Leisa: Hello, I’m Leisa Holland-Nelson, and welcome to the Business Maker’s Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business. My guest today is Allie Danziger owner and president at Integrate PR, one of Houston’s leading PR and social media firms. Allie welcome to the Business Maker’s.
Allie: Thank you so much Lisa. So glad to be here.
Leisa: I’m excited to have you here. I feel like I’ve watched you, and followed your business for a very long time, even though I don’t think it’s that old. Tell us about integrate.
Allie: Well I started the firm a little over five years ago. I was previously working for an agency in New York called Quinn and Company, and they were a very high-end luxury PR firm that they only specialized in the real estate industry. So when the real estate market crashed, there were some interesting things going on in the PR world where no one really wanted to talk about our $30 million dollar penthouses anymore. So we had to come up with creative, different, interesting things to get the news out there to the people that were actually talking about luxury real estate, and so I had to learn everything there was to know about social media. I had an amazing mentor there, who allowed me to learn everything I possibly could, but also kind of caught the entrepreneurial bug in doing that, and really loved seeing something grow from nothing. So I ended up watching their social media division.
That was in 2008, and I’m from Houston, so in doing that then I kind of caught that entrepreneurial bug, and wanted to come home to Houston, and see what else was happening in the social media world here, what types of opportunities there were. I was kind of sick of my nine foot by five foot bedroom in New York.
Leisa: I can relate actually, almost.
Allie: I just was ready to come back to Houston. So that was in August of 2009, and no one was really doing anything with social media then. So it was an interesting time in the social media communications space, and I ended up launching Integrate in August of ’09 with a handful of clients that I had met in New York, or California, and Atlanta just from being in New York, and being this semi-expert in social media, but was really learning a lot as I was going along. So met a ton of great people here in Houston, who helped me, and introduced me to other people, and we launched, and it was just me, myself, and I working out of my house, but hungry, and eager, and passionate about what we were doing, and ready to bring something new to the communications space.
So now, fast forward five and a half years, we are an office of 15 people, work with a wide variety of industries, kind of learning from what I learned in New York, not to focus just on one industry, because you never know what’s going to happen, but we focus a lot in the hospitality, retail, restaurants, still some real estate just because I do love the real estate space, nonprofits, some oil and gas, because in Houston that’s just what’s here, and we offer traditional public relations.
So still what I had learned in New York, and was doing in New York, and is definitely a need here in Houston, but kind of sprinkled with whatever is necessary in order to get the message to the customer, or the target audience, and our clients. So a lot of time that is social media, but sometimes it’s marketing, or advertising, or great graphic design, or SCO. It’s all kinds of services that we are passionately bringing our clients, again, whatever they need to get that message across.
Leisa: But how are your clients finding you?
Allie: Well I need to do more to get my clients to find me. I’m kind of like the cobblers with no shoes, but a lot of my stuff does handle our social media. So I think a lot is through social media, but a lot is through just word of mouth. You know I think if you do really great work than it speaks for itself, and people talk about it. We get a lot of client referrals. Our clients like to talk about us, which is wonderful, and so that is actually how we do get a lot of our clients. It’s just our clients telling their fellow business owner friends about how great we are.
Leisa: How many clients do you have?
Allie: We have about 25 clients.
Leisa: That’s a lot. I know, because I imagine they’re on monthly retainers, and they need a certain amount of hours.
Allie: It’s ongoing. We have some project clients, especially for nonprofits, but for the most part we do ongoing retainers that we just constantly are coming up with new creative initiatives to get that word out. For instance, a restaurant, that’s not going to be exciting six months after they’ve just launched. We have to come up with new things to constantly keep them in the news, whether that’s promotions, or tying them in with things that are happening in Houston. There’s so much going on, so tying them into all of the local events here keeps them relevant. So that’s how I have a great staff here, who’s just constantly coming up with those great, creative, unique promotional ideas.
Leisa: Since you’ve started your business, what’s been the greatest challenge?
Allie: Keeping up with what those trends are. So since we have kind of defined ourselves as an agency that thinks out of the box, it’s hard to keep coming up with new ideas. We have to keep it fresh. We have to keep out there educating ourselves, learning what the new trends are, staying up to date with those new trends, as Facebook has changed their algorithm time and time again. We have to keep up with that. We have to come up with creative content that people will want to engage with on our clients’ pages, but they make it pretty difficult. Facebook makes it pretty difficult for brands like our clients to have that presence. At least that’s a challenge that we’re faced with right now to keep elevating our services, and to keep providing what our clients need as all these algorithms keep changing, and keep evolving.
Leisa: What do you think is the next step for Integrate?
Allie: Well as I mentioned, we always are trying to do what’s sprinkled with whatever the client’s needs, so it always has been social media, but as social media is changing and evolving, clients definitely need to still have a presences on social media, but I think that that will start changing of what that presence looks like and means. Facebook you have to boost post. You have to do like ads now, and so that’s made us bring in new staff that has expertise in those types of services in the marketing, in the media buying, etc. We do a lot of creative initiatives to get our clients messages in front of media. So sending a press release, and following up with a phone call isn’t necessarily going to be enough anymore. It hasn’t been enough for a while, but so in the past we’ve done media drops, or we’ve done stunts, and so those things get tired. They get old, and you have to keep coming up with new things.
So I think that’s where we’re really going in the future to add on additional services so that we can keep staying ahead of that curve.
Leisa: With everything that you’re doing, do you do major events for your customers?
Allie: We do if it ties into what the business goals are. So we’re not going to just do an event to just do an event. It has to really tie in with what we’re doing, and we’re not going to put on a big gala. That’s not really our expertise. We have great partners that we work with. There’s so many great businesses in Houston that do specialize in that, so I’d rather focus on what we focus on, and let them do that, but if it’s in a restaurant, or a nonprofit, or for one of our retail clients, or it’s something in store that we can focus on, if that saves the client money then we’re happy to do it.
Allie: We’ll offer that service.
Leisa: I was very fortunate to get to work with you on one of the events that I co-chaired last year, and am doing again this year.
Allie: Oh great, and we love doing events because we get to work with such great partners, and meet such great people in Houston, and so many people seem to be willing to come together to make events like that happen. So if we can be the facilitator, and help to integrate the message across all of that, we’d love to do that.
Leisa: So speaking of integrating the message, how did you come up with the name Integrate?
Allie: Actually, I never knew what this was going to turn into, but I came up with the name to be honest when I was working for the company in New York. When social media was very new, so no one really knew what was happening with social media. People were calling it digital media. People were calling it integrated communications, and there was no buzz word at the time, and so I personally just loved the idea of integrating the message across all communication channels, whether it’s advertising, or marketing, or events, you know that is in my mind what social media really is, and what we really do. So we do take that message, whether it’s PR, advertising, radio, TV, you know print, billboards, walls, you know whatever it is we like the same message to be consistent.
So again, when I was in New York, no one knew is it going to be integrated communications, and I always felt like it was going to be integrated PR, and that’s what social media was going to turn into. So one day I just bought the domain.
Leisa: So you originally were Integrate PR, and now you’re just Integrate?
Allie: Now we’re just Integrate Agency, just because we’re not so focused in PR. That’s definitely the core. That’s definitely the background. That’s what started us, but we we’re offering so many more services, and we know that we’re going to grow. We k now that we’re going to keep adding more services. So we re-branded in august of 2014 to be able to allow for that growth, and these other services, and just to really communicate our integrated approach, and that it’s not just through PR.
Leisa: There are a lot of agencies doing what Integrate does. What distinguishes Integrate? Why do people choose you?
Allie: Yeah so there’s actually a lot of PR agencies here in town that have amazing experience, and great relationships, and great ideas, but what I think really differentiates us is we go the extra mile. So we’re not just offering traditional PR services, and we’re not just offering social media services, and we’re not just offering marketing services, but we truly integrate those PR messages, or those marketing messages across all of the channels, and we’re still young, we’re still hungry, we’re still a new business, and we fight for our clients. So we’ll go the extra mile. We’ll do what needs to be done to make sure that those messages get across, even if that means dressing our intern up as a giant lemon, and making him go to all of the media stations, and tango dancing with the meteorologist.
Yes we did that a few weeks ago, or hosting an event here just so that we can make sure that some of our clients meet some of the media people that they need to meet. So whatever it is that we need to do, get manicures with reporters. We’ll take them to play golf. We’ll go that extra mile, because it’s just really important to us to build those relationships, and to build that creditability.
Leisa: What does your work week look like? What kind of hours do you work?
Allie: Mine personally?
Leisa: Yes, and your team’s, but like yours personally and the team.
Allie: Well I’m a morning person. So I wake up, and my brain is ready to go. So knowing that about myself I take advantage of that, and I wake up at 5:00, and get pretty much an entire day’s work done before the day actually starts, because that’s when I can write, that’s when I can think, that’s when I can edit. So I try to get as much done from like 5:30 to 8:30-ish. That’s at home in my PJs, with my coffee, and my dog sitting on my lap. I come to the office, or a lot of times I do like to have coffee or breakfast meetings, again, because that when my brain is sharpest, and then my day consists of, every day is different in every industry, but having meetings with clients, meeting with potential new clients, brainstorming with the team, meeting with my managers to strategize on what’s happening with the growth of the company. So every day is different, and then that usually last until 5:00 or 6:00.
Then I like to go to a yoga or define class to blow off some steam, and then a lot of times I have events where I’m meeting up with professionals, or colleagues, or whatnot to again keep brainstorming, and thinking about what’s next. Then my team is great. The day starts anywhere between 7:00 and 10:00 depending on different people and their schedules, meeting with clients, pitching to the media, talking to people on Twitter, and Instagram, and Facebook, and then the day wraps up here around 6:00 or so.
Leisa: Okay so my last question, and this is like I feel ridiculous asking you since you are the next generation, but I do want to know what best advice you’d have for an entrepreneur in this situation that you were in five years ago, versus today. I mean what do you think caused you to have this kind of success this quickly?
Allie: I think you just can’t be afraid to ask questions. You know a lot of people gave me the advice fake it until you make it, and just do what you got to do, and that’s true. That’s absolutely something you have to do, but you also just have to ask questions. You can just learn so much by just shutting up, and listening to other people’s advice. A lot of time I will pick up the phone, and either call someone like yourself, and just say, hey can I take you to lunch, and pick your brain for 20 minutes, because there’s a lot to learn, and there’s a lot that there’s no way that anyone can know, and we can all learn from each other just by using fellow business owners as resources.
Leisa: Thank you so much for being here today Allie.
Allie: Thank you so much; always great talking with you.
Leisa: That wraps up my interview with Allie Danziger, president and founder of Integrate. This is the Business Maker’s Show brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business.
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