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Communications consultants with progressive client lists are moving to fill the void left by the demise of FitzGibbon Media. The firm shuttered late last year after sexual harassment and assault allegations against founder and president Trevor FitzGibbon became public.
Many practitioners wondered how a progressive firm could be such a hostile environment for its female staff. Now, the Pastorum Group, recently launched by Brad Bauman, Tory Brown, Michelle Coyle and Josh Cohen, is making a pitch for new business by making a point of saying its principals live the values of the progressive movement.
“In our business, we sometimes forget our firms need to be in line with what we actually believe,” said Bauman, former executive director of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “We need to actually do business in the most compassionate, most progressive way we possibly can.”
Moreover, Cohen noted their firm has a “culture that is accessible, egalitarian and diverse.”
C&E: How did the firm come together?
Cohen: Brad and I have known each other for a little while and liked each other for a little while so at the beginning of last year, we had a conversation. We both had a client roster and we believed that together we can work efficiently and we can do good work for progressive clients.
Bauman: It was a deliberative process. We understand the political dynamics, but do we really understand business? From that point of view, it made the most sense to have somebody with a business background who has a proven record of starting a political consulting firm, so we brought on Michelle Coyle and Tory Brown.
It’s not just a matter of waking up one morning and saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to be a firm.’ But instead really making sure that from a legal standpoint and from a money standpoint and from a client standpoint and a capacity standpoint that we were actually building a business that would be able to achieve what we said it would achieve for our clients.
C&E: What are the new digital tools that campaigns should look at?
Bauman: The environment is changing by the day. When you’re talking about communicating to a Millennial audience, they’re receiving their information on multiple platforms in politically savvy ways.
The days of just going up on Twitter or going up on Snapchat and saying, ‘Hey, we’re on Snapchat’ and not modulating your message are over. You can’t just launch on a platform and expect that because you’re on an innovative platform people are going to listen to you. It takes a very refined eye to craft these messages and talks to these audiences. That’s something our firm is positioned to do.
Cohen: We recognize that you have to meet your audience where they are. We’re trying to identity our audiences and what our outcome variables are.
C&E: What channel is working the best in the current environment?
Cohen: We’re working on an effort where Snapchat will be the primary [channel]. Video across all platforms is paramount: It performs better than anything else. On Facebook, on Twitter video uploading performs really well. But it absolutely depends on the campaign. There are organizing, coalition-building campaigns that aren’t shiny-new-tool specific, and then there are things that we do that are unique to Twitter.
Bauman: We’ve been in the process of transition now for a couple of years. But I think in the next year or two we will be able to say the era of the dominant medium is over.
C&E: How many staff will the Pastorum Group have?
Bauman: Our guiding principle at the firm is that we’re going to shake up communications in such a way that we’re going to win campaigns in the most untraditional way possible. We’re going to let that be the guide for how big we end up getting. Right now we’re four principals plus subcontractors. We’re in downtown D.C. and you can expect that very rapidly over the next few months we’re going to be expanding further.
C&E: Where did the name come from?
Bauman: There was a lot of spitballing going on at the time. When we were hot and heavy into the negotiations of what we were going call ourselves, I had just come back from vacation in Italy and I was in a Roman sort of mindset.
As we started gaming things out, from a branding perspective, we wanted something that was rooted in a classical value. We wanted to communicate that we weren’t just here to service the community but that we come from the progressive community. So it’s the Latin root for the folks who are herders and the folks who tend to the land.