Q&A with Dan: A 20-year Evolution

Dan Demaree, Founder & CEO of DPR Group
Dan Demaree, Founder & CEO

Dan Demaree founded Demaree Public Relations on February 16, 1998 in Wakefield, Massachusetts. From his apartment, Dan worked with a single client (his former employer) and a burning desire to provide world-class public relations and marketing support to a wide range of technology providers, manufacturers and professional services companies.

Over the next decade, Demaree Public Relations evolved into DPR Group and built a reputation as the leader in high-tech public relations for supply chain and logistics, healthcare technology, government contracting and other software and business services companies.

Flash forward 10 more years: in 2018, DPR Group is an integrated PR and marketing powerhouse headquartered outside of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, in a the city of Frederick, Maryland. Its client base and established partnerships span the globe with concentrations in North America and Europe.

Dan recently reflected on trends in the public relations and marketing space, changes and accomplishments during DPR Group’s 20 years in business, and key differentiators that make DPR Group stand out in the agency crowd.

DPR Group: What has most changed about the PR/marketing business since 1998?
Dan Demaree: The marketplace itself has changed. The number of PR and marketing firms has increased dramatically. When we competed for business back then, we would run into the same firms over and over. Now there are so many PR and marketing firms out there, you don’t know who half of them are.

But one of the biggest changes has to do with the emergence of the internet. Although the internet existed in 1998, it wasn’t the force that it is today. In the beginning, we would send pitches by fax or even by mail. By 2002, everything was electronic. It’s much more of a challenge to make a personal connection or build relationships with an editor today.

DPR Group: How has living and working through those changes informed your decisions about DPR Group’s future?
DD: I realized that we had to stay nimble and evolve quickly to survive over the years. I made up my mind that as new things came out, we would at least consider them. Every time there was a change in how to do business, we would investigate and often try it, adapting to new things and discarding what didn’t work. One of the keys to our success is the ability and willingness to evolve. At many of the larger PR and marketing firms, and even some of the smaller ones, there are departmental specialists. That is, someone who does nothing but research, media relations, writing or other things.

At DPR Group, we have a more well-rounded staff, especially among our higher-level people, that can do everything – manage the clients, come up with the strategy and most importantly, write. Every staff member must be able to write exceptionally well.

DPR Group: What is DPR Group’s best bragging accomplishment in 20 years of business?
DD: I recently counted and we’ve had over 40 clients whose main goal was to be profitably acquired and every single one of them realized that goal. Our very first client – Rockport Trade Systems – was a small company that was bought out for $103 million. Their CEO gave us a lot of credit. We’ve made millionaires of many, many people. Unfortunately, we’re not among them…yet!

DPR Group: In 2005, the company rebranded “Demaree Public Relations” as “DPR Group.” Can you talk about how that was much more than just a name change?
DD: For the first few years – 1998 to 2004 – we were primarily a public relations agency. But then we noticed a shift in the market toward more content creation and we realized that the writing capabilities that our team possessed could easily be extended beyond PR to other marketing services. Our clients wanted our help writing white papers and creating content for their websites. Websites became a lot more important to businesses around 2005.

Having ‘Public Relations’ in our name was limiting because we had evolved beyond just PR. The company evolved to provide both public relations and marketing services. We’re a group of strategic thinkers and top-notch content writers. I wanted a name people would remember. One that reflected our growth in the market – DPR Group.

DPR Group: What do you see as DPR Group’s most important attribute?
DD: DPR Group offers integrated public relations and marketing services. A lot of companies are specializing in one or the other or simply offering top-level services for each. We excel at both.

Companies want results. They don’t want a promise that you can do so many press releases or articles, they want something measurable. They will ask – ‘Can you drive quality leads to my website?’ or ‘Can you show me the value of PR?’

PR and marketing activities set the table for a sales feast. With public relations, you are raising awareness and building credibility for a brand to reduce the effort that the sales team has to put into getting to know a new prospect. Content marketing and outside promotion educate leads so they know what your company does and how you can help them solve their problems. These pre-sales activities help to make sure that when the lead is passed over to a sales person, it’s a warm lead. We are constantly working on improving ways to deliver value to our clients.

Companies know they want marketing, but they don’t always know that they also need PR. You can set the table with beautiful cutlery and linens, but without knowing or trusting what you’re eating, the feast will be a disaster. An integrated approach to PR and marketing will help you set the table and build a positive reputation for your company.

DPR Group: What is the best piece of leadership advice you ever received?
DD: Right before I started my own company, there were two companies that worked in the same building that I did – a software company and a communications firm. They had started about the same time. After about a year, the communications firm was struggling and the other company took off like crazy.

I asked the owner of the software company why he thought his company was growing and the other company was not. He answered right away – ‘They tried to be everything to everyone.’ That had a big influence on me.

Most PR firms are generalists. From the start, I decided that our focus should be on business-to-business technology companies in manufacturing, the supply chain and healthcare. If you can identify who you are and define the value you can offer for a specific audience, you’ll be more successful. I’ve found that to definitely be true.