’ve seen:

  • The economy bottom out and rebound in a big way
  • The job market bottom out and rebound in a big way
  • The PR industry shift and change dramatically due to social and digital media
  • A whole new generation of employees (Millennials) have entered the workplace, and their far less risk averse than the Xers before them.

All of that should have (in my view) paved the way for a new slew of PR and social firms. Similar to what we saw in the late 90s when you saw firms like New School Communications (Blois Olson’s former firm) open their doors.

But, it just hasn’t materialized.

Maybe competition is too stiff with the bigger agencies?

Maybe the market is saturated–after all, we do have a decent list of PR shops in this town.

Maybe solo consultants have picked up the slack? After all, the #SoloPR group I help manage has grown significantly the last 4-5 years.

All those issues are probably contributing.

I guess I’m the most surprised that we haven’t seen the Millennials pick up the slack here. I think about people like Martha McCarthy Krueger and Emily Pritchard who founded the Social Lights years ago right out of school. I’m just surprised we haven’t seen more young people start out at one of the big PR firms, realize there has to be a better way, and take a stab at starting something new.

But, we haven’t seen that. Not yet, at least.

I just found it interesting–especially with the growth of small ad firms in the last 5-10 years in this market.

Note: Photo courtesy of Ophelia Cherry.



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