In our inaugural Leadership Series blog, we sat down with V2 founders Maura FitzGerald and Jean Serra to learn about their career paths that led them to start V2 back in 2007.
Twelve years later, V2 is one of the fastest growing small businesses in the U.S. and one of the leading PR agencies in the Boston area. Over the years, we have expanded into New York City and employ about 30 PR rock stars across both offices. We have also grown our PR specialties and services to include crisis communications and issues management and content, and while the crux of the types of organizations we work with are B2B tech, we have expanded into consumer tech, cleantech and nonprofits.
For the second blog in our Leadership Series, we asked Maura and Jean how V2 came about and agency milestones that they’re proud of:
Why did you decide to start V2?
Jean: Throughout my career, I’ve always been motivated by tackling the next big challenge or milestone in my professional development. Early on as an account team rep., I was focused on awareness programs and delivering great results for clients. As I moved into management and senior leadership roles, I worked hard to become a trusted advisor to clients, a good leader to my teams and someone who could help attract new clients to the firm. After becoming a senior vice president, I started to think more about my next big career goal – becoming a business owner and building a great communications firm. The prospect both scared and thrilled me, and I was so glad to have a Maura as a partner in the adventure.
Maura: V2 was Jean’s idea. After FitzGerald was acquired by Omnicom, I stayed working for a few years and then took a year off and traveled to China with my son. I got married that year too, and actually, the day I got fitted for my wedding dress on Newbury Street, I got dinner with Jean who presented the idea of starting a new agency. I had just come back from China and was really interested in starting a business there – living part-time in the U.S., part-time in China. My husband-to-be wasn’t thrilled with the idea, and upon talking to Jean that night, a light sparked that this new agency could give me that purpose I was seeking and enable us to work with the smartest people and biggest disruptors again. But the question was: could we create an agency that’s unique enough?
We talked to former clients, influencers – everyone – and came to the conclusion that we’d take the things that worked well with FitzGerald and put a spin on it that took into account a new, faster pace environment, and become experts in social media, which was gaining popularity at the time and we knew would change PR drastically. We networked and knew we’d have clients when we started V2.
Tell us about V2’s beginnings and what have been some memorable V2 milestones for you?
Jean: Deciding to sign a five-year lease was the first big step. We landed on 500 Harrison, which was an up-and-coming part of the South End at the time, and hired designers, architects and contractors to build out the space. Other major steps for V2 include:
- Landing our first big brand accounts – Salary.com was that breakthrough brand for us
- Growing to over 20 employees and opening an office in NYC
- Becoming a trusted service provider to mid-size, mid-stage technology brands, not just startups
What were – and are – your V2 philosophies?
Maura: When we launched, we started with 3-4 clients and made a deliberate decision that we wouldn’t put out a news release announcing the agency. We modeled our launch after the Waverly Inn in NYC: an instant, underground hit that gained a level of notoriety through buzz and buzz alone. We were in a position that we could be selective in the types of brands we worked with, which to this day are those that we find are upending an entire industry and changing the way we live, work and play – brands that make us excited to get up in the morning. As word got around, more and more people started calling us to do work for them. Even to this day, 85% of our new business comes through referrals.
We had a vision and mission when we started V2. We sought to be our clients’ partners and took a strong stance in measuring results — philosophies and strategies that worked well at FitzGerald Communications. The type of agency we sought to build was a values-based organization.
On a lighter note…having a dog-friendly office was and still is important to us, too!
Keep an eye out next month for our next blog to hear Maura and Jean reflect on the evolution of PR and what they believe will be the next big thing that will shake up the industry.