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Shoeleather Journalism in the Digital Age

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in the Digital Age

Scottsdale: a report from the epicenter of modern public relations

Graphic for Scottsdale PR epicenter story
Just as politicians politic and journalists journal, the public relations professional of the Phoenix metropolitan area is an expert of all things spin, but in the modern age this profession has become the cutting-edge of both print and digital communication. (File Photos/

Scottsdale PR pros define an evolving industry

By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

As the Arizona economy braces for what local economists are calling a “shallow” recession meanwhile the “Digital Age” continues to persist as the Internet reshapes whole landscapes seemingly overnight of defined industries, one tried-and-true business practice remains the same.

Businesses of all kinds need a narrative of who they are, what problem they solve and — perhaps most importantly — how to access those services, products and one-of-a-kind spectacles a consumer surely cannot miss.

And where do local, national and even international businesses turn to gain the attention of the general public? The public relations professional.

Just as politicians politic and journalists journal, the public relations professional of the Phoenix metropolitan area is an expert of all things spin, but in the modern age this profession has become the cutting-edge of both print and digital communication.

To better understand reports of exponential growth and financial success, the Arizona Digital Free Press reached out to two pillars of modern Arizona public relations:

Over the last several years, Evolve, which was founded in 2010, has experienced exponential growth in terms of client base and employment. Since 2018, the company has doubled its workforce to 21 employees, adding eight additional PR account managers to the roster in 2022 alone. Additionally, it grew to provide essential PR services for more than 100 clients, a 66% increase in four years, a significant number for a once small-sized boutique firm.

“We have added many more national clients to our book of business and the experience of COVID-19 opened up a lot of new ideas and ways to serve our clients,” Ms. Kaplan told the Scottsdale Daily Beat. “I feel like we have learned a lot about our culture and have really enhanced our internal processes to have the system in place to grow. We are being the best we can be.”

With nuanced economic news pointing to some kind of economic downturn, Ms. Kaplan remains steadfast in the assertion Evolve is prepared.

“Clients are always going to come and go, having gone through the storm of COVID and finding new ways to make it work, I am not too concerned about the recession. It is not something we can control. One thing I would say: Our staff is where we don’t have turnover and that has been the key to our success. We are constantly looking for ways to retain staff and that has helped us grow.”

The state of Scottsdale PR

There are public relations professionals and then there is Jason Rose.

Celebrating 25 years in business, an award-winning producer of a groundbreaking play that just finished its run in New York City and founder of the country’s largest polo match, Mr. Rose is a dynamic curator of public opinion.

“In our case, we are so diversified,” Mr. Rose said of how he he’s viewing the pending economic downturn. “We do five things: We do traditional PR. We do public affairs, which includes getting government to do something or not to do something. We do elections. We do crisis communications. We do events.”

When he offers his view on the state of business heading into the new year, Mr. Rose says every business owner is watching the bottom line.

“Of course you have to be thinking along those lines,” he said of the looming recession. “If you are in a recession, some of those areas that I mentioned are more vulnerable to declining economics, but some of those areas are inelastic.

In the court of public opinion, value is a fickle perspective, Mr. Rose explains.

“At times it comes down to what is your track record and, simply, ‘What have you done for your clients lately?’” he said. “If you are viewed as valuable part of the team who brings something to the table or cute accoutrements you are likely not going to be around.”

Mr. Rose says he is constantly evaluating his firm’s existence in any space he is operating in.

“We have had huge success in all five of those spaces this year,” he explained. “What I am always telling our team is that we need to justify our existence. We just took on Arizona Bike Week and were able to help them that will translate to real money for our client — and that was really outside of the scope of what traditional ‘PR’ looks like.”

More than one way to cultivate public opinion

Ms. Kaplan says she knows what her firm is best at today and hopes to continue to grow the model — with no end in sight.

“I have always envisioned the brand as the go-to for PR and marketing,” she said. “We are not a full-service agency —- we will let those agencies do more. But I have never had the vision of a small and boutique firm, I should say. I have always wanted to grow and expand but remain true to that core of being that go-to spot for PR and marketing.”

Where Ms. Kaplan sees innovation emerging at Evolve is through community connections.

“The marketing as I define it is community outreach and cross-promotional opportunities,” she explained. “What are other ways we can get our clients’ names out there? During the height of the pandemic, when I did think the world was going to come crashing on us all in business, we saw some business pivot. We saw some hanging on by a string and we saw some thrive. I feel like businesses are more agile where they can control things and continue to stay afloat.”

One success story Ms. Kaplan shared was nonprofit clients reaching fundraising goals never achieved before.

“One of the areas that we saw with our diverse client base that we all found surprising was the nonprofit space — they saw fundraising goals they had never seen before,” she said. “Whatever is looming out there —- a recession or downturn —- I feel like people are lot wiser and I think they might use their resources differently than what has been traditionally done.”

Today, Mr. Rose says, he is looking to make a difference more than he is looking to make a buck.

“Look, you go through various stages of professional life. At one time … you are getting established. Then, you are established, and I am not sure what part exactly we are in but we are grateful that this was our most successful financial year. That means you don’t need to be pounding people for every dollar,” Mr. Rose said of his burgeoning theater and event career.

“Either it is a partner at the polo event or a client that needs a little more TLC, you want to be working in the market. We are in the stage of our career that we don’t need to chase.”

But make no mistake, Mr. Rose is a public relations professional first.

“Now, I can’t have people forgetting our day job,” he said. “Interestingly, some of those entrepreneurial efforts help show clients I am someone who gets shit done … There is no one who looks at us and doesn’t respect that.”

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