SHIFT Communications: 12 Years and Counting

12YearLogoThis week we celebrate the 12th anniversary of the founding of SHIFT Communications. And what a ride it’s been!

Back in 2003, the Agency’s first concern was whether – and how – the 30-odd people who had survived the wreckage of our predecessor firm might make a go of it under our new banner. It was a time of high anxiety. On the day of our launch, we were faced with the exhilarating but scary task of asking every single employee, and every single client of the previous firm, to consider all previous contracts null and void … and, would they please come on this new adventure with us?

It was a day I’ve come to look back on as “The 100% Day,” as – thankfully – every single client and staffer was retained. It was a day that made my co-founders and me – along with our spouses and bankers – very happy. “This … just … might … work,” we mused, nursing some hard-won beers.

And so much has happened since then. We’ve grown to eclipse our precursor agency in size and scope. From a meager start back in 2003 we’ve grown to ~140 staff, with offices in 4 states, and a client list that just wows me every time I look at it. (For what it’s worth, while amazing names like McDonalds, Whole Foods and T-Mobile, etc. are public, we do have a fair number of similarly-exciting clients that we simply can’t disclose.) We invented the Social Media Press Release and Newsroom templates in the heady first days of the Social Media era. Heck, I remember being amongst the group of very, very early Social Media influencers debating whether we should call “this Cluetrain Manifesto stuff” something like “user-generated content (UGC)” vs. “social media.” We got into heated debates about such minutiae, if you can believe it. We were among the founders of the now-global Social Media Club along with great friends like Brian Solis, Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells, et al. Within the Agency itself, I still fondly recall mandating that every SHIFTer “get on Facebook and Twitter,” and the groans that that elicited from a staff that had already grown fatigued by all the Social Media hype. Later of course, everyone was grateful that we’d made the decision to weave “the social stuff” into the firm’s DNA. It has served us well.

More recently, the single biggest milestone of note has to be the 2012 formation of the SHIFT ESOP, which made every SHIFTer an owner of the firm. Importantly, stock awards are granted free to all employees (some ESOPs require the staff to purchase their shares), and if we ever decide to sell the firm, everyone will be instantly vested at 100% so that all will benefit from such a momentous move. I have to say, codifying our values and forming our ESOP a few years ago resulted in subtle but amazing perception shifts within our four walls. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

That brings us to today. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re already starting to grow familiar with the term “Data-Driven PR.” The most recent milestone on this front was our certification as a Google Analytics Certified Partner, but I’m warning ya now: there’s more coming on this front; you’ll be hearing a lot more about this concept in the months ahead. The stuff we’ve been doing behind the scenes for some clients has major ramifications for how EVERYONE ought to be thinking about PR. We intend to lead by example.

Thanks for being part of our journey! Your support is crucial, and appreciated by all of us at SHIFT!


Todd Defren


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