Posted: November 01, 2011

Top Company: Linhart Public Relations

Winner in the media/advertising category

Mike Taylor

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Few industries have had to evolve more in recent years than public relations. Social media, mobile-phone messaging and video streaming on the Internet are all part of the mix now. Gone are the days when a PR firm's sole job was to get a client's story into a newspaper.

"Social media, digital media, has really revolutionized our business," says Sharon Linhart, founder and managing partner of Denver-based Linhart Public Relations. "Our clients have increasingly adopted or accepted that that is the way of the future, and that is the way communications are going."

Linhart Public Relations has remained cutting-edge and turned a profit every year since its founding 15 years ago while building a client list that includes Chipotle Mexican Grill, Crocs, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Tiffany & Co. and Southwest Airlines.

At different times Linhart Public Relations may be called on to build a brand, increase sales, stem a crisis or change behaviors. Sharon Linhart attributes the firm's steady growth to a company culture that has enabled it to attract and retain what she calls "some of the best and brightest in the industry." The 27-employee firm has had zero turnover in the last two years while adding nine employees during that time.

Part of the firm's culture that founder Linhart says is appealing to employees is an open-book philosophy of management. "Everyone in the firm knows exactly where we are on a monthly basis, what our financial position is, how we're doing," Linhart says. "I think that helps people feel assured and confident about what's going on."

She describes the company as a "work hard, play hard" environment "where people are comfortable and feel motivated and excited about doing their career-best work. And that has allowed us to retain really great people."

It doesn't hurt in the motivation department that the firm also pays quarterly bonuses - to everyone but the partners - based on the firm's profits. Thus, Linhart says, "Everyone understands their own contribution to the bottom line, and everyone shares in our profits."

Community involvement is another integral part of the company culture that has helped make Linhart Public Relations a Top Company. This includes a program called Linhart-to-Heart in which the firm selects an organization to support every quarter, whether it's a school-supply drive or a specific fundraising effort. The firm also sponsors an annual bowl-a-thon to raise money for Junior Achievement and does pro bono PR work for organizations such as the Boulder International Film Festival and Wings Over The Rockies
air museum.

The firm recognizes that public relations is increasingly about two-way communication, not just about putting the message out there.

"It's engaging with customers or audiences or stakeholders and allowing them to control the pace and the way they get their information," Sharon Linhart says. "We are a digital media firm as well as a public relations firm: online and all of the ways you can communicate, whether it's digital or mobile. It's a big challenge for us and it's a big challenge for our clients. They're not always sure of the best approach to take, so they turn to us."
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Mike Taylor is the managing editor of ColoradoBiz. He writes about small-business money issues and how startups are launched. Email him at mtaylor@cobizmag.com.

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