By Mary Shepherd and Ryan Gail
“If you’re not at the table, you are probably on the menu,” is a favorite saying of Fred VanNatta. Fifty years after founding VanNatta Public Relations (VPR) in 1967 (formerly named Public Affairs, Inc.), Fred VanNatta has made sure that his company will always be “at the table” representing its clients.
VanNatta Public Relations, Inc. started as Public Affairs, Inc. Fred VanNatta designed the firm to help multiple Salem area associations get their voices heard in the legislative halls. Fred started his career working in public policy and as a campaign consultant. He became the assistant to the Speaker of the House in 1965. Fred decorates his office with signed pictures of political leaders like Ronald Reagan and Mark Hatfield. VPR’s first management contract from 1967 still hangs in his office today.
Fred’s client portfolio grew with the company. In 1986, VPR became a family business after his daughter, Mary Louise, joined the firm following her graduation from Willamette University. Harvey Gail, joined VPR in 1994. He brought with him his background in organizational behavior (BA Psychology University of Oregon), business administration (Willamette University MBA), graphic design, commercial printing and financial management.
Although VPR began as a public affairs consulting firm, the company has since evolved into a multi-faceted help-center for organizations in the Northwest. VPR has joined many firms at the table over the last 50 years by providing services relating to event planning, public relations, association management and business development. VPR has worked with nationally known organizations including the NFL, the NBA, Alamo Rental Car and Cricket Communications. A great sense of pride has come from working with local organizations such as the Salem Fire Foundation and Salem Police Foundation, Salem Area Chamber of Commerce.
The firm has won many awards for its community relations campaigns. Most recently, VPR won the Public Relations Spotlight Award for representing the Salem Fire Foundation and the Salem Police Foundation. VPR also won the “Communicator” Award of Excellence for Feature Writing. Oregon Business Magazine listed VPR multiple times as one of the region’s top PR firms. The company is especially proud of its recognition as small business of the year from Oregon State University Austin Family Business program in 2010.
VPR has also made its mark in Salem event-planning landscape. Mary Louise VanNatta says that, “With the Salem Conference Center and other improving area venues, we can now plan larger and more diverse events. We can bring in big names and host them in a beautiful hotel and facility.” VPR was involved in the planning of large events such as the Medical Foundation’s fundraisers for Dr. Jane Goodall, and Jean-Michel Cousteau. The company plans and oversees hundreds of events, meetings and educational offerings for clients each year.
Harvey Gail focuses on providing association management services at VPR- one of the nation’s fastest growing industries. As people’s time is at a premium, volunteer and charitable organizations are in desperate need of help. VPR provides the administrative leadership and structure for associations so their volunteers get the most out of the time they give back. “We tell their story to the community, make sure their meetings are productive, and ensure the data and financial records are secure,” says Gail.
“Helping solve people’s problems is a high calling,” said Fred VanNatta, and for 50 years, VanNatta Public Relations, Inc. has embraced this mission. From marketing to membership recruitment, budgeting to database upkeep, VPR’s fully-staffed offices can help your business or association make its mark and tell its story. By working to effectively serve its clients, VPR has always made sure that it and its clients have a seat at the table.
You can find out more about VPR by visiting www.PRSalem.com.
Mary Louise VanNatta
VanNatta Public Relations, Inc.