Sip & Share: Vehr Communications

sip_share_logo_finalIt’s not everyday that you get to talk to and share a drink with friends and leaders in the communications industry. But each year, the IPREX annual Global Leadership Conference becomes just that opportunity. At this year’s event in London, I met Darcy Little, senior account executive at Vehr Communications. When Nick Vehr, president of the Cincinnati-based agency, was elected IPREX Americas President in May, I knew it was the perfect time to reconnect with Darcy to talk about Vehr, her experience and her thoughts on where the industry is headed.

HB Agency: You worked at a few other places before landing at Vehr. What do you believe sets Vehr apart from other communications agencies? What’s life at Vehr like? 

vehr website r8DL: Before arriving at Vehr, I worked at a couple of other great agencies full of really smart folks. Cincinnati has a lot of bright minds living and working in it! What sets Vehr apart, I think, is that each of us brings our own set of experiences, backgrounds and interests to the table, which, along with our shared commitment to honest and dedicated client service, provides great value to our clients.

“We challenge each other – to make ourselves better and our clients better.”

HB Agency: Vehr was founded in 2007 by Nick Vehr. Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the agency and how it’s grown and evolved?

DL: Vehr Communications’ first office space consisted of a desk in the corner of a room at Nick’s house. It then moved to an office space in downtown Cincinnati to accommodate new team members. As the agency continued to grow, Nick moved the agency to another, bigger space in the same building. We completed an expansion a few months ago and are actually in the process of expanding again – to the entire floor.

The agency’s early days occurred during the recession. A scary time to start a business. But with low overhead, starting small and a laser-focus on hard work, the agency thrived.

Ultimately, Nick has a knack for finding good, smart talent. This has been key to our growth and success.

HB Agency: The Vehr website states, “We think about what’s coming next.” What do you think is coming next?

More ways for companies to generate content. Opportunities are becoming more and more limited for others (i.e. media) to tell their stories for them. There will be many new and creative ways for companies and organizations to tell their stories themselves.

HB Agency: Vehr does a lot of work to promote the city of Cincinnati, not to mention many of its businesses. Was this a concerted effort by the Vehr team? Would you say this sets you apart from other agencies in Cincinnati?

DL: Many agencies in Cincinnati support our city’s businesses, including its iconic brands. Vehr has a lot of roots in Cincinnati, and we want to see it thrive (and it has been!). We love working with Cincinnati-based businesses, but we service other companies around our region and organizations with a national footprint, too.

HB Agency: There have been many recent discussions on the importance of company culture. What’s your take on the relationship between producing good work and an effective company culture?

DL: An effective, healthy and (dare I say?) fun company culture is critical! People like to work with people they like. Fostering a company culture that allows employees to get to know their coworkers and have some fun puts their minds at ease. How can you do effective work with a cloud of drama hanging over your head, or if you’re absolutely bored to tears? Happiness produces good work.

We definitely have fun at Vehr. I’ve been known to hula hoop on occasion (I have two hula hoops at my desk), we have an (award-winning) Vehr softball team and we’re not immune to practical jokes. Not that I would know anything about that.

HB Agency: Can you talk to us about your most valuable communications learning moment?

DL: There have been many! It’s hard to name just one.. and I think, many times, learning and professional growth occur over time—without us even realizing it.

If I had to pick one moment, though, I’d say one of my most valuable learning experiences was at the IPREX Global Leadership Conference in February of this year. It was then that my mind truly opened to the potential of breaking down “silos” and the value of agencies and professionals to be more holistic in their offerings.

“It’s not enough to be a ‘PR pro.’ We need to learn to be creative directors and media planners (in varying degrees) to add more value to our clients and agencies.”

HB: You’re the treasurer of the Cincinnati chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. How does your regular involvement with this organization help or inform your client work at Vehr?

DL: PRSA has been invaluable to my professional growth. Like most professional organizations, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. You can’t put a price on the networking opportunities, and I’ve learned so much from our chapter’s programming events.

Specifically, by serving as treasurer, I’ve learned a lot about budgeting and the “money” behind an organization. I was never one to love math, but serving in this role has challenged me to dive deeply into financials and interpret them. This has helped give me perspective when budgeting for client work and has given me a general understanding of the “math” involved in running an organization or business.

HB Agency: In one of your recent blog posts, you shed light on a Wall Street Journal retrospective about the way newspapers covered Lincoln’s assassination 150 years ago. Clearly a lot has changed, but some elements have persisted. What’s one thing you’ve seen change since you started working in PR? In another 150 years, do you think there will be consistent elements in the way we communicate?

DL: When I began working in PR in 2007, I considered deleting my Facebook account. I wasn’t in college anymore so I wouldn’t need it, right? WRONG. Social media, of course, has changed everything: from the way companies communicate to their audiences, to the way reporters break news. Social media only became more and more relevant to public relations during my eight years working in the business. And it’s not going anywhere—perhaps it’ll take different forms, but it’s here for the long haul. Companies have a greater mandate than ever to be transparent. And the prospect of making a mistake is scarier.

Social media and smartphones have forced us to communicate fast. This won’t change in 150 years, except to say that we’ll probably be communicating faster. The need for immediacy will only get greater and greater.

 

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