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Monday, October 21, 2019
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Area’s Leading Public Relations Firms; Top CEO Profiles

Category: 2011 Book of Lists

(Editor’s Note:  The Savannah Business Journal, publisher of “The Book of Lists,” has launched a new series featuring interviews with the CEOs of the top three companies for each list published, allowing readers to learn more about the most  prominent and key executives in the Greater Savannah and Coastal Georgia region.)

SBJ Staff Report

The Greater Savannah, Coastal Georgia and Lowcountry area region is blessed with a number of hardworking public relations firms which work daily to get out the message of their clients.

While new PR firms emerge every year, this year’s Book of Lists 2010/2011:  “Area’s Leading Public Relations Firms” was ranked according to the number of years in the business in our area – the survivors and “thrivers."

The three oldest public relations companies in the 13-county Coastal Georgia region are Longwater & Company Advertising, Southeastern Marketing and Monroe Marketing.

Longwater & Company Advertising
The region’s oldest standing public relations and marketing firm is owned by Elaine Longwater, president of Longwater & Company Advertising, who founded her company in 1981. While she originally began her business in the photography studio under her home, she quickly moved the company to its current location at 619 Tattnall St. in Savannah where the company is still headquartered today – 30 years of watching the Savannah market grow and change.  At the time, “that neighborhood was viewed as a slum,” she says.

Q – How did you get into the business and how did you capitalize your launch?

“I had been working at the Georgia Gazette with Albert and Marjorie Scordino for several years, but then I said to myself, ‘I can work for this same amount of money for myself.’” While she had no ad agency experience, she had worked for newspapers in advertising departments for a number of years, including up in Athens, GA. “I have nothing to lose by trying this,” she said she thought at the time.

Q – What has been your best survival skill in the downturns and difficult years?
“I think that the reason we’ve survived is this: we had our eyes on an international, global market.  I have always focused my eye on the world. That kind of depth helps me through those tough times,” when the local and U.S. economy turns down.

And, she believes that the top flight staff she has had has made the primary difference. “No one builds a company on their own. If they didn’t have the staff and kind of people who were top drawer, with the same belief system, you don’t make it.  I have worked with some very talented people.  It’s definitely a smooth effort – it’s a symphony,” to have a successful company she believes.

Q – Social Media has clearly changed the public relations field, but do you find that some of the essentials are still in place?
“I think the whole world has changed, and it is changing more every nano-second. And, I think it’s changed the face of advertising and marketing as we know it. So yes, if you don’t you’re your finger on the pulse, you’re gone,” she emphasizes. “I have really young people working with me. I was not born with a mouse in my hand, but they were.”

Southeastern Marketing
When you talk to Roy L. Akins, Jr, president of Southeastern Marketing of Statesboro, you just assume that he has a background in radio. He has one of those deep, rich and melodious voices that exudes enthusiasm and optimism – a good ‘PR guy’ type of voice – and in fact he has experience with sports reporting and doing hundreds of voice-overs for clients.

Q – How did you get into the business, and how did you capitalize your launch?
A - With a college degree in public relations, a few years in the newspaper business as editor of a thrice-weekly publication as well as seven years in financial marketing, Akins was looking for a new opportunity and saw one in the Statesboro area. With the help of some family-members who were "early stockholders" he explains, he was able to launch his full-service public relations and advertising company without taking on significant debt. He later acquired their stock and is the sole owner.  "My banking background really helped me to put together a business plan," he also adds.

Q – What has been your best survival skill in this difficult economy?
A - "I think like any small business – but big businesses too, – controlling operating expenses, reducing costs and scrutinizing everything, has been the key. As you look back, you wonder 'Why didn't I do this a long time ago?'" he states.  "As a result of controlling costs, the margins have grown. For our small company, we trimmed costs and have been fortunate to have clients who have been with us for decades. And, while 60 perccent of our business is from the financial section, we are diversified enough to weather the storm," in that sector. 

Q – Social Media has clearly changed the public relations field. How are you integrating its use in your PR business?
A - "It's obviously important, and the internet has got to be an integral part of your PR plan. Look at its impact in the Middle East with all these governments," he says. "Social media is a place where you can build your reputation, gain influence and earn trust."

"We are exploring new ways to interact with our clients and their brands through social media. This may include creating awareness, educating shareholders, managing conflicts or directing behavior to facilitate a specific response,"  he adds.

Monroe Marketing
The region’s third-oldest PR firm is Monroe Marketing, owned by Rick Monroe, is located at 9100 White Bluff Rd in Savannah.  Monroe founded his company in 1988, long before the Savannah boom began. It moved into its new, modern location in 2008.

Over the years, his clients have include many of the area’s leaders including the Yates Astro, Carey Hillard’s restaurant group and First Chatham Bank, known for his focus on ethical business practices.

Q – How did you get into the business and how did you capitalize your launch?
A - "I was doing the in-house for Great Southern Federal, doing the exact same thing I'm doing now.  I went out as a consultant for a  few years and then opened my own business. I went from in-house to out-house," he jokes."I got a few solid customers to start me out.  My capital outlay was a Macintosh computer, software and printer, almost $10,000 at the time. Started out of my house for about three weeks and then went nuts and had to get an office," he says telling a quick story about why he decided working from home was not the professional appearance he needed. "A friend of mine, a girl, was storing her clothes in my house. She and a guy trying to sell me something came to the door at the same time.  She says 'I'm coming to get a dress out of the closet.' And, I had to explain to Rick Witson, a sales guy for a local radio station, 'Rick, she doesn't live here, really'"  After that, Rick decided he had to get an office.

Q – What has been your best survival skill in this downturn?
A - I think that it's relationships. You more that you do want you do, and do the best you can, the wider and deeper you go. Those things help – sowing and reaping – doing things the right way.  I always say to the young people who have come to work for me, 'do the best you can every day and don't burn any bridges. The people who know you in your world will pick you up.'"

And so, when things turn bad, people have been there for us.  I've never gotten big on the surface, either. I don't have the heart to tell 12 people they have to go when you lose a big account; I'd rather outsource.  When you outsource you can buy the right expertise." he adds.

Q – Social Media has clearly changed the public relations field. What are you encouraging your clients to do?

A - "It's so new, they know they ought to do it, but a lot of its trendy and they don't know how to do it.  It's like Web sites. In the early years, a Web site was just a brochure.  No, you can make it work for you.  For some, social media is huge, like in tourism or appealing to younger demographics. For an older demographic, not so so much right now.  The best thing about the Internet now is that you no longer have to commit to a year contract, so people are now willing to give it a shot. It's measurable, which is what I love."

To learn more about The 2010/2011 Book of Lists, or to purchase past lists, click here.

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