MIAMI—A couple of years ago, when many boutique public relations firms were reinventing themselves as experts on the dot-com sector, The Nixon Group made a conscious decision to stick to its knitting, which included a focus on three less glamorous practice areas: social marketing, healthcare, and consumer brands.
Now that decision is paying off. The firm will grow by a very respectable 25 percent this year, according to president David Nixon, and recently picked up a trio of accounts that will draw on its expertise in social marketing, and tobacco issues in particular.
The Nixon Group made a national name for itself as the agency for the Florida “truth” campaign, which quickly became a national model for youth anti-smoking programs after helping to reduce smoking among middle school students by 19 percent and among high schoolers by 8 percent. Since then Nixon has managed tobacco control programs in Iowa, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And this week it picked up three more campaigns, worth a combined $1 million in fee income, from the states of Indiana, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
“This growth spurt began three years ago when we were contracted to work with the Florida ‘truth’ campaign,” says founder and CEO David Nixon.  “We’re thrilled to now be able to put our excellent track record to use with the teens of Minnesota.  It’s exciting work that we can feel good about, but it’s also been the primary source of very dramatic growth for our agency.”
The Nixon Group helped develop the Minnesota “Target Market” campaign, which had been implemented by Weber Shandwick Worldwide. It will now work with Minneapolis-based advertising agency Clarity Coverdale Fury on the next phase of the program. In Indiana, Nixon pitched with another local ad agency, MZD Advertising, while the Nebraska initiative is a stand-alone PR program.
Meanwhile, the firm has continued to grow its business in other areas, working for clients including Noven Pharmaceuticals, Triarc Restaurant Group (parent of Arby’s and TJ Cinnamons), Fresh Del Monte Produce, and the Miami Children’s Hospital. It has expanded geographically too, opening an office in Washington, D.C., to service the American Legacy Foundation—which runs the “truth” campaign—and other clients.
The firm now has about 40 people and will have billings at year-end of around $4.2 million, up 25 percent from last year.
Nixon says an unusually high employee retention rate has helped build the agency’s revenues.  “We’re incredibly fortunate to have a very high staff retention rate,” Nixon said. “That stability has allowed us to grow faster in both revenues and reputation. Overall, we’re maintaining steady growth and staffing levels at a difficult time for our industry.”