If you look at Factory PR’s growth over the past few years, you’ll catch a glimmer of Mark Silver and Rose Swarbrick’s entrepreneurial spirits shining through. The PR powerhouses lead the agency as co-founder and CEO, and partner and managing director, respectively – forging the path to Factory PR’s success by being self-proclaimed “masters of reinvention.” We spoke with them to learn how their business partnership came to be, some of the exciting results of their of-the-moment strategies and advice for ambitious marcomms pros looking to follow their lead.
Tell us a little about each of your careers before the launch of Factory PR.
Mark started his career in PR based on counsel. At a young age, he started working for William Morris in the agent trainee program and, before long, became Vice President of PR. Mark went on to work closely with Peggy Siegel, who was in charge of all the most popular film and television premieres at the time (the OG Sex & The City was a highlight). After some time, Mark moved from doing primarily film and events to taking on more all-encompassing roles, everything from fashion PR to celebrity and music. Mark helped to launch the fashion-lifestyle brand Sean John (created by music mogul Sean Combs A.K.A. P. Diddy) and a variety of other popular brands in what is now known as the cultural zeitgeist. All of his experiences framed what he would move on to create himself – a full-service communications agency.
Rose started her career in reverse. She somewhat accidentally founded a small agency in Australia at 21 years of age, doing fashion, beauty, and horse racing PR for small designers, large department stores, and multinational racing conglomerates. Her most prominent client was US-based, so after six years in business and many trips back and forth, Rose moved stateside and took on the big leagues. She landed at Factory PR through luck and good fortune and found an instant connection with Mark.
What does Factory PR do?
Factory is a full-service communications agency. The agency’s expertise spans innovative industries such as tech, design, beauty, wellness, and lifestyle. Our versatility helps us unlock the broadest spectrum of consumer desires, and our ability to shape-shift positions us ahead of the curve and always on the pulse of “what’s next.” We live, breathe, and innovate PR and digital strategy. We cultivate positive perceptions for our clients and grow cult followings to mass appeal.
Though we are launch experts, we transcend brand stories to accompany our clients through multi-level, year-round storytelling, going far broader and deeper than any single launch.
Mark, how did you decide to launch Factory in 2001? What have been some of your greatest learnings in entrepreneurship?
After years of working in entertainment PR and learning the ins and outs of the industry from early mentors, I began to form relationships with clients who didn’t quite fit into the confines of traditional PR. This spurred the desire to carve out my own space in this industry and at 25, I launched Factory PR. I quickly learned how to evolve with the fast-moving PR and media trends and how to position brands to change just as fast and effectively. My motto has always been to dream big but make it achievable, and I thoroughly believe that’s what has attracted the world’s most notable and innovative brands to Factory. A valuable lesson that I have learned throughout my years in PR is to act quickly, think innovatively, and follow my intuition no matter what.
Rose, as an early member of the team, how did you come to join the company, and what was your role then versus your role now?
When I met Mark Silver in 2005, our personal and professional connection was immediate, igniting an enduring and true partnership based on mutual respect and each other's strengths (both opposite and complementary). After joining Factory, I led various divisions and teams before becoming the Agency's first Vice President. After seven years with the Agency, I moved on to expand my knowledge and experience in communications beyond the realm of just PR. I had various stints - at a multinational agency and leading the integrated comms team at a travel industry start-up, running all content and communications. After three years I returned to Factory as Partner and Managing Director, armed with a clear vision of the vast opportunity and growth I saw for the Agency. Mark and I worked together to pivot the business, beginning the foundation for the exceptional development the Agency has experienced in the past five years.
Tell us a little about the growth the agency has experienced over the past few years.
Factory PR has always been ahead of the curve in identifying trends and cultural shifts before they happen. During the pandemic, we identified what industries we felt would thrive, distinguishing these movements as either an ephemeral ‘pandemic boost’ or what would result in a lasting change in consumer and human behavior. As a result, we grew and thrived - our teams came together in a way we could never have imagined.
We identified how we could help our clients continue to grow and flourish during a time when every industry was experiencing astronomical change. This involved the early recognition of the platforms and trends that would increase during the pandemic and learning how best to utilize them to help our brands create positive change.
How does the agency differentiate itself in the field?
PR is a field that is constantly evolving. We stay ahead of each evolution by being masters of our own reinvention.
Our teams stay on the pulse of relevancy and pinpoint what is and will be important, not just in the present but years down the line. We identify emerging industries before they hit mass adoption, such as tech-enabled health and AI-led wellness, biotech beauty, social commerce platforms, web3, crypto, and other innovations.
Our agency is at the forefront of executive communications and founder positioning— we build legitimate credibility for famous founders who want their brands to be recognized by more than their face. A great representation of our work balancing founder and brand is with Henry Rose, Michelle Pfeiffer’s clean fragrance and lifestyle brand, which we launched and continue to work with today. We created ‘thought leadership’ programs before ‘thought leaders’ was an empty and overused buzzword.
Beyond this, we are experts in experiential methods to build awareness for our clients. Our work with Tinder, OnlyFans, Ray-Ban, IKEA, and FTX includes successful collaborations and experiential moments which infuse excitement and creativity into each narrative. For example, we partnered IKEA with culturally relevant companies such as Off-White and Sonos. We hosted events to effectively showcase and build new hype for the brand, like the IKEA Festival and the launch of its recent collection with Swedish House Mafia.
Our success goes back to our ability to reinvent ourselves quickly – we don’t set lanes to stay in but instead prefer to be fluid to match today and future trends.
What’s been the key to your business partnership?
From the beginning, we’ve always allowed each others’ expertise to shine through, making room for each other's big ideas while simultaneously finding ways to blend them. Our partnership is based on mutual admiration and an acceptance of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing for true synchronicity in strategy, approach, and the blossoming of our agency’s internal culture. But most importantly, there is a supernatural zing between us that is greater than the sum of its parts.
What have been some of your career highlights to date?
Before pronouns were commonplace and trans rights were less of a mass media topic, we worked with Tinder to create its 'All Swipes, All Types’ campaign and functionality. The option to select gender on the platform had been extremely limited and this initiative allowed users to self-select or self-generate their genders, allowing for representation of all people and making the platform a safe space for everyone. This campaign was particularly important to us as it aligned so closely with our personal and company values.
Another career highlight extends to our work with OnlyFans, where we utilized influencer partnerships with celebrities like Cardi B and Beyoncé to create the notion behind what OnlyFans could be, transforming it from NSFW to a legitimate content platform that dominated the cultural vernacular.
We are constantly proud of our ongoing work with Luxottica and their brands such as Ray-Ban, particularly the launches, events, and partnerships related to music and culture.
Lastly, growing our agency. We have experienced much of the same trials and tribulations other agencies faced during COVID. We endured this, learned, and were rewarded with the most growth we have seen as an agency. We didn't survive, we thrived.
Where do you see the industry evolving and how are you future-proofing the business?
The media landscape is contracting, but conversely, what we consider ‘PR’ today has massively expanded beyond traditional media. How we react to and stay ahead of those market shifts is essential to future-proofing our business.
Rather than referring to ourselves as public relations professionals, we see ourselves as ‘people professionals.’ We are in the business of relating to people, telling their stories and helping brands find ways to do the same.
You have offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. What are some of your favorite spots to visit in those cities?
Every SohoHouse, but specifically Miami Beach.
In New York - Grand Banks, Fish Cheeks, ATLA, Le Dive, Cucina Alba, and Indochine.
Miami - Cecconi’s at Soho House, Mandolin Aegean Bistro, Carbone, Casa Tua
What are some of your current projects you’re excited about?
We’re incredibly excited about our upcoming events and launches for IKEA, our ongoing activations with Ray-Ban, ASOS, and Rebag, and our future initiatives with FTX. We have quite a few new, pre-launch clients fulfilling industry voids and releasing innovative products and services that we cannot wait to unleash on the world soon!
What would be your advice to a young person starting their career in this business?
DON'T BE SHY - you will only thrive in this industry if you like building new relationships and are prepared to put yourself out in the world. Embrace new environments, be curious and friendly, never stop learning about industries, media, and news. Pick up the phone and speak to people, don't hide behind emails. Read, read, read! Consume as much media as you can across a range of topics, and practice your writing constantly.
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