Max Borges built the Max Borges Agency from the ground up with no college education or previous PR experience, relying instead on his keen eye for industry demand, knack for organization building and passionate drive.
In this interview, he discusses his unlikely path, strategic organizational growth, client relations and more.
The Max Borges Agency has been named one of the Fastest Growing Private Companies by Inc. seven years in a row. What do you attribute your agency’s success to?
One word: Focus. We decided early on to focus on one thing we could be the best at: media relations for consumer tech companies. This was also an area that most agencies were moving away from. When other agencies proclaimed the death of the press release and turned their noses up on clip books, we doubled down and grew our business five times over.
We stayed disciplined as long as possible and though we are now a full service agency, we still work exclusively with consumer tech companies. Our focus is still a critical part of our business strategy because we are one of the few agencies who can claim to be the best at something.
How has your focus or strategy changed as the agency continues to grow?
Our strategy has always been to focus on what we can be the best at and only expand the focus when absolutely necessary because the existing market can no longer support the rate of growth we are going after.
A few years ago we started to see that we would soon saturate the market for consumer tech companies who only wanted media relations. We started building out our digital, creative and strategic capabilities at just the right time and now we are able to service much larger accounts with the same level of expertise because we have a deep bench of talent in all areas of communication, and we keep them all pointed toward one industry. We are not a large agency but we will take on any agency and win when the game is consumer tech.
You moved into PR for tech and consumer electronics after a career in the music industry. What inspired the change?
I wish I could say I did that on purpose. Fifteen years ago I was unemployed and almost homeless. I was looking for a job and couldn’t find one but I did get a client that needed some help with marketing an event. I decided to look for another client and started hiring some help. After a few years I was able to uncover our business strategy and that’s when business really took off.
I would never have guessed this is what I would be doing but the truth is, I am focused on building a world class business that can deliver exceptional results to clients. Since I’m not a PR guy, I can focus on building an organization. No single person can service dozens of clients effectively which is why the traditional model where a PR person goes solo, often breaks down. They don’t know how to stop being a PR person and start acting like a real business person.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your PR career?
The most important thing I learned is part of my business strategy and a closely held secret, but the second most important thing I learned is that the word “client” is plural. The client is always a number of people that can range from CMO to CEO to PR assistant, and you have to treat them all equally as partners. Any one person in the group can ruin the relationship.
Do you have any daily rituals that keep you going?
I believe it’s important to feed your mind just as carefully as you feed your body. So I read for learning and inspiration every day.
How do you envision the future of PR?
In the area where we work, which is consumer tech (and moving into other consumer products and services), the role of a PR agency and advertising agency is overlapping more and more all the time. We will see this continue, and more agencies will cover the entire scope of marketing.
Do you have any advice for those looking to begin a career in PR?
It’s more important to learn about your client’s business than about communications. If you understand the business, the marketing falls into place. It’s harder the other way around.
Rapid Fire Round:
1. My favorite gadget right now is…my Strava running app. I train harder when I know people are watching!
2. My biggest pet peeve is…when people accept the status quo, which is most of the time.
3. My preferred social media platform is…Facebook…I only follow family, my employees and a handful of close friends, so it’s fairly manageable and it helps me keep up with what is going on.
4. I’m in a karaoke bar singing…The Final Countdown!
5. The most interesting thing about me is… I built a highly successful PR agency with no college education and zero PR experience. I guess it’s not that hard! Seriously, my big advantage has been the fact that I had no experience. I was able to build a very different agency because I never knew the “right way.”
6. I’m at my best when… I’m helping people discover their true potential. I believe people have far more potential to accomplish great things than they ever realize. Part of our success comes from an expectation that our people can do things they never thought they could. I’ve never been wrong about that.
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