With clients like Peet’s Coffee, Annie’s Homegrown, Safeway, Luna Bars and Blue Diamond Growers, tech PR stalwart Access Communications has crossed a threshold into the CPG realm that few tech PR firms have been able to do.

[caption id="attachment_1183" align="alignright" width="188"]Susan Butenhoff Susan Butenhoff[/caption]

Access, of course, is in a unique position being a subsidiary of consumer powerhouse Ketchum. In fact, this relationship “helped us significantly” with winning the national roll-out for the Bay Area-based Peet’s coffee chain, says Access founder Susan Butenhoff.

When pitching Blue Diamond, Access leaned heavily on Ketchum’s insight on moms to win the business. And when Luna, a client even before the 2008 Ketchum acquisition, ran into a crisis its parent firm stepped in to provide crisis help.

“Our relationship with Ketchum -- in terms of creating value -- was not significant until the last year,” Butenhoff says. “But now there are about 10 accounts in which we’ve partnered with -- or made referrals to -- Ketchum. They’ve definitely helped us with CPG.”

Fifty-percent of Access’ portfolio is now consumer. But it hasn’t been all gains. Access recently lost some hefty tech clients like PayPal and Polycom.

Even so, the 21-year-old shop has keenly used its affiliation with Ketchum to play in a space where relatively few tech shops have been able. Among those are firms like Shift with clients that have included McDonald’s, Tyson and Quiznos Subs or the W2O Group (whose background is actually healthcare, not tech) with its work on Yoplait and Hershey’s, to name a few.

But as the tech sector matures and consolidates, the ongoing issue of being conflicted out of business persists (despite some firms finding creative ways around this). This is especially problematic for tech shops that represent industry giants.

For example, Text 100 -- which reps IBM, Lenovo and Cisco -- has quietly grown new areas of expertise with clients like British Airways, TripAdvisor, Kayak and Home Away.

In the early days of social media, tech shops were often the first to jump on emerging platforms. But since then, the consumer firms have not only caught up, but in some cases, outpaced tech on digital chops. So, consumer shops now have digital prowess -- plus a legacy of industry expertise -- making it challenging for tech firms to permeate. In fact, it's been common for tech companies to bring on consumer firms. Take, for instance, MBooth and Four Square; Kaplow and Skype; or Bender/Helper and Hulu.

As for Butenhoff, her way in -- so far, successfully -- has been through her own background in consumer, and now, with the Ketchum affiliation. To drive this home, she points to tech accessory maker that Access just pitched.

“We never would have been able to pitch this without Ketchum because it was global -- and called for some celebrity cache,” she adds.