On This DAY in History: February 2002

Believe it or not, it’s been 15 years since the 19th Winter Olympic Games opened at Salt Lake City, Utah on February 18, 2002. Utah became the fifth state to host the Olympic games. The games have not been held in the United States since.

It was this year that “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” won Best Film and Best Director (Peter Jackson) at the 55th BAFTAs on February 24. Based on the first volume of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, it is the 50th highest grossing film of all time worldwide.

Most importantly, though, this is the year Diane Devaney, our founder and president, rolled the dice and opened our public relations department. Having several clients that could benefit from this, Devaney decided to open the department nearly 10 years to the date of starting the business. Aided by a number of talented individuals who have helped the department to flourish in the 15 years since, she looks back on that decision gladly.

Remembering Our Public Relations Department’s Early Days

When Devaney & Associates first opened its public relations department, it was in a drafty bedroom in a small house at 606 Providence Road in Towson, Maryland.

“I was a one-woman show,” says Susan Weis-Bohlen, whom Diane Devaney hired in February 2002, ten years after Devaney & Associates first opened, to help launch the department.

And like so many endeavors at D&A, hardly any time was wasted getting up and running.

What had begun as a service for one of D&A’s oldest clients—Maryland Relay—quickly expanded to other clients, such as Chase Brexton, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, Dataprise, Keswick Multi-Care Center, and OrthoMaryland.

Within the public relations department’s first year, it had won several “Best in Maryland” awards from the Public Relations Society of America.

“It was so exciting,” recalls Weis-Bohlen.

Soon the department grew to include an assistant and PR specialist, Stephani Renbaum, who still works at D&A today.

Eventually the department outgrew the converted upstairs bedroom and moved to its own newly remodeled quarters, which Devaney built out in the basement.

While the PR department started as a small operation for a select group of clients, it has developed over the years into an integral part of D&A that is equally important to our clients as our advertising and marketing services.

Clients are regularly featured in local, regional, and national news media, from the Baltimore Sun to the Wall Street Journal. And the department has added countless industry awards to its initial collection.

Today, the department is overseen by Lindsay Hebert, who handled public relations for Baltimore’s Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum before joining D&A in 2007.

As the way people communicate has evolved, the public relations department has adapted to meet those needs, utilizing social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and introducing new approaches like content management to ensure our clients are known and noticed by their target audiences.

Of course, sometimes nothing beats an old-fashioned press release.

“I love taking all of these tools at our disposal,” says Hebert. “And using them to communicate our clients’ messages to the best possible audiences, whether that means engaging with customers on social media or landing one of our clients a front-page news story.”

And while the PR department is no longer in that drafty bedroom—we’re on the first floor of our new office in the historic Trentham Mansion! —the same start-up mentality that fueled us in our early days still drives us.

All year, in celebration of our 25th anniversary, we are taking a look back on some of our greatest milestones! Don’t miss next month’s trip down memory lane!