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“If you are in business, you need to have a crisis plan. Period.”

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Devon Blaine is the founder, president, and CEO of The Blaine Group, Inc., a total communications agency established in 1975, which was recently named the 24th largest public relations firm in Los Angeles. Besides helping other businesses maximize their success, Blaine has long been active in numerous organizations that aid entrepreneurs, thus earning her reputation as “the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur.” She is three times a past president of the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA), a diverse group composed of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and other money providers, and service providers.

The Blaine Group, Inc. was established in Los Angeles in February, 1975. Since that time, they have focused on creating strategic partnerships which result in comprehensive communications award-winning campaigns for hundreds of clients.

MO: Is it ever a good idea for a company to do their own PR?

Devon: Since I own a total communications agency, you may question whether or not I condone such a practice. Believe it or not, I do. I have seen many small, entrepreneurial companies implement their own public relations programs initially. The fact is, in today’s highly competitive business environment, no firm can afford not to communicate. And, in the start-up phase, handling your own public relations can help keep the costs down. Then, as they grew, expanded, and sometimes went public, they required the outside assistance of an agency such as The Blaine Group. So it is really to my long-term advantage to suggest how a company not using public relations consultants can best handle its own public relations.

MO: How has The Blaine Group evolved since launching back in 1975? What are some of the ways that the PR landscape has changed during the course of your career?

Devon: In the past 30+ years, there’s been a significant attrition of traditional media outlets and of course, the advent of the internet and social media. Both are critical to a company’s success. Getting coverage in former is more challenging as there’s more competition for less time/space than in prior years. But it’s especially important to establishing credibility, particularly when a start up is in fundraising mode. The latter can drive a volume of eyeballs extremely quickly. That, too, is valuable. So, one needs to “do it all.”

MO: What are some of the special services that you offer to your clients?


Public Relations

The comprehensive public relations campaigns created and implemented on behalf of The Blaine Group’s clients may be local or international in scope; may be business-to-business, trade, financial or consumer oriented or a combination thereof. They may also include a variety of components such as media relations, web marketing, trade show support, community relations, speaking engagements, corporate sponsorships, special events, seminars, press conferences, grand openings, etc. Each campaign is individually designed to accomplish that client’s goals.

Investor Relations/Financial Public Relations

The Blaine Group spearheads investor relations and financial public relations campaigns on behalf of its publicly-held clients. Our clients select that which they need from the following a la carte menu:

We assist in writing and disseminating SEC-required releases in a timely manner;

We arrange for an RIA to write and publish a paid research report for dissemination to brokers, analysts, money managers, institutions, etc.

We facilitate introductions to and develop ongoing relationships with analysts, institutional investors, and fund managers with the goal of developing the same level of rapport with analysts as with key members of the press and obtaining written reports;

We identify the individual trader in each firm that “makes a market” and keep him or her informed of the company’s activities;

We provide assistance in telling the company’s story to the financial community;

We arrange for you to attend and present at such shows as SCIA, NIBA, FSX, Discovery Expo, the Money Shows, and others as we determine together their cost effectiveness;

We initiate introductions to additional brokers and brokerage firms that will ultimately support/make a market in the company’s stock and maintain ongoing communications with existing and potential market makers as well as individual brokers;

We assist our clients in establishing and maintaining a corporate mailing list of VIPs, commercial and investment bankers, shareholders, and brokers with an investment position;

We schedule road shows for the CEO and CFO in advance of important breaking news;

We arrange group meetings with selected brokers to enable management to present its story in a timely fashion;

We develop an investor relations package and keep it up to date to be mailed in response to broker and investor inquiries;

We develop ongoing shareholder communications strategies;

We encourage support of our client’s stock, and

We achieve the highest sustainable market value for the Company’s securities, contributing to increased shareholder liquidity and enhanced corporate finance opportunities.

Crisis Management

You have worked hard to build a thriving business… then the unthinkable happens… your company is thrust into the limelight… nationally and negatively!

“It could never happen to me,” had been your mantra thus far. As a result, you are totally unprepared… no crisis plan exists, you don’t even know who to call for help.

That’s when you need to call The Blaine Group.

Market Research/Sales/Marketing

At The Blaine Group, we believe that the decision to conduct market research can be the business decision that keeps you in business. It is the only way to ensure that your communications activities are on target. We all have to sell something for something positive and lasting to happen. Who is the customer? What does he/she want? It is important to ask the questions and to listen to the answers. This is what we do as we conduct market research, tabulate the results, formulate conclusions and recommendations, and develop a resulting marketing plan. In fact, in the process, we typically identify a number of sales leads and/or new product ideas.

Advertising/Collateral Material

As a full-service agency, The Blaine Group is involved in all phases of advertising, electronic, print, and Internet; from concept and design to copywriting, production, scheduling, and placement.

We also develop the requisite collateral materials including reprints, flyers, brochures, web sites, direct mail pieces, and newsletters.

MO: What influenced your decision to add a crisis management service? How can a business determine if it should have a crisis management plan in place?

Allow me to answer the second question first… if you are in business, you need to have a crisis plan. Period. No matter how large or how small the company is, it is essential. BP probably thought they’d never need one. So did our client that provided wheat-gluten to all the pet food companies involved in the pet food recall several years ago. They were “too small.” In fact, working on that crisis is what caused The Blaine Group to work with a risk manager to develop a Reputational Risk Management Solution Product.

To quote a former client, “As business leaders, it’s our responsibility to anticipate and prepare for landmines that can undermine growth.  Crisis can strike the most successful companies unexpectedly and often requires urgent action, particularly when dealing with the media.  The more successful your company is, the bigger you are as a target. Thus, the more important it is to prepare in advance,” explained Steve Cheng, CEO of Window Rock Enterprises.

MO: What should our readers really be focusing on to build their business?

Devon: A business can’t be successful if no one knows about it. You must market and promote it to succeed.

These are competitive times. A good reputation and an extensive product line or a long list of services are no longer enough to ensure that business finds its way to your door. You must understand your position and image in the marketplace. Find out how your competition, your clients, and the general marketplace view you. If yours is a new company, you must create an image.

Every solid public relations campaign is based on the conclusions of market research and management’s objectives.

Before you commit to a communications campaign, conduct market research. Yes, I know it is costly. However, it is even more costly to do the research the other way, through trial and error campaigns. All companies do market research, one way or another. I believe it’s better to plan that research and spend less money up front to ensure that your first campaign is on target. It can be the business decision that keeps you in business.

In strategizing effective communications, what you say is as important as what you don’t say. The message must be strategically planned to achieve the purpose you desire, to target the markets you want to saturate. What you communicate is the most important. Your approach is more valuable than your contacts in achieving positive results.

MO: What are some tips for succeeding in a recession by marketing?

Devon: A recent survey determined that three in five growth companies slowed by the recession found aggressive marketing worked better than traditional cost-containment measures to beat the downturn.

Among those firms reporting they were ONLY SOMEWHAT slowed by the recession, 63% placed primary focus on marketing; 26% focused on cost containment.

In contrast, firms that were SIGNIFICANTLY slowed by the recession were considerably less market-driven as a group: 46% placed primary emphasis on marketing; 45% concentrated first on cost containment.

These results bear out the effectiveness of an offensive strategy in times of economic uncertainty. Generally, companies looking first to build market share fared better than their counterparts who relied predominately on cost-cutting techniques.

Further, an overwhelming majority of American executives, 86 percent, agree that companies that visibly communicate in a down economy stay more top-of-mind when purchase decisions are being made and create more positive impressions about their commitment to their products and services. And a whopping 99 percent agree that even in a down economy, it’s important to keep abreast of new products and services, according to a recent Yankelovich/Harris Interactive Research Report.

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