Veteran PR expert opens agency in Glens Falls: Meet Tony DeFazio of Sustainable PR
We caught up with Tony DeFazio of Sustainable PR, who has been getting a lot of press lately. This only proves that he knows what he’s doing!
Read on to learn about how he grew up in Philly, considered a merger, and the conversation he had with Ed Bartholomew that led him to establish himself here in Glens Falls.
Tell us about Sustainable PR.
Sustainable PR is a specialty public relations agency based in Glens Falls, NY, which provides earned media for companies with a mission in sustainability. It is the only green-focused public relations agency led by veteran PR practitioners with decades of experience winning national media exposure and audience engagement for growing companies. We focus on winning top media placements, developing key brand messaging and building campaigns which help companies take advantage of the growing green economy. Our services include message development, media relations, influencer relations, coalition building and thought leadership.
Sustainable PR is my second public agency. In 2008, I founded DeFazio Communications, which provides media relations services to high-growth companies primarily in the real estate, healthcare and financial services sectors. It is a fully developed agency operating in markets around the country through a network of best-in-class contractors. I have worked in PR for over 30 years, managed three agencies and ran corporate communications for a publicly traded company. In 2020, I had time to reflect on my career, and I realized I was ready for a new challenge. I wanted to do something I truly love. I decided I wanted to build a new agency to bolster businesses’ success in the sustainability market while doing my part to support a greener future.
The stories we craft and place on behalf of our clients, provide these companies valuable exposure, third party validation and enhanced credibility which is crucial in resonating with consumers and investors. I say this a lot, but a company’s message is just as important as its mission. This is particularly true with sustainability. I offer innovative organizations in the green economy access to a vast network of national and international contacts at media outlets which can help brands get the word out about their sustainable initiatives — and win consumer loyalty.
Green companies who can get their messaging right can capitalize on a huge opportunity. The sustainability market is projected to reach $28.9 billion by 2024, and Sustainable PR is strategically built to help companies capitalize on this emerging market and capture industry leadership. We can help companies realize their sustainability commitments, take advantage of increasing venture funding and market share and contribute toward a greener future. We also have our first client, Soho Waterworks™, a start-up water distributor based out of Brooklyn which is working to help regional bottlers of fine waters break into bigger markets.
Tell us about Tony DeFazio.
I am the only child of loving Irish/Italian parents. I grew up in Radnor, PA: a suburb of Philadelphia. I had a stream running through my property and ponds and woods in my neighborhood. It was an idyllic childhood. The environment provided a natural ecosystem for me to learn about fish and other aquatic life. My parents took me to Lake Placid the year following the Olympics, and we spent two weeks traveling around the Adirondack Park. It was love at first sight. The mountains, the streams and lakes captivated me. I have come back every year since, to go hiking, fishing, and skiing.
I considered Paul Smith College for college, but the PR bug got me, and I ended up at Ithaca College taking PR courses at their world-renowned Roy H. Park School of Communications. A year after graduating with a B.A. in politics, I moved to Washington, D.C. to learn about public policy. There, I got my first job in PR working for a firm that represented trade groups. Later, back in Philadelphia, I became the initial partner and helped build what would become the fastest growing PR firm on the East Coast. But I have always been drawn to the outdoors.
I follow my passion for skiing, fishing and hiking all over the country. I have caught cutthroat trout in the Snake River of Wyoming, and skied Taos, NM; the outdoors is my second home. In fact, my very first job was at Clean Water Action, knocking on doors and fundraising for green causes. I have also been a Trail Ambassador (TA) for The Friends of the Wissahickon and spent my life working toward becoming an Adirondack 46er, which I might add, feels a little more in reach now that I have relocated to Glens Falls. These experiences have fueled my passion for the environment and led me down the path to opening Sustainable PR.
I lived most of my life in Philadelphia, which I love. The culture, the food and the passionate sports fans are great. It has real character. And grit, which I appreciate. But my home away from home has always been the Adirondacks. It is where my heart is. About a year ago, I started thinking about bringing my agency up here. I even had discussions with one of the largest full-service marketing agencies in the region about a potential merger. But it didn’t feel right.
In the early months of the pandemic, I was on a hike in a park in Philadelphia with a close friend when he asked what I wanted to do with my next 10 years. I began to think about what brings me the most fulfillment. I had a lightbulb moment. I have spent my life volunteering and working for environmental and sustainable causes, and so it only made sense that my next steps would involve sustainability. At Sustainable PR, I combine my experiences working for high-growth companies with my passion for environmental issues and what I see as a growing market need.
Why choose Glens Falls?
When I was trying to decide where I wanted to start my new agency, I researched the economies of Upstate New York and had discussions with business owners from Old Forge to Lake Placid, and parts in between. Evan Williams, who owns online merchant PureAdk, suggested I visit Glens Falls. I knew the city from my trips to the North Country. I came up from Philly and stayed over one weekend during the summer at The Queensbury Hotel, and I fell in love with the city. The charming community, open and friendly residents, and robust retail district (even during the pandemic) impressed me.
I set up meetings with key stakeholders — including the late Ed Bartholomew — and they convinced me this was the place for my business. Glens Falls offers so much, including natural beauty; a close-knit, hometown America feeling, and a vibrant city with a welcoming business community and plenty of opportunities for growth. I am so grateful for city leaders’ warm reception, and I look forward to becoming a part of the fabric of Glens Falls.
What should others who are considering professional relocation know about the area?
Outside of Glens Falls’ obvious beauty and proximity to the Adirondack Park, its location is ideal. Just under an hour from Vermont and Albany and just two hours to the High Peaks and Montreal. This location is appealing to me given, among other things, the region’s legacy as a leader in the green economy and the fact that Sustainable PR is focused on helping companies leverage sustainability as a driver for growth.
I also want to add that Glens Falls is leading in sustainability. I was fortunate to join the City’s Sustainability Committee and advise them on communications. Joining a planet-centered community was another reason that I chose Glens Falls as my new home.
Tell us about the business community here.
Glens Falls has such a welcoming business community. I have to say the community was one of the things that impressed me upon coming here. The eclectic mix of retail is a blessing. And they are engaging. Whether it is FreshADK (now Flight), Farmacy or Gourmet Cafe, these business owners went out of their way to educate me about the town and offered me advice and valuable connections. I didn’t experience that in other communities. That welcoming feeling went a long way in making my decision to open my business here a reality.
And with young professionals from neighboring Saratoga Springs looking for more affordable living, Glens Falls has so many opportunities in both new development and retail to meet their needs. I feel right at home here, and I am excited to begin putting roots down in what is an ideal place for me personally and professionally.
In conclusion, Tony writes…
I am excited to be a part of the Glens Falls community, and I am eager to build a thriving business here and contribute to the growth and sustainability of the community. Once the pandemic passes, I can’t wait to see what this town has to offer when operating at 100 percent!
I’d love to partner with businesses in the area and hear their stories of success as well as help sway businesses outside the region to consider relocating here. We want to help business leaders and founders get to know, and appreciate, the assets that make the Adirondacks so appealing.
I also encourage companies with sustainability goals, whether you’re a start-up, a mid-sized company or an established enterprise looking to make a strategic pivot, to reach out to us here at Sustainable PR. We are looking for new clients, and we can help you craft compelling stories and grow your sustainable initiatives. Connect with us at sustainablepr.com, or drop us a line at: (518)-223-9962 or firstname.lastname@example.org.