Alexandria PR Firm Celebrates 15 years

Alexandria PR Firm Celebrates 15 years

CRC keeps growing in a competitive market.

What started with three individuals working out of a small office on Columbus Street in Alexandria, is now heralded as "the fifth largest firm of its kind" in the Washington metropolitan area. That has been accomplished in just 15 years.

Creative Response Concepts is a nationally recognized public relations firm specializing in helping their clients deal with the media — in both positive and negative situations. Among that group are Microsoft Corporation, Visa USA, the Walt Disney Company, and TIME Warner, Inc.

"Everything we do revolves around communications. Helping our clients do damage control and getting information out about their services and products is our main thrust," said Gregory R. Mueller, president.

"We've always tried to exceed our clients' expectations. This has enabled us to have growth even in a down economy," said Leif E. Noren, chairman and Alexandria resident. "We try to make clients a value to their communities."

Starting with only three people in 1989, working from a walk-up second floor office with uneven floors, CRC now employs 24 specialists and support staff in their fourth floor suite of offices at 2760 Eisenhower Ave. It is their fourth Alexandria location.

"Our most recent move was brought on by the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project," said Michael Riley, senior account manager. CRC was located in the twin office structure just south of the beltway at Hunting Towers. That was demolished to make way for the new South Washington Street Urban Deck and dual bridges.

"Originally we did a lot of political work. But now our primary emphasis is on corporate clients," Mueller explained. "However, this is a very good place to be for our expertise. A lot of what we do centers around public policy issues."

THAT WAS BORNE out by one of CRC's primary clients, Illinois based, Golden Rule Insurance Company. "We've been a client of CRC since 1996 and we don't stay with a contractor unless they are meeting our expectations. We have a high level of expectation for anyone we do business with," said Brian McManus, vice president, Public Affairs.

"They worked on the Health Savings Account federal legislation which was part of the Medicare bill for us and did a great job. They also helped us develop media support for Fair Care legislation which enables the uninsured to buy health insurance," McManus explained.

Now ranked 45th in the nation by PR Week, CRC is the largest PR firm located in Alexandria. Growth has been significant, with a client list exceeding 40. The latest to join that list is Agusta Westland, one of the world's largest helicopter firms with offices in Crystal City, according to Riley.

CRC's gross income is approximately $5.2 million, according to Noren and Mueller. "We have realized an annualized growth of 20 percent over the life of the company," they said.

ALMOST IN juxtaposition to the world of public relations, CRC does not have a formal marketing budget to sell itself, according to Noren. "Most of our growth has been through referrals," he said. "That approach has helped a lot with our clients."

CRC's staff is composed of specialists in a variety of disciplines, Mueller pointed out. "We have former journalists, former corporate executives and those with specialized knowledge in a wide array of areas. More and more, we find corporations are looking for experts in particular areas," he said. "This enables us to offer particular expertise and separates us from our competition."

That analysis was seconded by one of CRC's long-term clients, Washington-based Regnery Publishing. "I think CRC is a remarkably perceptive strategy company. What sets them apart from their competition is that they are not just a pitch company," said Marji Ross, president and publisher, Regnery Publishing.

"We have been a client for 10 years and, having worked with a number of other companies, they are great in developing strategy as well as getting us publicity," she said. "Because of them we have been able to get a number of books on the best seller list."

Ross explained, "We and CRC developed a unique approach to promoting books. It is designed to promote books in the news sections of newspapers and magazines as well as on television and radio. This is an approach CRC helped us develop."

This differs from the norm which utilizes book reviews and author public appearances, she pointed out. "That takes much more capital and time by the author and publisher," Ross pointed out.

Noren noted. "We also do a lot of litigation support work as well as proactive and reactive management."

The way they bill their clients also sets CRC apart from the pack. "We've always billed on a monthly retainer fee basis plus billable expenses. We do not do billable hours. This way we can interact much better with the clients and they don't feel we are watching the clock," Mueller emphasized.

"For our biggest client, Visa USA, we do the whole enchilada. For many others we concentrate on a specific area of concern or we work in concert with other firms," Noren said.

Rosetta Jones, director, Visa USA, confirmed CRC's value. "We have been a client of CRC since 1998. They really understand our business and know how to apply communications strategy to our bottom line. That's a real value to us," she emphasized.