How Daly are reinventing PR: we talk to the comms+ agency about their innovative new approach
Daly would agree that PR could do with a bit of an update as, in today’s digital world, some of the once tried-and-trusted methods of promotion just don’t hold up the way they used to. Understanding this, the New York-based agency have positioned themselves as an ‘unconventional comms+ agency for exceptional companies,’ promising a more sustained impact for their creative clients. We speak to Founder Alex Daly alongside Partner & Managing Director Ally Bruschi to find out more about their approach, as well as some of their most exciting projects from past and present.
PT Hi Alex and Ally, how are you?
AD We are doing really well! Reeling, actually, because Inc. Magazine just announced that Daly made their Best Workplaces list for 2023!
Being named a best workplace is, of course, an honour at any time, but add in the pandemic, the great resignation, inflation, a looming recession, and general economic restlessness and uncertainty, and making the list this year feels like a real honour and achievement to us.
PT Congratulations! Looking back, how did Daly first begin? Why did you decide to launch it?
AD I have a background in journalism and documentary films, and began launching crowdfunding campaigns for the films I was producing. Before long, I got the cute nickname ‘the crowdsourceress’ – and entrepreneurs, artists and designers started coming to me and my team to craft their story, pitch it on Kickstarter, and tap into the brilliant power of communities.
The Brand Identity’s readers are probably most familiar with our Standards Manual projects for NASA and NYCTA, the RAMS and Joan Didion documentaries, Scott Thrift’s timepieces, and the Pioneer Plaque reissue.
Crowdfunding clients – from sustainable bag company Freitag to musician Neil Young – began asking for ongoing PR support to help sustain the awareness and impact they had built from their Kickstarter campaigns. That’s how Daly was born.
Today, Daly is a comms+ agency that brings our crowd-building chops and unconventional flair to deliver outstanding PR results for clients, including design agencies like Pentagram and FAY, as well as design-minded DTC partners like Parable and Penguin Random House.
The old way of PR hasn’t been working for quite some time.
PT Was there a particular catalyst for the change from comms and marketing agency to what you describe as comms+?
AD We’ve been aware that the old way of PR hasn’t been working for quite some time, with the most dramatic changes having unfolded since 2020.
This year, we decided to act on that growing sense that we really needed to start doing things differently – and talking about the way we did things differently, to match. So, at the beginning of 2023, we pivoted to branding ourselves as a comms+ agency.
Our talented team offers customised, cross-category support tailored to each client’s needs, which includes everything from launch comms to ongoing media relations support, to affiliate marketing, intimate media event strategy, micro-influencer campaigns, and much more.
Comms+ means we meet clients where they are, and support them where they actually need it – rather than trying to fit them into a templatised package filled with services that don’t serve them.
PT How have your current clients – and prospective clients – responded to the change?
AB It’s really been resonating so far with both!
With current clients, we’ve recently revisited our scopes to add new services, and had open, honest conversations about what comms success really should look like for brands, today. This has been super refreshing to clients, as with the pace that brands are constantly needing to iterate and change, being able to offer them a suite of holistic services goes a really long way.
In shifting to a comms+ approach, we also simultaneously shifted to a ‘new business+’ approach, too, with prospective clients. That is, an always-on, proactive new business strategy that places an emphasis on setting goals around the types of companies we want to work with (what we have been internally calling the ‘health to happiness spectrum’).
Our incredibly customised scopes of work always wow the prospective clients we present to – we take great care to tailor our scopes of work to specifically explain which key deliverables we believe will help a client reach their goals.
PT Can you tell us about how you work with graphic design studios? What services do you provide?
AB Our work with graphic design studios and creative firms takes many different forms!
With most of our design firm clients, we act as their agency of record, and work closely with their leadership team and individual designers to: pitch a consistent cadence of press stories around their notable, timely client case studies; place thought leadership profiles; manage award submissions; and research, pitch and negotiate speaking opportunities throughout the year.
This steady drumbeat of media attention helps our design clients attract new business and talent alike, while also elevating the profiles of individual designers and leaders on their teams (we’ve witnessed the tangible impact of this firsthand – several designers across agencies that we’ve worked with have reported that our media efforts have helped them secure their O1 visas, and even get competitive job offers!).
With many of these clients, we’re not just pitching them to design publications – we’re also breaking them out of the design world silo, too. A great example of this is with Pentagram partner Natasha Jen. A big goal for Natasha was to reach audiences in the beauty, food and fashion worlds, so we worked closely with her to develop pitch angles around her beauty routine, personal style, and favourite local restaurants, for placements in Into the Gloss, The M-Dash and Edible Manhattan.
We also partner with other studios on more of a referral basis, in which they loop Daly in directly with their clients who need PR support on either a launch or ongoing basis – it’s a win-win situation because we get PR for the studio while also supporting their client’s success.
Most designers are (self-admittedly, purposefully) terrible at promoting themselves!
PT Can you tell us about any exciting comms+ services you’ve offered a design agency outside of media relations?
AB We’ve begun supporting select clients with developing a newsletter strategy to help them transform their internal and external email communications into more than ‘just another agency newsletter.’
With Athletics, for example, our Marketing Manager Caitlin worked with their leadership team to establish the foundational strategy for their newsletter, Athletics Quarterly.
Our newsletter work with Athletics has involved positioning them as a thought leader amongst competitors, and breaking the mould of traditional agency newsletters that are case study-heavy by providing editorialized interviews between Athletics and a voice outside the design industry – like The New York Times.
The newsletter’s early success has been notable: their subscriber growth rate has more than doubled in the past 12 months; they’ve sustained an open rate that's well above industry average with each edition; and they’ve seen a spike in website visits on each issue’s launch date.
We had the idea to start offering this newsletter support based on the success of Daly’s own quarterly publication, The Daly News – and have really enjoyed using the expertise we’ve developed to help our clients discover and execute the newsletter approach that works best for them!
PT What misconceptions do you think design studios hold towards comms, PR and marketing?
AB I think any ‘misconceptions’ that are held about comms and PR as a whole – by anyone! – are likely justified by the shortcomings of the old ways of PR.
The idea that pitching press is just a matter of sending variations on the same templatised press release to a standard list of 50-100 of the same reporters on repeat is outdated, but it’s certainly still the reality for some PR professionals, even today.
But we’re here to confirm that this ‘spray and pray’ method of pitching no longer works – maybe it never did – and anyone who is still doing this deserves whatever subtweets are being written about them on media-Twitter.
PT Why should studios collaborate with Daly, instead of doing it themselves?
AB While it’s definitely possible for design studios to build relationships with key design publications (like The Brand Identity!) themselves, there seems to be a universal reality that prevents this from happening: most designers are (self-admittedly, purposefully) terrible at promoting themselves!
There are a few reasons for this, but we’ve witnessed firsthand that the number one reason is: designers are busy! And often the task of documenting their excellent client work in a written case study with final, edited and getting client approvals for promotion falls to the wayside when the actual job of client services and creative work necessarily needs to take precedence.
That’s where Daly comes in ;) We keep our design clients organised and on track, help them identify the press-worthy case studies that are worth putting in the work for, and then we help write them; we handle client permission conversations, zero in on the exact right framing to pitch for each story and each publication, and, above all, always keep an eye on the bigger picture goals we’re trying to reach with all this comms+ work.
PT Out of all the campaigns you’ve worked on and studios you’ve worked with, which stories have had the biggest impact on you, personally, and as a company?
AD I have two that are tied for first place!
We love to talk about the ‘Daly Ripple Effect’ impact of our work with our ongoing retainer clients, and Daly’s years-long relationships with two clients – Standards Manual and SommSelect – are good proof of this in action!
First – Standards Manual. Our relationship with Hamish Smyth and Jesse Reed – the Co-founders of Standards Manual, and design agency Order, and new branding guidelines tool, Standards (is there anything they can’t do?!) – has evolved in step with Daly’s own evolution and growth.
We started working with them back in our crowdfunding consulting days. The most well-known of these pieces was the story we landed for them in Vanity Fair, with the stellar headline, ‘Meet the Guys Turning Old Graphic Design Manuals into Kickstarter Blockbusters.’
From there, our relationship rippled on, and we continued as the agency of record for both Standards Manual and Order, securing press features across book releases and client projects in design and non-design publications alike, from Wired to Fast Company, to the New York Times, to The Strategist, and beyond.
Now, Hamish and Jesse’s evolution from designers to book publishers to software founders has mirrored Daly’s own evolution from crowdfunding consulting, to PR and marketing, to a holistic, comms+ consultancy, and we’re in the perfect position to support them on the upcoming public beta launch of Standards – a huge milestone for the company, and the design industry as a whole.
PT And how about the second?
AD With SommSelect, our Ripple Effect was once again rooted in design comms success, and expanded – in both impact and reach – from there.
We were originally brought on to support SommSelect on getting press around the company’s rebrand and repositioning in 2020, thanks to an introduction from their design lead, Deva Pardue. After successfully placing their exciting rebrand news in a wide range of design publications (including The Brand Identity, Creative Review, Print Magazine, AIGA’s Eye on Design, Brand New, and more), SommSelect was buoyed by the overwhelmingly positive feedback of the new brand identity and decided to bring Daly on as their agency of record, beginning in 2021.
The design stories we landed served as a powerful jumping-off point for our work increasing SommSelect’s visibility as a whole, over the course of our now 2.5-year relationship with the brand. With the rebrand press under our belts, we began positioning SommSelect’s team of sommeliers as the go-to wine expert voices for consumer media. We now regularly develop timely pitches around trending topics that offer insights and expertise from the SommSelect team; most recently: ‘Wine & Roys – what type of wine would each Roy sibling drink?’
In the past 2.5 years, we’ve now secured more than 250 press features for SommSelect, across a wide range of media genres, including high-profile thought leadership, product, and brand placements in publications like The New York Times, Food & Wine, Forbes, Vogue, PEOPLE, CNBC, Business Insider, and many more. If that doesn’t prove the impact of always-on PR, I don’t know what would!
Culture reigns supreme at Daly.
PT Why launch the Daly swag program? How does it reflect Daly and its philosophies?
AD Culture reigns supreme at Daly – and while the workforce has notoriously experienced frequent waves of change over the past few years, Daly’s value of intimacy has become more important than ever. This was the impetus for our Daly swag program, and that’s where the critical element of design stepped in. Leveraging the brilliantly bright colours that Pentagram partner Marina Willer originally created for our exceptional agency branding (lucky us!), we bypassed the wasteful and boring company merch typically offered to create something modern and quintessentially Daly. That included our ‘intimacy’ hat, nail polish (in Daly orange), a matchbook to spark joy (get it?), a bright umbrella to uplift a gloomy day, and yellow beach towels to encourage sunshine.
The intention here was to tactically offer ‘intimacy’ in our brave new world. Which, these days, we all need a hefty dose of.