Building brand buzz and customer connections is just one facet of LaForce. Armed to provide a wide range of marketing services, founder and president James LaForce shares a behind-the-scenes look at what makes his namesake agency unique. You'll want to read on for his insights on why the future of the PR business is an evolution, not a revolution.
What does your company do?
We provide a range of marketing services to a diverse group of fantastic companies and brands. We work to increase awareness and drive purchase for products and services. We pride ourselves on our ability to become a seamless extension of a company’s marketing and communications team.
We work hand-in-hand with our clients to develop and execute programs that: engage consumers; create buzz for a brand; build positive emotional connections for companies and brands.
How did you come to launch your own business in PR? What were you doing prior?
I have worked in this industry for more than 30 years. I studied journalism and creative writing at Columbia. Early on, I lucked into a job with Eleanor Lambert, the legendary fashion publicist. It was exciting and inspiring every day in Eleanor’s office. She was passionate and driven and worked relentlessly day and night. She taught me that talent will always win and that our job was to help journalists see the story.
Was it always an aim to be a PR agency owner? If you hadn’t ended up in this field, what do you think might be doing?
My aim was to have a job in a one of New York’s creative fields. If it hadn’t been PR, it might have been art, theater or film.
How have you differentiated from other companies in your field?
I don’t think we have deliberately tried to differentiate ourselves. I think we have become unique simply by always being ourselves. We have always wanted to be independent. We have always wanted to be niche. We never take on a project we aren’t truly excited about. We always let our people help decide what to pursue next, what new person to hire, what new project to go after. So, by making all these little decisions every day, we have become unique.
What are some of the major ways the PR business has changed since you started out?
There are so many new services and strategies that we can offer our clients: digital and social strategy; media integrations; influencer recruitment; content production; events. That said, we always start with ensuring that we have a solid program in place to maximize the opportunity for earned media. We never lose sight of the big brand features, the CEO profiles, the product coverage in the key, needle-moving outlets.
How are you evolving the agency into the future, with the increasingly digital media landscape?
Everyone in the agency is encouraged to expand their skills and experience in digital strategy, production and management. We have free-standing account teams focused entirely on digital and social services, however every account team has some level of expertise beyond media relations. Some of our junior staff are taking courses at General Assembly. Our Digital Director runs regular tutorials for teams across the agency. It is an evolution, not a revolution.
What are a few of your current projects you’re excited about?
We are helping Lexus with the opening of INTERSECT BY LEXUS, a unique cultural space in the Meatpacking District. We have expanded our relationship with LinkedIn across a range of consumer-facing programs. We are launching the new Equinox Hotel brand, with its first location in Hudson Yards.
You host a major annual holiday party – an elaborate fete by the sounds. How did this come about and are you planning one for 2018?
My husband, Stephen Henderson, and I starting hosting an annual holiday party at home 25 years ago. We’ve always been lucky to have big apartments, so we could invite a lot of people. However, about 10 years, as the guest list kept growing, we had to move into venues. Last year was at on Pier 17 in the Seaport District. It was about 900 guests. We will host it every year, ‘til death do us part.
What have been the greatest challenges and rewards of your career thus far?
The greatest challenge is making sure that everyone in our organization is getting the absolute most out of being part of our team. Making sure they are learning, balancing work and life; they are supported; they are having fun; they are challenged, but not overwhelmed. Thanks to Rebecca Gordon, our SVP and Chief of Staff, who has been with me for a dozen years, maintaining this balance for every one of our 90 employees is a #1 priority.
The greatest reward is, of course, seeing those 90 people learning, being challenged and thriving. I am still connected to so many people who worked for me 10 and 20 years ago. I’ve seen them get married, have families and be very successful in the communications field. When someone tells me that their job with us set them on their path, I feel complete.
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