The public relations industry is always in demand. The internet and the evolution of social media has made launching new businesses easier, yielding more competitive advantages to smaller and newer brands. As brands hustle to build visibility, this dynamic has directly contributed to a growing demand in the PR industry.
The PR industry is projected to be worth more than $129 billion by 2025, which is a significant jump from $88 billion in 2020, according to Statista. With the proliferation of new PR businesses, standing out can be difficult and growing a robust, loyal fanbase can be even more demanding. However, that is what founder and CEO Jonathan Jadali has done over the past five years with Ascend Agency.
“It’s shark-infested waters out there in the PR industry,” Jadali says. “Old and new brands are constantly getting pitched from dusk to dawn with all sorts of offers and promises. However, at Ascend Agency, we took a slightly different route. We made sure to stand out so clearly that clients noticed us and demanded our services. Sometimes being the best is just being noticeably different in a positive way.”
Building a One-Stop Shop
The right path to expansion for most new PR agencies may be to start offering a specific service, consolidate their efforts and then consider expanding their offering. However, many of these agencies could grow accustomed to their comfort zones and be afraid to pivot when the time is right.
“Timing is everything. Being an industry leader has a lot to do with discerning the right time to expand, and seizing opportunities,” Jadali explains. “It boils down to courage. Those who become leaders in any industry are those who have dared to do what was previously inconceivable and those who agree that it probably takes less time to consolidate an offering before expanding into others.”
Jadali adds, “In the last five years, we have grown from a one-service agency to a one-stop shop for all branded content. We have developed an extensive reach across publications and platforms and have even acquired exclusive rights on some of these platforms. We hit the $7.5 million mark in 2022, which is remarkable for such a young business.”
Last year, Ascend Agency entered profitable partnerships with Tribune Publishing and A360 Media, two prominent conglomerates that control major media outlets in the U.S. Through this partnership, Ascend Agency acts as a middleman between these media outlets and other brands, helping elevate their messaging to new audiences.
Jadali attributes the success of these partnerships to his courage and vision. “These partnerships set us ahead by many years, and we are still building more mutually beneficial partnerships,” he says.
Building Social Value
During the height of the pandemic, businesses worldwide showed an outpouring of concern through corporate philanthropy projects, including sending relief to essential workers and providing personal protective equipment and relief materials for low-income communities.
At the time, Ascend and other PR agencies found themselves in a unique position. Unlike many other industries which were struggling, the PR industry was booming, as more businesses realized the need for online visibility amid lockdowns.
“2020 became a very profitable year for us as a business, and I knew we had to give back, but I wasn’t prepared to do what everyone else was doing. I needed to stay in my lane,” Jadali says.
Jadali and his team began offering free PR services to mom-and-pop shops and small businesses that were impacted by the pandemic. The Ascend Gives Back Program (AGB) soon led Jadali to serve several non-profit organizations as well.
“Ascend Agency’s strategy has had a significant impact on the PR industry, and more importantly, has brought significant visibility to important causes,” says Vito Glazers, CEO of Glazers Media. “At a time when the world is working on overcoming community issues like homelessness and the mental health crisis, and global challenges from economic to healthcare issues, Jadali and his team have shown leadership by not just using their platform to bring awareness, but also providing funding and action to create measurable impact.”
While AGB runs entirely as a corporate social responsibility platform for Ascend Agency, Jadali admits that the goodwill it has given to his agency has also been good for business.
“I strongly believe that in this day and age, no serious business can break barriers and expand rapidly if they have not built substantial social value,” Jadali explains. “AGB is how we are doing that for our brand. We work closely with so many non-profit organizations to bring them free PR and getting the word out there about their programs and society outreaches. We have also forged close partnerships with a few of them, and my staff and I have been on the ground to help them raise money or execute their programs. It’s really fulfilling to know that your business can make a deeper mark in your community.”
“You do not grow by standing still” is a mantra that Jadali has lived by his entire life. According to the founder and CEO, Ascend Agency’s expansion has been impressive by industry standards and something he has always had a vision for.
In 2021, Jadali launched Ascend Music Group, a subdivision of Ascend Agency which identifies musical talents and caters to all PR needs. From pushing out press in relevant publications to providing playlist marketing and helping with distribution and musical releases, this new subdivision has grown quickly in just over a year and caters to more than 20 artists. “The opportunity was glaring; the number of talented people sharing their music on social media is crazy. Many of them just need an expert hand behind them pushing them forward. I never want to be someone who passes up on opportunities like this,” says Jadali.
Ascend Agency also recently launched Ascend Publishing Group, which is beginning to purchase and run online publications. With this move, Jadali is transforming Ascend Agency from a PR agency to a media and publishing company.
Ascend Agency’s growth is a testament to the hard work that Jadali and his team have put in as well as a testament to the power of having vision and an eye for growth. “I tried to play the long game from day one,” Jadali explains. “It’s difficult to discern opportunities and pivot fast if you never had a big vision from day one. Growth is something that is planned for the long term; it’s not just something that happens to anyone.”
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