We are in a liminal, or transitional, time. As the traditional objectives for marketing and PR evolve, and as previous strategies for successful communications become obsolete, the ability and willingness to adapt become even more critical. This may sound scary — as change is never easy — but there is no shortage of reasons to be optimistic about the future. Those who embrace change will capitalize on the opportunities that emerge.
To succeed in this environment requires continued flexibility, partnership, experimentation, and gratitude. While these values have traditionally shaped our approach with clients — and are generally incorporated into our annual planning and client strategies — they also influence our own efforts to grow BackBay and assist clients in new ways. Focusing on these traits helped BackBay successfully navigate the uncertainty of the past two years. And in 2021, we were able to grow our client base, employees, and revenues each by double-digit percentages.
Investing for Growth
Despite the uncertainty, BackBay is investing for future growth. We invested in office space. Over the summer, we relocated our headquarters from the 8th floor of the Saunders Building in Boston’s Park Plaza to the 14th floor penthouse of the same building, where we now overlook the Public Garden. We’re making good use of the new, expanded space in this hybrid environment and can better accommodate the growth of our firm.
We also invested in our people. In 2021, we hired a number of experienced professionals who have deep knowledge in their respective specializations. George Spencer joined BackBay as a Vice President in our Impact Investing Group from the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), where he was previously the Senior Manager of Communications. Maggie McCuen joined BackBay’s Asset and Wealth Management Group as Vice President from Natixis Investment Managers, where she was Director of Corporate Communications. And Beth Herlihy joined BackBay’s Private Equity and Venture Capital Group as a Vice President from Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management (MassPRIM), where she was previously Director of Communications.
We also added long-time business editor George Donnelly as Financial Writer, JJ LaMotte as Office Manager, and Gabe Hutchinson as Graphic Designer. Erika Rogers joined BackBay as an Account Executive from a leading national advertising agency, and we brought on several smart and talented recent graduates, including Ryan Scanlon, Margaret Chase, Paige Sullivan, and Kylie Wilcox. Amid this growth, we also augmented our European team, as Marta Seitz relocated to BackBay’s London office. We’re blessed to have such a capable and dedicated team. Our new employees brought new knowledge and talents to BackBay.
Integrated Communications More Important Than Ever
In this ongoing time of uncertainty, our clients are relying on BackBay to be strategic and flexible and to provide an array of integrated services to help them build their brands and grow their businesses.
For our retainer clients, we develop comprehensive 12-month plans, which guide our daily activities, create roadmaps for ambitious strategic initiatives, and help instill a regular cadence to help clients maintain a persistent presence in key markets. We formally update these plans quarterly, but also adjust on the fly as challenges appear, and new opportunities arise. We recognize that when our clients view us as strategic partners — and as members of one team — we are likely to succeed together.
For many of our clients, 2021 was a year of experimentation. For instance, we helped many clients embrace digital marketing for the first time, including programs to leverage Google AdWords, LinkedIn sponsored campaigns, or more traditional digital initiatives to host webinars, produce videos, and get the most out of conferences when events moved online.
Many more also tweaked previous tactics to reach media by offering exclusives, identifying “newsjacking” opportunities, creating proprietary research, or entering partnerships with influential trade groups.
Together with our clients, we strategized, researched, implemented, assessed, and adjusted as needed.
Some 2021 Highlights
- Our Private Equity and Venture Capital group, which has now worked with more than 95 private markets clients, had a record-breaking year in deal and fundraising announcements. The team announced 162 private-markets investments and 15 fund closes totaling $18.3 billion in 2021. They also work on behalf of vendors within these markets seeking to resonate with GPs.
- Our Fintech group saw one of the busiest years to date in terms of news announcements, supporting many clients looking to expand their footprints and gain share in new geographies and market segments. These efforts ranged in scope from working with early-stage companies seeking to break into new markets to helping longstanding unicorns prepare for the public glare that comes with a high-profile IPO.
- Our Asset and Wealth Management group, meanwhile, helped their clients switch gears, pivoting from communications driven by Covid news in 2020 and early 2021 to adjusting to an environment focused on rising interest rates, inflation, and oil prices, which High Net Worth investors haven’t had to grapple with in years, if not decades.
- In a year when the investing public finally embraced sustainable investing, our Impact Investing group helped several clients celebrate the start of their second and third decades of investing for both financial returns and social and environmental change. We are blessed to work with pioneers in the sustainable investing space who have been making a real difference for years in areas of need including the emerging markets, underinvested communities in the U.S., and climate change.
From a personal development standpoint, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of an incredible group of individuals taking a course sponsored by the Garrison Institute called “Compassionate Leadership in Financial Services.” The course provides both education about mindfulness and guidance on practicing it. Importantly, it also provides a supportive community of business leaders who have been practicing mindfulness for many years. I have a lot to learn about mindfulness and compassionate leadership, and I value the opportunity to be part of this group.
I am grateful to BackBay’s employees, clients, and other professionals with whom we interact throughout the year. The pandemic has underscored the interconnectedness and importance of our networks that transcend across our business relationships, our families and communities, and the world at large. It has also highlighted the need for empathy and compassion. I hope that these are lessons we can take with us into 2022 and beyond.