• Jennifer Fortney

After 20 Years as a PR Agency, This is Why We're Now a Story Agency

The funniest thing happened recently. Cascade celebrated 20 years in business, and we were so busy it just floated on by.


with the pandemic, demand for our services has increased and on February 5, I came up for air and was able to post a simple social post noting Cascade's 20 years in business. Wow, time flies.



Launched on Jan 1, 2001, Cascade started out in food and beverage with some tech and a good amount of story consulting to larger PR firms and their corporate clients. Back then, the city of Chicago was gentrifying, chefs were opening restaurants in droves and neighborhoods thrived. Food and music festivals and arts organizations grew in attendance.


As a journalist by education and training before moving into PR, I was often tapped by agencies to consult on stories for their Fortune 1000 clients. When they hit a roadblock, they called me to restructure the story and make it work.


Occasionally, we had Fortune 1000 clients of our own.


By 2008, Cascade moved away from restaurants and Chicago nightlife in favor of the truly cool local businesses popping up in Chicagoland. These companies were the first "startups" in the area, and they were truly innovative, in some cases setting new industry standards and trends.


We achieved massive amounts of media coverage, turning most into million-dollar businesses in under 18 months. That is so cool.


Over time, as the internet matured and tech innovation expanded, Cascade morphed. And we morphed again and again keeping up with not just tech, but journalism and communications trends. Through it all, Cascade remained a virtual agency, allowing us to keep fees lower and opening more opportunity for our clients.


Soon, I realized that Cascade had to morph into something more than a PR firm and beyond a digital marketing agency.


We had a new understanding of the purpose of PR and how it fits into the greater goals of a business.


We better understood our role in the larger integration of marketing communications strategies that provide real results for clients.


We were consulting clients more and more on their overall business process, operations, product and growing their position in the market.


Without knowing, we had actually created a special "secret sauce" that was years ahead of the industry. So, I began to slowly take our agency in that direction, testing as we went along to ensure that our process works.


Using our drive to find and tell the compelling stories of our clients, Cascade became a story agency with veteran storytellers all focused on telling that story across several channels, even our own.


As a consulting firm our deep dive Discovery process helps us give direction to clients on opportunities, markets and segments for growth and products for expansion.


Using our Casade360 strategy process, we create custom strategies that can help a business test market or quietly launch or take a business all the way to full market saturation.


In the past year, we've helped startups, venture funds, small businesses and small enterprise generate awareness and audience engagement from all over the world. the best part of this is learning new tactics and strategies from other countries that we've begun to incorporate in our thinking.


In 2020, we saw increased demand for our Thought Leadership practice and more international businesses requesting our help to launch in the U.S.


While today's concept of Cascade has been lingering in my mind for years, the knowledge sharing with our global clients and partners has been priceless to our creative and strategy.

I am always reminded of how fast time can fly. Writing this post is a reminder of an extraordinary career and diversity of experiences that have led Cascade to this point. What feels like yesterday was a decade ago. We wouldn't be who we are today without our small business, startup and Fortune 1000 clients experiences.

As we continue to look ahead, Cascade will always remain on the cutting edge, providing a unique opportunity for startups to small enterprise to get the expert branding and storytelling expertise and reach they need, affording them a team to help navigate expansion and long-term growth.

Normally we would hold a big event to celebrate. Unlikely anyone would show up to the celebration, as they shouldn't. Instead, in gratitude, we wish everyone stays safe, happy and healthy through 2021 so we can celebrate in 2022.


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© 2021 Cascade Communications Public relations agency and marketing communications for small business and startups. Offices in Chicago.