Uphouse acquires Dooley PR to become one-stop agency

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Uphouse, one of the city’s growing ad agencies has acquired Dooley PR allowing them, they say, to better meet the communication and marketing needs of the modern world.

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Uphouse, one of the city’s growing ad agencies has acquired Dooley PR allowing them, they say, to better meet the communication and marketing needs of the modern world.

Principals from both firms said their clients were needing more of the services that each firm offered and agreed that a merger would allow them to better service them with the combination of their respective skill sets.

Alex Varricchio, co-owner of Uphouse said with the addition of Dooley, Uphouse may not become the largest agency in town but “it will now be among the largest” with about 30 employees in total after the deal closes Dec. 1.

Kiirsten May (from left) and Alex Varricchio, co-owners of UpHouse, with Adam Dooley and Stephanie Fung of Dooley PR & Marketing. (Supplied)

“It will give us the opportunity to look at more national contracts,” Varricchio said. “Many of the national accounts want to see that there is a PR (public relations) piece. It’s not there with all agencies. Lots of marketers are required to live in the world of PR now. In the past they may not have had to as much.”

Uphouse was founded by Varricchio and his partner Kiirsten May in 2017. Adam Dooley has been operating his PR firm for about 15 years.

“We have had a good run, but I think we can do a lot more,” Dooley said. “What we have discovered is that our clients are seeking more marketing support, more content creation, more digital marketing. We are going to be able to provide that way better as part of a larger group with Uphouse.”

On their own the two firms have worked with a broad cross-section of private and public sector and non-profit clients. Uphouse’s roster includes local names like Johnston Group, Travel Manitoba and Efficiency Manitoba, as well as national clients like Technation, BDC, Tourism HR Canada and Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce.

Dooley has done work for the likes of Roquette and Dynacare and local organizations including the Manitoba Hotel Association, Paragon Design Build and Manitoba Egg Farmers.

Kiirsten May said Uphouse is increasingly navigating its clients desire to be more transparent in communicating their brands.

She said in some cases it is a crisis communications issue regarding how organizations treat employees or dealing with issues like whether or not they are pink-washing or using tokenism on social media and brands are getting called out on that of sort of thing.

“Clients are coming to us and saying, ‘How do we respond to that’”, she said. “It is super nuanced and super contextual. It (having the PR expertise of Dooley) is going to be such a valuable piece to bring to our clients.”

The deal is also a recognition that the world of social media means that agencies can’t just distribute content and not expect some kind of direct feedback from the target audience.

“Every campaign we put out has two-way conversations on it. It has got to be part of everything we do now,” Varricchio said. “People are navigating that modern world of marketing and it can be tough for folks. Dooley is a well respected organization. We will be able to help people get comfortable having those conversations.”

The two firms have collaborated together in the past.

Dooley said, “It went very well. It was like a trial run.”

Uphouse is in the final stages of achieving its B Corp certification, a rigorous process that verifies businesses that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

“We’ve been going through it for the last year and a half are just about done,” Varricchio said.

“We went through the assessments and we found that we scored quite highly and we didn’t have to make a lot of changes to what we are doing.”

May added, “We’re getting really clear on our values and what our staff care about. They are talented. They could work anywhere, but they choose to work here. They see the impact of the work they do and the Dooley crew feel the same way. It’s part of what makes them a good fit.”

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Martin Cash

Martin Cash
Reporter

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

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