As The Firm Public Relations & Marketing celebrates its 30th anniversary, we sat down with the company’s founder, President and CEO Solveig Raftery as well as Senior Vice President Jasen Woehrle to take us back to where it started, what makes a great employee, trends on the horizon and plans for the future of the Las Vegas-based company.
Q: How and when did The Firm get started?
A: SOLVEIG: I started The Firm on March 1, 1993 in a spare bedroom of my home. Starting a company was something I always knew I would do and, having been in the public relations business for a while, I knew it would be an agency because I knew how powerful public relations was for a business.
At that time, PR was often an afterthought at advertising agencies, so I wanted to be one of the first PR-only agencies in Las Vegas (my mentor, Laura Herlovich, had started her own PR agency the year prior). After getting The Firm established and within the first year, I had a couple employees and an actual office space that was no longer a guest bedroom.
Fast forward to summer 2006 when Jasen Woehrle joined the company, and quickly grew to become senior vice president. He has been an integral part of The Firm since.
Q: What was the founder’s vision?
A: SOLVEIG: “Strategic Approach, Remarkable Results” was our tagline from day one. I wanted to have deeper relationships with clients and provide real strategy that in turn produced amazing results. Public relations is so much more than just sending out news releases and securing coverage. We’re a think tank for clients. We develop traditional media relations content, but for many of our clients we’re an extension of their team — and that is exactly what I wanted The Firm to be from the very beginning.
Also, in being a business owner, it allows you to have control in who you work and surround yourself with — from clients to employees. You want to be with people who you know can make an impact and promote businesses who have something fantastic to share. For our team, we have been able to work with incredibly smart, funny and creative people. It was also important and part of my vision to create a culture at the office that celebrates our employees and encourages a strong work-life balance. Together, Jasen and I have been able to maintain this culture, which continues to bring top PR talent. And our clients see this, too.
Q: Can you tell us how much it has grown in 30 years.
A: JASEN: When I started at The Firm nearly 17 years ago, the company was on a trajectory to become a much bigger agency and, at times, had more than 16 employees. Following the housing crisis and being in an unfortunate position of losing clients because they no longer had budgets to support PR and marketing, the growth of the company shifted from increasing staff and taking on more clients to expanding our service portfolio. We also established industries that we primarily serve: travel/tourism, health care, real estate and development, nonprofit, luxury, retail and corporate entities.
We have always offered traditional PR services, special event planning, crisis management, community relations and media training, but there was also steady growth in what was happening in the social media and digital marketing realm, so the timing was right to incorporate even more of this work into our daily mix.
Q: What do you credit in helping to achieve your success?
A: SOLVEIG: Many people have had a hand in our success during the past 30 years Both Jasen and I had entrepreneurial spirits from a young age and families that encouraged our “business” pursuits. I was selling cinnamon sticks and flavored lip gloss that I made myself, and Jasen started a library and collected late fees (lunch money!) from neighborhood kids.
Along the way, we have had the good fortune to work with amazing people including clients, staff and colleagues who have been supportive the entire time.
Q: How many employees do you have and how many clients?
A: JASEN: We currently have 12 employees and approximately 25 clients.
Q: What is the most interesting project you have been involved in and why?
A: SOLVEIG: In 30 years we’ve been able to work with so many excellent clients and really cool projects. A few that immediately come to mind are opening of the original Palms Hotel & Casino and working closely with the Maloof family to bring their vision to life. We also handled the opening of the Secret Garden for Siegfried and Roy. Very recently, our team (working with the Nevada Health and Bioscience Corp.) handled PR and event coordination for the Kirk Kerkorian Medical Education Building at UNLV School of Medicine, from the October 2020 groundbreaking to the grand opening celebration in October 2022. We also work with many nonprofit clients and health care companies and it’s very rewarding to see firsthand the tremendous impact these organizations make on the community.
JASEN: Other biggies include bringing Earth Hour for the World Wildlife Fund to Las Vegas and convincing hotel-casinos on the Strip, on Fremont Street and throughout the valley to turn off non-essential exterior lighting and marquees for one hour on a Saturday night. I think we had 98 percent participation citywide, which was a huge win for us and the client. Also, being involved with the implosion of the Stardust Hotel was a pretty incredible sight to witness and be a part of.
Q: What trends do you see forming in the PR industry in the next five years?
A: SOLVEIG: Influencer marketing continues to be strong and growing. The use of data to inform PR strategies is becoming more prevalent. We use data analytics tools to track and analyze social media engagement, which ultimately can inform other areas of solid PR engagement, including personalized messaging and tailored content. AI (specifically ChatGPT) is very interesting and while it will not replace a human PR professional, it can likely help PR people be even more efficient.
JASEN: Crisis management has always been a critical component of PR, and businesses continue to use social media and digital marketing as a way to directly get in front of customers, companies need to be prepared to manage potential crises that could damage their reputation.
The line between PR and marketing is becoming increasingly blurred, with PR professionals having a seat at the table to help develop integrated campaigns that achieve business objectives.
Q: Why should a business consider retaining a PR/marketing agency?
A: JASEN: Public relations (which includes media relations, community relations, social media engagement, etc.) really is an incredibly powerful tool for a business. Even if your company has in-house PR professionals managing day-to-day tactics, having an external point of view from the right agency can make a huge difference. A great agency isn’t just there to tell the client “yes” — but rather to strategically navigate how to achieve goals, make impactful recommendations to increase visibility, be prepared in crisis situations and overall support the business. If done right, the client-agency relationship can make a business.
Q: What plans does The Firm have for the future?
A: SOLVEIG: The Firm continues to grow at a steady pace — slow and cool. Having Jasen as SVP has helped tremendously as he leads the agency team, works with clients and handles a lot of the day-to-day operations. But make no mistake — I do not see myself retiring anytime soon. I love this industry and the impact that we make for our clients. With all of the exciting things happening in the world of communications, 30 years in and we’re just getting started.