FHA Veterans Dagny Ellenberg, Kendall Klingler and Rebecca Nicholas Join Fiona Hutton in Leading the Firm’s West Coast Expansion
It’s been twenty years of steady growth for Fiona Hutton & Associates (FHA) as we’ve arguably grown to one of the West Coast’s most respected communications and public affairs firms. An important new chapter starts today as I announce that Dagny Ellenberg, Kendall Klingler and Rebecca Nicholas have been promoted to partner, and I am elevating my role to Founder and CEO.
The “company” is the people – a statement that couldn’t be more accurate when describing an agency. I’m immensely proud of the evolution of our firm and the exceptional reputation we have steadily built with the collaboration and commitment of Dagny, Kendall and Rebecca – joined with an incredible roster of existing FHA team members and past alumni. Outstanding practitioners, brilliant strategists and fiercely loyal, each have been with the company for nearly 10 years. Their rise over the last decade is a testament to FHA’s investment in young, talented leaders, providing not only the tools, but also the opportunity for significant professional growth. If you have the right aptitude and attitude, you can truly soar at FHA.
FHA has firmly established itself as a bespoke agency for clients seeking the highest quality strategic communications and attracting the most talented professionals in the industry. The high expectations of our clients, much sought-after issue expertise, sophisticated engagements and consistent growth of the firm required an experienced, committed and united leadership team. This new partnership solidly sets our agency up for future success.
The partners will focus on driving the firm’s high-quality client results, creating additional proprietary products, grooming and growing talent and business development. I will lean into strategic vision for the agency (including issue sectors and specialized service offerings), high-level client strategy, scaling operations for further growth, advancing the agency’s acclaimed culture and recruiting senior-level talent.
In thinking about this announcement, I wanted to capture what makes us unique. How we think and approach our work. Again, it comes back to the people. FHA is an unparalleled teaching institution for PR practitioners – with a culture centered on inclusion, trust and collaboration. Investing in our people ultimately empowers their professional growth and concurrently supports them personally. That’s our secret sauce… it’s really not a complicated recipe but it demands consistency.
There is certainly an effervescent energy within FHA – having passionate, motivated and engaged employees ultimately translates to exceptional client service and outcomes. Today’s announcement is a true demonstration of our purpose, approach and model – attract top talent, invest in them unequivocally, support them through the highs and the lows and ultimately you build a unified team that is focused on great work.
This announcement comes on the heels of the company’s 20-year anniversary. From health equity to the digital divide, police reform and climate resiliency, FHA has worked on California’s toughest issues for two decades, providing innovative, reputable and results-driven service. The firm’s clients reflect a blue-chip roster ranging from private and nonprofit organizations to large government agencies and trade associations, including Comcast, Sutter Health, AT&T, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Health Net, California Department of Cannabis Control, NextEra, OneLegacy, State Water Contractors, California State Parks Foundation, Personal Care Products Council, and more. Engagements focus on reputation management, corporate PR, litigation support, issue and policy advocacy, legislative campaigns, regulatory challenges and crisis communications.
Under the expanded leadership, we’ll set our sights on new service offerings, including a specialized owned content/research division and enhanced regional footprints in 2022.
If you’d like to learn more about FHA’s services, issue expertise, example engagements and career opportunities, I invite you to visit www.fionahuttonassoc.com.
Congratulations to Dagny, Kendall and Rebecca. It’s well-earned recognition!
Advising Clients with Best Practices for 2022 Planning
Published November, 2021
By Fiona Hutton
In Q4, we inevitably get the question from colleagues inquiring whether our business is slowing down and if we’re enjoying the holidays. It’s rather quite the opposite. Our clients, especially corporate and trade associations, are busy assessing their political landscape, mapping objectives, carefully identifying key audiences and decision-makers, and then building strategies, plans, and budgets for the coming year – ultimately setting a well-organized, forward-looking, and goal-oriented plan.
Here are a few of FHA’s top recommendations that we’re deploying for our clients:
Determine core objectives with your client team – it should be specific, goal and action-oriented
Integrate GR, operations, and legal strategies early in the process for alignment and sign-off on approach
Invest in foundational insights and research to drive planning
Carefully map and expand all communications channels
Drive more online vehicles including microsites and dedicated webpages
Generate more creative, owned content that is memorable and shareable – “own” your story
Create/commission and package unique, propriety data, research, and reports – what we call “dynamic content”
Leverage thought leadership tracks by populating into the exploding network of webinars, podcasts, and virtual panels/conferences
Implement more direct stakeholder outreach, including e-newsletters and customized databases
Enhance executive visibility on social media and engage directly with key influencers
Invest in strategic and targeted paid digital strategies
Pursue sponsored or contributed content package opportunities with key outlets
Adopt scalable and tiered budgets that can ramp up/down based off shifting business operations, political landscape changes, and finances
Ultimately, weaving all these elements together creates our proprietary “FHA Surround Sound” campaigns – educating and influencing audiences when and where they receive or seek information.
Pro Tip: Measure and assess progress and effectiveness quarterly. Your communications/public affairs budget should be a significant investment, but a good portion of this work is often qualitative and not always quantitative. Ensure you establish front-end expectations with your executive team or funders and assess efficacy and results together regularly.
Good luck with your own planning and consult with a FHA representative if you’d like to explore opportunities to collaborate. Visit our site for more information: www.fionahuttonassoc.com.
For the past decade, I’ve developed some very meaningful relationships with the gate agents at Burbank Airport and flight attendants on Southwest Airlines during my travels to and from our State Capitol. Add to that the merry band of electeds, lobbyists and political consultants that make this weekly journey. I’ve flown the spine of California countless times, marveling at the golden hills, patchwork quilt of agricultural lands, the engineering marvel of the State Water Project and Yosemite’s famed Half Dome. It’s a fun ride with some really smart colleagues. Now, they’re going to see more of me.
I started my career in public affairs in Sacramento and am very excited to announce that FHA is now growing our footprint in the State Capitol and Sacramento market.
It has been a vision of mine for many years, but I waited to find the right talent. When hiring senior leaders for our agency, we’re incredibly particular. Looking for that special someone that blends issue expertise, a proven track record in execution, a commitment to first-class client service, and, most importantly, an individual that will support and build upon the culture we’ve instilled at FHA.
For these reasons and more, I’m thrilled to announce that Rebecca Nicholas has joined FHA as Vice President and Managing Director of our Sacramento office. Rebecca has worked with our firm in a contractor capacity for many years, collaborating alongside our team on some incredibly challenging assignments. She embodies our core philosophy: think smart, work hard and interface positively with clients, partners, colleagues and competitors alike. It isn’t a secret sauce. The core to business success can be distilled down to these simple values.
Born and raised in Northern California, Rebecca has spent the last 17 years working in some of California’s most important sectors, including infrastructure development, natural resources and water, climate change, energy, transportation, local government, technology and the cannabis market. Her deep experience in the state’s regulatory and political landscape will position FHA well as we tackle Sacramento’s most challenging and emerging issues.
Interested in some of her cool projects? Here’s a snapshot:
Designed a compelling brand and narrative for California WaterFix and supported statewide outreach efforts for more than a decade.
Spearheaded public outreach for the state’s cannabis licensing authorities in the development and implementation of statewide commercial cannabis regulations.
Established a brand and managed communications and stakeholder engagement for the proposed Sites Reservoir Project in Northern California.
Developed an integrated communications plan for the City of Sacramento designed to showcase the city’s commitment to economic development, sustainability and quality of life.
Worked with the City of Oakland Fire Department and Bay Area residents to develop a new approach to managing wildfire risk.
And the really special one…Embedded herself with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to rescue, rehabilitate and release endangered southern sea otters.
As the agency’s leader, I’m humbled and honored when talented professionals select FHA as a partner in their career development. We’re incredibly lucky to have recruited Rebecca to join FHA. Our team is truly our intellectual property, and, from that perspective, the company’s valuation just jumped in incalculable ways with Rebecca.
We’re excited to build upon our legislative, regulatory and policy advocacy campaigns. In the past year, we’ve designed and executed some of the most high-profile issue advocacy campaigns, including high-priced drugs, Governor Brown’s Delta tunnels project, public safety, consumer products and animal welfare, parks and conservation and manufacturing regulations, among others.
As we look towards 2019, we’re excited at the potential for growth and opportunity to expand our footprint in the State Capitol and new issue areas. We look forward to partnering with you in the coming months.
We. Won. For our pack of competitive doers here at FHA, these are two of the most exciting words we get to say. And, last Tuesday, we won in a BIG way.
Over the course of the past few months, our team has been diligently working — early mornings, late nights, last-minute press conferences, the whole nine yards — to pass Proposition 68. Our hard work paid off when Californians turned out to vote and said “YES” to Prop. 68.
The ballot measure itself is historic, marking the first combined parks and water bond California has passed in more than 10 years. For our team, the victory adds to our growing roster of campaigns, which now includes more than 25 ballot measures on issues ranging from water, natural resources and clean energy to healthcare, Indian gaming, stem cell research and beyond.
Over the course of the campaign, we had the good fortune of working with a superstar battalion of environmental and natural resource leaders who fought to get Prop. 68 on the ballot and worked hard to fund and support the campaign through election day. With their support, we assembled a coalition of more than 700 organizations across the state and earned the endorsement of nearly every major California newspaper.
While the results speak for themselves, the work our team put in to get us here is a lesson of its own.
Campaigns are some of the most simultaneously rewarding and challenging work that we can undertake. Time is not on our side, mistakes can make or break the election, and every move is scrutinized in the pressure cooker environment of a campaign.
For our team members who are starting out their professional careers and building their public affairs experience, campaigns also present the unique opportunity to learn everything from the basics to the most advanced levels of our craft while working alongside some of the best in the business. Every day, our team was on the phone — calling through major organizations statewide, knocking down the doors of key reporters and editorial writers at every end of the spectrum, and organizing events that brought all our work into the spotlight. When the results rolled in and we pulled away with a decisive victory, it was a validation of our team’s tenacity and a taste of how sweet it is to win.
With a high-profile campaign like Prop. 68 under their belts, our junior team members went from being curious and capable newbies to knowing and experienced professionals overnight. Under normal circumstances, gaining this kind of exposure and experience plays out over the course of months or years. During a campaign, the learning is intense and accelerated —condensed into a crash course of integrated communications 101.
And this is how our team is made. We walk through the fire together, learning and growing, so that when we come out on the other side, each and every one of us is more committed, passionate and able to lead our awesome roster of clients to future victories. For that, I want to thank the FHA team that led the charge on Prop. 68 with me here at FHA — Ian Anderson, Sarah Melbostad and our fearless leader, Fiona Hutton — and the larger FHA team that supported us through the fight. Now, we move on to reach for our next win with new skills, new perspective and a hunger for victory.
We have some great news to share! Fiona Hutton & Associates (FHA), recently ranked sixth on PRWeek’s list of public affairs agencies in the United States. What does that mean? For those of you who don’t typically study the publication of industry rankings, it means we’re on the right track.
We’ve been steadily building our practice with purpose, focusing on some of California’s most complex and controversial issues, including water and natural resources, healthcare, land use and development, infrastructure, energy, and manufacturing, among others. Each client engagement brings new insights, an opportunity to learn, and another landscape marker to apply.
To say it’s a labor of love is an understatement, but it’s clearly paying off. Every single day that I get to walk into our (very hip) offices, I feel energized and excited. We have an amazing team of professionals, interesting and forward-thinking clients and challenging daily issues. I feel blessed to still have this passion for my craft after 20 years in this industry.
Over the years, I’ve learned that a few core principles have been instrumental to our agency’s success. Hire smart, driven individuals who wake up each day with the natural desire to drive the boulder up the hill. Make time to teach them. They are truly our greatest asset. Work incredibly hard, innovate and anticipate around corners for our clients. And, act with integrity and compassion. It’s a small world in California’s public affairs circles. As a business owner, I have always believed that how you conduct yourself with peers, colleagues and competitors has a direct correlation to your bottom line. When you combine these elements, it ladders up to great accomplishments for clients, empowered employees and a financially healthy agency.
We are beyond proud to be part of the vibrant and fast-moving California public affairs landscape, where our government, business leaders, and opinion leaders are tackling dynamic, high-profile issues and driving innovative solutions through policymaking and advocacy.
The strong ranking in our industry reflects FHA’s culture and the blood, sweat and tears that pour in day in and day out by my team. I want to thank the entire staff for its dedication and commitment to client service. I also want to thank all of you for your continued support and business over the years. We couldn’t do what we do without you — and we wouldn’t want to.