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IPA Winter 2013 Newsletter

Inside this Issue

Message From the Chair
The Accidental Indie and the Value of the Niche
IPA Discount Program
Welcome New Section Members

Message From the Chair

On Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the PRSA 2013 International Conference, the Independent Practitioners Alliance (IPA) held the session, “Indie, Freelancer or Boutique Agency? New Business Models and Your Success.” The panelists were able to meet quite a few Section members at the breakout session, as well as at the Section luncheon. We conducted the session as an open discussion and there was a lot of valuable input provided by the attendees.

National recently called for volunteers to serve on the IPA Section Executive Committee, and I would like to invite and encourage you to consider serving. Nathan Hokama, APR will be our new Chair, and I will become the Immediate Past Chair. Gina Milani has committed to serving as Chair-Elect (and will serve as IPA Chair in 2015). That means we still have open opportunities for the following positions: Secretary.

If you’d like to serve in a leadership role within IPA, or have questions about the roles, please send me an e-mail with “IPA Nominating” in the subject line. In the message, please tell me what kind of role you would be interested in filling (e.g. membership, programs, communication), and what kind of volunteer experience you would bring to the position.

With thanks,


Katie Coates, APR
IPA Section Chair
Principal, PR Projects
Orange County, Calif.

The Accidental Indie and the Value of the Niche
By Gina Milani  

Since it’s my turn to write a newsletter article, I was thinking how interesting it would be to hear about the way other independent practitioners got started. We are a unique group — we’re all-virtual, so it’s more challenging for us to build a meaningful community. I’d like to see us do better at that, so I’ll go first.  

Brief background

I’m a California native who lived for 10 years in Cambridge, Mass. When I moved back home intending to get back into high-tech, I vowed never to return to the agency side. However, I was convinced to interview at UpStart Communications (now part of Fleishman Hillard), and that was it.

I loved working there, and I did well. And, because I did well, I found myself doing more client management and team supervision, and less hands-on PR. By late 1999, I found myself working on more accounts than allowed me the depth of research I wanted to do.  So when a recruiter called to see if I’d be interested in interviewing for a position at enterprise software start-up WebGain I jumped at the chance to consider what it would be like to work with only one client and give them my all.

And I did – well, give it my all, my 24/7, seemed like every fiber of my being – for eight months anyway. I was laid off in August 2001 just at the tail end of the great dot com bust. After a brief rest of two weeks I started looking for a new PR job – and there weren’t very many. Then, Sept. 11 happened and then there were really no jobs.

It came together quickly

I was lucky – as WebGain was getting brutalized in the tech press I reached out to beg them to say something. Something. So, they hired me to wrap up their story and handle the fire-sale press releases when their toolsets were acquired by other companies. So I dusted of my Milani Marketing company name, filed my paperwork and that’s how Milani Marketing & PR got started.

Not long after that, a former UpStart client (who was no longer at UpStart) needed help and I added PointBase to my client roster. And THEN one of my friends in sales at WebGain called and said, “Hey, I have this company – same product area as WebGain, but their product works and people love it. Want to handle their PR?” That’s when I formed the team that I’ve been working with now for 12 years. They were all originally with the former WebGain PR agency and had worked closely together so we knew right away we were a fit when more business came in.

We’ve done some really good work, made lasting client friendships, and have had a great deal of fun. I never started an agency in order to grow it and sell it.  We did it because we love what we do, being hands on, having access to the founders and CEO’s of the startups and young companies we work with, developing strong relationships with editors, analysts and bloggers, and enjoy the flexibility being virtual offers – we had the need and the opportunity to do it and the timing was right.  We were lucky, and as it turned out we complemented each other nicely from an interest and skillset standpoint (also very important.)

Aside from the good work we’ve done, I think what I’m most proud of is being able to help four people keep working during what I call “the dark days of PR” (2001–2004) – during that time we grew in clients and budgets and then made a determination on just how big we wanted to be and limited it to 3–5 clients with the goal of developing long-term, growth relationships.

There was a point where I sought out branding guidance – this person suggested I position myself as the premier agency handling foreign companies. I didn’t want to limit myself to that even though we had proven ourselves adept at working with clients from Europe, Russia, and Australia. So we didn’t. But I found it useful to ask someone else what they thought. We branded ourselves in the enterprise software niche and that focus has been a benefit to both ourselves and the clients we work with both foreign and domestic.

So, when I hung out my shingle, I really didn’t know that we would ultimately be a team, and one that focuses exclusively on enterprise software. Usually you don’t like to turn down business – but we have found it necessary so that it’s clear what our specialty area is. And that consistent focus is a very strong source of referrals.

I’d love to hear how YOU got started, what choices/decisions you made and why. And, if you’d like to submit your story for the Winter newsletter, drop me a line at  

Gina Milani  
Milani Marketing & PR LLC
IPA Section Secretary
Principal, Strategic Communication Solutions LLC
Menlo Park, California

IPA Discount Program

IPA members have access to exclusive discounts on services for news monitoring, news distribution, contact management and much more to help your practice thrive. Our program partners include UPS, Critical Mention, DigiClips, eNR Services, NewsCactus, Press Kit 24/7 and TEKGROUP International.

Welcome New Section Members!
The following members joined the IPA Section between July 1 and Oct. 31. You can view the entire Section roster in the PRSA Member Directory.

Devon Ray Battaglia, Devon Ray Communications, Manvel, Texas
Jennifer B. Bemij, B.Communications, Alexandria, Va.
Rudolph Lee Burwell, Burwell Group, Arlington, Va.
Pat Check, APR, Latitude 34 Company, Milton, Ga.
Monique M. Cheno, Monique Whitney, Phoenix, Ariz.
Jenna Cooper-GroJenna, CooperPR, Portland, Ore.
Marisa D'Vari, New Oak, New York, N.Y.
Trent Flood, APR, Berringer Communications, Arlington, Va.
Colleen Golden, Colleen Golden Co., Atlanta, Ga.
Lauren Jarrell, LJ Communications, Atlanta, Ga.
Anne L. Kellogg, Las Vegas, Nev.
Linda Reed Lockett, Linda Lockett Com, Placitas, N.M.
Susan A. Long, Macon, Ga.
Spiros G. Mantzavinos, The Mantzavinos Group, Wilmington, Del.
Katie Mattern, Self-Employed, Fairfield, Calif.
Sherri Michaels, LA Mining Company, Marina Del Rey, Calif.
Patricia M. Moli, Johnson & Johnson, Lebanon, N.J.
Carrie Morgan, Rock The Status Q, Phoenix, Ariz.
Shirley Mott, The Write Word Co., Batavia, Ill.
Kimberly Ann Pierce, Pierce PR, Grapevine, Texas
Daylyn Wolfram Presley, Daylyn Presley, Valley Village, Calif.
Emily Rodenbeck, Saint Louis, Mo.
Michael A. Rubin, Pompton Plains, N.J.
David James Shaffer, Belief Bridge Communications, Loveland, Ohio
Mark Tosczak, TZK Communications, Elon, N.C.
Samuel Bassey Uko, PromoServe Ltd, Abuja, Nigeria
Jennifer L. Watson, Lockheed, Martin Space Systems, Lakewood, Colo.

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