Allison & Partners CEO, Scott Allison: The Digital Firm Will Be Gone in Two Years

Allison & Partners is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this month (doors opened September 4, 2001), which Scott Allison, president and CEO of Allison & Partners, says is usually a make-or-break time for firms.

“A lot of firms struggle at both the 10 year mark and at a certain revenue level,” he told us this week. “There’s a lot of firms that stall out at about $10 or $11 million a year.” Allison went on to say that his firm is doing very well — business is up 35 percent this year and “we’ll push towards $20 million in revenue” — with lots of prospects for the future.

While making a trip to New York to participate in the Blouin Creative Leadership Summit, Allison dropped by the PRNewser offices to talk about his firm, talent prospects, and how Allison & Partners is approaching the future of the industry.

It is preparing for the future today, he says, by seeking and bringing on new hires. He told us that the firm is bringing in the “next generation of of company leaders,” but the talent pool is shallow.

“Unemployment is skyrocketing, but its difficult finding people with three to seven years of experience,” he told us. “We’re overwhelmed with people right out of school or at the VP level and above.” Allison said that the downturn has impacted these experienced practitioners who would normally “do well with freelancing and consulting in a vibrant economy.”

Billee Howard joined the firm earlier this year with the launch of the Brand Innovation Group, and was more recently appointed creative development officer for the firm. Creativity has become much more important as the functions of PR and ad agencies have changed. Traditionally, ad agencies had a lead role in the marketing mix. These days the “silos” between different marketing disciplines are crumbling.

“Now we have the ability, with the MDC partnership, it’s more idea driven. And rather than being a PR firm, we’re an ideas firm, and we’re not worried about the boundaries,” said Allison. “Clients are looking for creative ideas and they don’t really care where they come from.”

“We believe that creativity is the number one driver for business,” he added.

(Allison said that there will soon be research that the firm conducted with MDC that will speak more to the importance of creativity.)

The firm is also undergoing an overall “refresh” of the brand, which becomes necessary when you hit a big milestone. In addition to new people and practices, the firm has launched a London office that coincides with a greater international focus. Allison said Chicago would be the 10th and final location for a U.S. office and global growth will be “methodical,” with the firm looking at China and Brazil.

Unlike many other conversations we’ve had about firm focus, digital didn’t come up until more than halfway through our conversation. According to Allison, every firm is doing it and the idea that any firm would call themselves a digital or social media firm at this point is “ridiculous.”

“The digital firm, the social media firm it will be gone. And it will be gone in about two years. That’s my prediction,” he said. “Everyone has got a social media focus. All of our teams have to be proficient in social media work. So I think that piece is a given.”