VOL. 129 | NO. 32 | Monday, February 17, 2014
Caissa Public Strategy Opens DC Office
By Andy Meek
Fueled by a demand for the specialized services it provides, Memphis-based consulting firm Caissa Public Strategy has expanded with the opening of a new office in the nation’s capital.
Caissa founder Brian Stephens said the reason for the expansion there isn’t necessarily obvious. Caissa didn’t hang out its shingle in Washington to focus on landing new work there – instead, the new office is intended to help Caissa have better relationships with its clients there who need work done in the South.
“We work for national public strategy firms that do national issue-oriented campaigns,” said Stephens, a lawyer and former Shelby County Election Commissioner. “And they need people in different regions to support those efforts. We’ve got a bunch of different clients up there that do that kind of work, and I got tired of working out of their offices or FedExing boxes up there when I was meeting with them.”
Stephens said he pondered the firm getting its own space there for about a year, and after recently pulling the trigger on a lease, Caissa put someone up there to start working in January.
“It’s actually kind of a flip from the way most people might approach this,” Stephens said. “So I split my time right now, and we’re interviewing to get a client-relationship person up there. The D.C. location is focused on community engagement projects where you’re trying to get the community to support or get behind a cause or to influence local government on different national issues. That’s a big mainstay of our business. We develop complex strategies around not just marketing but the movement of people to get people to win things.”
Caissa opened in January 2011, and its founder has a varied background. Stephens has degrees in industrial psychology, military science and business as well as a law degree, and he once told The Daily News the public strategy concept is still relatively new and uncommon in the South compared to areas such as Washington, where firms specializing in the trade are “on every block.”
Examples of Caissa’s work in the community include its support of the Greater Memphis Greenline. At one point after it was already established in the city and meeting with success, a community organization was told an extension of the greenline into their area may still be a decade away at a minimum.
Caissa came into the picture to help develop and manage a grassroots initiative to move up the timeframe of the proposed extension.
Well before that, Stephens had made a purposeful transformation of what was originally founded as a law practice so he could work more on projects like that.
“Originally I had a law practice, and I found that people had more of a need to not just do lobbying – you needed to engage the public and build community goodwill for things, because people are a lot more knowledgeable than they’ve ever been because of things like social media,” Stephens said. “The law firm limited my ability to do that, because it’s a law firm, right? You don’t really do grassroots education campaigns with a law firm. So I converted the law firm into a public strategy shop, and here we are. And we’re always looking for more talented people to join us who deal with crises, with high-impact situations.”