It is challenging to make a measurable impact through the extremely competitive market relying on a traditional marketing infrastructure where your organization rolls out a few blogs, email campaigns or runs ads. This is where a Public Relations agency would come into the picture. They immerse themselves within the organization, its purpose and what it wants to achieve, then prepare a strategic communication pipeline to reach, engage and influence stakeholders and the public at large. They boost your brand awareness, but more importantly, elevate your reputation and market it across your ecosystem. Trevelino/Keller has been developing new ways to help brands break through the noise, build- ing a reputation for themselves in the market.
Trevelino/Keller is an outcome-driven PR agency with decades of experience in handling strategic communication and reputation marketing for brands in technology, healthcare, franchising, financial service and more. CEOViews had a chance to interact with the owners of T/K, Dean Trevelino and Genna Keller, who were more than happy to share their stories on how it all started, evolved, and what the future looks like.
How it all started
Recalling the early days of T/K, Dean Trevelino said “We launched the firm in 2003 as a traditional public relations firm; however, having been schooled in 360 brand marketing, it was always our intention to scale our capabilities over time. For the first 10-12 years, clients came to us to build and grow their reputations. Along the way, they began to ask if we could impact their lead generation and ultimately conversion. We recognized early on that public relations had its limits in terms of directly influencing the bottom line. So we expanded our capabilities in two areas -– creative services and integrated marketing.”
Role of technology behind the success
“If you’re not thinking about the software side of your service, you are behind”.
Trevelino/Keller made a commitment to be a service and software-enabled company. The software enables it to optimize the human capital side that owns brand, reputation and marketing ideation and client relationship management. As a result, T/K is recognised as one of the 50 innovators of the year. Trevelino and Keller believe that it’s not just one factor but the culmination of a few things that help them deliver the best outcomes consistently. Tenacity must be a part of the cultural DNA. That’s tied to a strong work ethic, an expectation set during the interviewing process. They also believe that talent and culture give Trevelino/Keller an edge. In a competitive industry where agencies face 20-25 percent staff turnover annually, they have lost 2 people to agencies in 18 years. This speaks to a consistent culture and values system.
Trevelino/Keller has been able to grow consistently since starting the firm; to that point, Genna Keller says, growth with profitability is based on our ability to deliver in four areas:  Client Service – We must be able to execute on what we signed up for with client engagements. Because 75% of our work is reoccurring revenue, retention becomes the foundation of our growth.  Business Development – Each year we begin knowing we must generate 25+ percent of our total annual revenue from new business.  Culture – When your entire organization is made up of Gen X, Y and Z, one cannot underestimate the power of culture. Culture is work ethic, philosophy, internal programming, training and advancement. We have invested in each of these areas and, as a result, we own the industry’s highest retention rate.  Innovation – We are never static. We are always innovating, be it our positioning, tech-stack, approach, methodology. We have to be nimble enough to not only see a trend and get out front but sometimes define it and attempt to own it.
Work culture: What it’s like to work at Trevelino/Keller
Curious to know how the work culture at T/K has been and how it has helped them become a brand now, we asked Dean Trevelino the importance work culture has played on their success. Answering the same, he emphasized saying, one cannot underestimate the importance of inspiring your employees and creating a workplace [in person or remote] where the workday offers more than the work. We have an internal GOAT [Greatest of All Time] recognition system where staff acknowledges other staff for GOAT work. It’s not a top-down concept, but a more organic one that defines the culture from peer to peer.
The agency industry is historically a high expectation, sense of urgency environment. To reduce the stress on employees, we have various programs to keep them active and motivated. Read to Lead offers staff an opportunity to access a library of innovative, socially conscious and motivating reads from which to enjoy but also share. Red with Ted challenges staff to identify an inspiring Ted Talk for the office, enjoyed over a wonderfully constructed glass of red wine. Spotify@9 starts each day off with a new song selected by any staff member, simple but entertaining.
Speaking about their previous works and the impact they have created for brands, Dean Trevelino recalls working for a start-up out of Phoenix, launching in Atlan- ta. Budgets were tight, expectations were high. Atlan- ta’s main media outlet is affiliated with leading competitors in the car-buying space. The car selling market is wrought with some of the oldest, antiquated regulations of any industry. Other emerging startups had received significant funding from Silicon Valley. It was a perfect storm of adversity. “We reminded the client that we believed it was not a question of if, but when. Little by little, we gained media traction in smaller media outlets in Atlanta, then other regional markets. We established a straightforward positioning as the first 100% online car dealership. A successful media tour to New York and the campaign took off. More markets, more national exposure, innovative stunts, Forbes ranking as the fifth most promising company in the US. Here we are nine years later, a $50 billion cap and market leadership”.
What the future holds
On being asked if they have any plans to expand geographically like any other company, Genna Keller said, “In our earlier years, we had people on the ground in San Francisco, Washington, DC, North Carolina and Florida markets. It was a strategy to retain great talent and in some cases, a business development approach in markets that aligned heavily with our industry experience, like technology in Silicon Valley. However, as we have seen from the last two years of a pandemic-driven remote work environment, we do not need a physical geographic expansion to service clients”.
Innovation comes in many forms. The mere adoption of technology is actually rather mainstream. Every company has it today, but that doesn’t make them innovative. Culture and the programming that challenges people; Technology and being willing to invest in it, but also pioneer it; Services and how they must always be evolving. Trevelino/Keller sees significant room for growth … outside its front door, in the Southeast and wherever innovative companies are looking for a firm with a purpose.