Ottawa-based strategic and government relations firm Earnscliffe Strategies has acquired Switchboard Public Relations, a Vancouver public relations agency that specializes in technology and innovation clients.
Switchboard, “a small but mighty team,” as founder Kathleen Reid describes her four-person company, officially joined Earnscliffe on January 1. The terms of the deal are not being disclosed.
The deal means increased geographic support for Switchboard as Earnscliffe has a national reach.
The deal means increased geographic support for Switchboard as Earnscliffe has a national reach, with offices in Ottawa-Gatineau, Toronto, and Saskatoon. The acquisition gives Switchboard the opportunity to work on files in those regions, in addition to the west where it already operates.
And while those mark the geographic locations of Earnscliffe’s offices, the firm works on files across the country.
Reid claims her 10 year old agency was the first tech and innovation-focused public relations firm in Western Canada. During the past decade, Switchboard has carried out work for Audette, a Victoria-based AI cleantech firm; biotech company, AbCellera; AgTech startup CubicFarms; and Innovate BC, and New Ventures BC, among many other organizations.
The agency has worked in sectors ranging from cleantech, life sciences and biotech, and quantum computing, to AgTech, FinTech, and SaaS.
Switchboard’s work caught the eye of Earnscliffe, which began partnering with Switchboard five or six years ago on various accounts.
“Of course, working in Vancouver you see folks at different events,” Reid told BetaKit. “I was definitely aware of them, what they were doing, their commitment to solutions for clients – those kinds of things.”
Reid said the acquisition took a lot of time and “intention” from both parties, but through the process the two agencies discovered how strong the cultural fit was between the two. “I think fit is a huge part of acquisitions, and it’s what makes certain acquisitions successful,” she said.
“The Switchboard team is known for first-class execution and a savvy understanding of the technology ecosystem. The addition of Switchboard enables Earnscliffe to strengthen our marketplace position, expand our solution offerings, and accelerate our growth,” said Earnscliffe CEO Craig Robinson.
Switchboard began humbly enough as Kathleen Reid Consulting. “I didn’t have an actual name or know what to do,” Reid recalled. She had left a corporate communications role, and showed up at Small Business BC ready to register her business, and dive into consulting. After three years, Kathleen Reid Consulting morphed into Switchboard.
From the beginning, technology and innovation attracted Reid. One of the firm’s first clients was FinTech startup Groupland, which rebranded as Grow before ATB Financial acquired it in 2019. Reid found the experience of working with a swift-moving startup energizing, and began working with similar clients. “I decided to lean into that, and niche Switchboard more in that direction,” she said.
Besides the other three full-time members on her team, Reid has worked with a shifting number of contractors. Of those, they will come along on an “as-needed” basis. While Switchboard will be integrated into Earnscliffe, it will still retain its own brand and continue as a technology and innovation practice.
Earnscliffe currently has 85 employees. Robinson told BetaKit that the addition of Switchboard’s team enables integrated solutions for clients, and adds more expertise in media relations, among other strengths. “From initial meetings, we saw culture alignment between both orgnizations, and are excited about our future growth,” he added.
Reid said the fact that Earnscliffe has offices in Ottawa-Gatineau, Toronto, and Saskatoon, as well as Vancouver, is important because Switchboard has almost always had “boots on the ground in Western Canada. “So we’re really excited to do more in some other markets,” Reid said.
As for Reid’s first order of business? She’s going on maternity leave, having negotiated the deal largely throughout her pregnancy. “I’m grateful for the team of experts jumping in to provide this space and opportunity,” she said, noting that she looks forward to returning in the spring to provide support to the agency’s clients.