Scott Allison is chairman and CEO of one of the fastest-growing global communications firms in the industry. Allison+Partners was named PRWeek’s 2015 “Midsize Agency of the Year,” In2 SABRE’s 2015 “Most Innovative Agency” and The Holmes Report’s 2014 “Agency of the Year.” Scott oversees the firm’s international growth, while continuing to provide communications counsel to many high-profile executives and clients. Prior to founding Allison+Partners, Scott was the West Coast president of Connors Communications and a senior vice president and partner at The Gable Group. He also served as a supervisor with Direct Communications, a San Diego-based political consulting group, and as deputy communications director with United States Senator Pete Wilson. A patron of San Diego State University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies, Scott provided a founding gift to the Glen M. Broom Center for Professional Development in Public Relations and funds a scholarship that supports internship opportunities for students.
How did you get into the industry?
I was a journalism major with an emphasis in public relations at San Diego State University. My first job out of college was with a political consulting firm in Dallas, and then I joined a small PR firm in San Diego.
Any emerging industry trends?
We’re continuing to witness an incredible paradigm shift in our industry. With traditional media outlets continuing to scale back, reaching key influencers has become more challenging than ever. In response, clients and agencies are investing in technology and content programs that reach consumers directly. Two pillars of strategic communications, research and measurement, are easier and more cost-effective these days, but there is an ongoing investment that needs to be made in additional resources. It’s very difficult for small and midsize agencies to keep up with that required investment.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
There are real challenges in the ever-shrinking traditional media outlets. Newspapers in the U.S. are incredibly hard hit and this has stripped away traditional outlets to take clients’ stories to. It takes a much more diverse campaign to tell and amplify a brand’s story.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for Allison+Partners?
In the summer of 2001, COO Andy Hardie-Brown and I were working at a small New York PR firm. The dot-com collapse was in full swing and we spent an evening at a café in San Francisco discussing the future of public relations and how we could potentially build a new agency. Two months later, Allison+Partners was born. We believed we could create an agency where talented people could thrive in a collaborative environment that was devoid of hierarchy and politics. Today, we operate 25 offices on three different continents and represent some of the world’s great brands, including Progressive, Samsung and Toyota.
What's next for Allison+Partners in the near future?
We just opened our first offices in Germany and acquired a small firm in Japan. We will continue to grow geographically as we build out a truly global firm, and we continue to make tremendous progress with our content division, All Told. We’re blessed to have so many great clients that trust us to develop and provide the latest and best tools to maximize their communications goals.
Your key initiatives for the success of Allison+Partners?
There have been so many employees who have contributed to the success of our business. One of the keys to success has been hiring so many smart people and retaining them for many years. It’s provided tremendous stability to the business as we’ve grown. The core values that we established when we launched the business have also stood the test of time and worked across borders as we built the company.
Your most difficult moment at Allison+Partners? (and what did you learn?)
There have been a couple of very competitive new business pitches that we didn’t win. Two that come to mind are Taco Bell and Cliff Bar. I always felt we could have done incredible work for these brands. You have to learn from the losses and come back better and continue to work on your service offerings. It can be character building!
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
We tell all of our new clients that we hope we’re the last agency they’ll ever have to hire. We pride ourselves on doing great work and treating clients very well, which includes providing strategic counsel tied to their business goals and developing authentic relationships. We’ve been fortunate to have clients stay with us an incredibly long time and give us the opportunity to provide them with many new services.
How do you motivate others?
You have to lead by example. The founders of the company are hard-working and humble. People also want to know you care, both about the company and about them.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Know that you can build a lifelong career in the agency business. Many people think agencies are good starting points and that you should work at one early on in your career. It doesn’t have to be like that. We have many senior people here who have spent their entire careers at agencies and have flourished.