Agency Story: David Schloss, PixelShift

David Schloss

What’s your name?

David Schloss

What does your agency, PixelShift, do?

We do mostly relationship management. Traditional PR sends out press releases, contacts people, but doesn’t really interact well with them or understand their long-term needs; our mission is to do relationships first, and then the PR steps come from that: different outlets need different things.

What were you doing before you started your agency?

I was the editor-in-chief of Digital Photo Pro Magazine.

What inspired you to start your own agency, rather than simply freelancing or working elsewhere?

As a member of the press I had worked for about 8 years with Sony, and they were trying to find unique ways to work with the photo press. Having spent so much time with them, we decided that all of the photo press needed to be treated based on their individual needs, and with our editors background we realized we could combine forces with Sony through doing their PR work and could amplify what they were doing—and start our own agency to bring that individual relationships to other clients as well.

What were the HARDEST things about starting your agency?

Finding the time to leave a more secure, traditional position.

What were the BEST things about starting your agency?

The ability to implement creative solutions that most companies wouldn’t because of the freedom we were given and our non-traditional background.

Does your agency have a “point of difference” (or did it at the beginning)? How has that evolved?

I guess that the difference would be approaching PR with a clean slate, because most people in PR go into it with a background in either communications or business, but we can do it from an editorial standpoint: we knew what the press needed because we were the press.

What’s your staff structure? How many do you have, and what are their positions? How did that evolve?

We have a relatively flat organization with 3 partners and several junior staff. We’re also the sister company of an event agency, so we have access to their 20-something staff as well.

What have some of your favorite projects been and why?

We do camera stuff mostly, so we did several product launches where we got to invite non-traditional media—which at the time was social media, like YouTube—and make them part of our family and Sony’s family. And some of those events where we could invite new people into the process who might not have succeeded otherwise; those were really fulfilling.

Any big fat failures you’re willing to share?

We haven’t been around long enough to have a “big fat failure” yet, but I’m sure we will!

What do you wish you knew before you started your agency that might have made things easier at the beginning?

Some of the traditional PR responsibilities like deep reporting, developing good KPIs to match the projects, and we had to make a lot of the choices and tools we were going to use where a lot of agencies already have that established.

But, on the other side, we picked a lot of tools that were better than some of the other traditional tools.

What’s your advice for someone starting an agency?

Try to find a reliable client before you launch the agency. It is very difficult to poach a client from someone else; look for companies that do their own—or in addition to marketing—internally, and try to let the marketing people do the marketing while you do the PR job.

If you weren’t running your agency, what do you think you might be doing instead?

I love the magazine world so much, and writing and photography, that I probably would be in the ad industry, even though opportunities are dwindling there.

David Schloss

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