New hires signal big shift at Harbinger
October 01, 2013 | Rebecca Harris | Comments
Toronto-based Harbinger recently added eight new staff members, reflecting growth at the agency and its shift from a pure PR shop to a more digitally and socially focused one.
“We’re both growing with existing clients and new clients,” said Jeff Weiss, president and owner at Harbinger. Specifically, the agency is doing more work with clients such as Unilever, Molson and Petcurean, a Vancouver-based specialty pet food company; and has added a string of new clients this year, including Second Cup; The Egg Farmers of Ontario; Evenflo, a manufacturer of infant equipment; and Wrigley, which just launched its “Gumergency” campaign.
Five key hires are all new positions within the agency. Ian Giles, previously director of social strategy at MediaCom Canada, joins Harbinger as VP, social and digital. Sara Cook, who was most recently an account director at Totem, is the new director of program implementation. Laurie Hall, former president and owner of boutique agency FlexPR, is Harbinger’s new senior strategist and earned media specialist. Kavi Guppta, most recently digital strategist at Environics Communications, joins Harbinger as senior social media strategist. And Meagan Hamel, formerly of Blue Ant Media, joins as content strategist and editor.
Rounding out the new hires are: Bryan Feheley, most recently a senior consultant at Veritas, who joins Harbinger as social media manager; Alana DeGuerre, who joins Harbinger from Veritas as a consultant; and Stephanie Bateman, a recent PR graduate who joins the agency as account coordinator.
Another reason behind the new roles is that Harbinger is seeing a lot of growth in digital, social and earned media channels, said Weiss. “Clients are really looking for counsel and development of overall strategy for digital and social,” he said. “Once the strategy is done and approved, we get into the content strategy and development, then execution and community management, depending on what channels we go with.”
The new positions also come at a time when Harbinger is shifting its business model from a generalist model to a specialist model. “Our roots are in PR and for some reason PR agencies have run their business as more generalist, [meaning] people who are supposed to be good at a whole bunch of things,” said Weiss. “Clients are looking for that and [PR professionals] are looking for that, so they can focus and develop in a specific area.”
Harbinger will launch its repositioning in a couple of months, and content is going to be a big part of that, said Weiss. “We’re really moving away from PR. The reality is we’ve tried to do that, but a lot of clients we’ve worked with for many years still see us a PR agency. But the definition of PR has changed dramatically.”
Other PR agencies are making a similar shift away from traditional PR. In May, Fleishman-Hillard launched a major global rebrand that aims to evolve the agency into a fully integrated communications company.” On a much smaller scale, Toronto-based Maverick dropped the name “Public Relations” from its name in June, to better reflect its full range of services. More recently, MSLGroup announced it is moving into a content-centric communications agency model.