Innovative media to inspire communities and change lives

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Tom Hickey (front), CEO and partner of Engagement Studios, encourages civic involvement with media.With him (from left): COO and partner Dave Forde, and partners David Witz and Joe Kramer.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Tom Hickey (front), CEO and partner of Engagement Studios, encourages civic involvement with media.With him (from left): COO and partner Dave Forde, and partners David Witz and Joe Kramer.
Posted: May 20, 2014

T OM HICKEY, 34, of Old City, is CEO and a partner in the creative startup Engagement Studios. Hickey was a deputy press secretary for former Gov. Ed Rendell in 2000-03. He formed the company in November to reinvent the way people work and interact with communities by building engagement campaigns through integrated strategy, media, design and technology.

Q: How'd you come up with the idea for the biz?

A: I worked in PR and communications and politics. I wanted to work where you could help clients with a social mission and also take the same creative spark and do the same for your projects. If you can't find that, then you build your own shop.

Q: What's the biz do?

A: We do creative campaigns for social-purpose causes where we bring together strategy, media and interactive design that captures people's hearts and induces them to take action.

Q: Some examples?

A: We're working on a new, innovative multimedia campaign we think will spur action to stop needless gun violence in the city's neighborhoods. Another example is we've worked with Bart Blatstein on his casino proposal. We've taken an integrated approach to branding the proposal.

Q: Where did you get the money to start the biz?

A: We don't have investors, debt or loans. We can do what we want, when we want, without answering to anybody. I put in my own savings. It was north of $100,000.

Q: The biz model?

A: We allocate 50 percent of our resources to client or partner projects and 50 percent to our internal projects. We're like a law firm: We don't work, we don't get paid. We work, we tell you what we did and you get a bill. The rate varies from $30to $40 per hour to several hundred dollars based on the project or client.

Q: Employees?

A: There are six of us. Since February, we've added staff, tripled our space and built out an office. We don't have work hours: People decide when they want to come and it's on us to create an environment and have projects for people to be here.

Q: What's up with the art gallery in this space?

A: InLiquid Gallery is using space here for art that will be open every first Friday. We see it as a way to better integrate with Old City and our neighborhood.

Q: Some other clients?

A: We're starting to work with what I feel is the most innovative charter-school group in the city and also important public-health initiatives where we'll be working on public-awareness campaigns in the coming months.

Q: What's next?

A: We have people we still want to recruit. In the next year or two we aim to grow our talent base and scale our work. I see this as a 24-person shop.


On Twitter: @MHinkelman

Online: ph.ly/YourBusiness

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