Empower’s achievements in promoting the agency to external audiences came after a period of reflection and an interior shift in how the Midwest agency viewed itself.
Like most agencies, Empower’s communications philosophy was focused on touting client successes, while agency achievements were more quietly celebrated in its Cincinnati-based offices. This outlook shifted in 2018, when the UK-born Rob FitzGerald, who had worked in New York City, China and Japan, came on as president and chief operating officer.
He immediately recognized the need to dedicate more time, resources and energy on the independent agency’s own brand strategy, if Empower wanted to compete successfully against agencies on both coasts.
To accomplish this, he looked to Empower’s "small but mighty team" of communicators, Meghann Craig, vice president of marketing; Ali Kelly, associate director of marketing; and Ali Yeager-Fichner, marketing services producer.
The communicators looked to present 35-year-old Empower as more than a media company and to reposition it as the "creative media agency" that could empower brands and drive business development opportunities.
Reporting directly to FitzGerald, the three cover reputation management and brand building, recruitment and retention and business development.
In 2019, the agency experienced record-breaking, 25 percent revenue growth, making it the most profitable year in its history. Empower leadership credited its increased investment in marketing to these gains.
Day-by-day, Craig, Kelly and Yeager-Fichner roam the agency, from creative, to media and business development, looking for the stories that exemplify Empower and its "unapologetically Midwest" point of view.
One way they told the agency story in 2019 was to produce a rap music video about Cincinnati that received national recognition for its creativity and wit. Entitled "The City That Sleeps," the video contrasted New York City with Cincinnati.
It celebrated the less uptight life, or more lyrically, "No subways, few pigeons and not so rat-y. You’re in O-hi-o, in Cincinnati."
Based on news coverage, paid media and industry endorsements, the video generated more than 3.3 million impressions on Facebook and Instagram alone, generated almost 29 million impressions via earned media and led to a 42 percent increase in site traffic to the "about us" and "careers" pages on the Empower website.
The team kicked off the agency’s expansion to Chicago with a pancake cutting instead of the usual ribbon cutting. "Breakfast First" is an agency value, for the wholesome reason that breakfast sets you up for a successful day. It is also the name of the Empower podcast.
Thought leadership was another category the team tackled, and they looked to speaking opportunities, alongside clients, as much as bylined articles to amplify the agency.
When agency founder, Mary Beth Price stepped aside and sold the business to her son, Jim, who serves as CEO, the team had to delicately traverse the previous positioning point of Empower being an agency owned by a woman to being an agency with a senior team that is 70 percent female.
A series of brand identity videos celebrated the agency’s empowering beginning through today’s creative media agency that empowers brands.