Formerly Safeway Gift Cards, now a publicly traded company

The Situation

The previous Top 10 public relations agency had not been able to generate significant public relations exposure relative to Safeway Gift Cards (now Blackhawk Network). Coverage on the category was spotty at best with significant negative exposure about the supposed lack of “personalization” that gift cards represent and the issues of cost of the card and, in some cases, usage fees. The category was just emerging with the preconceived notion that the only way to purchase a gift card was to go to the retailer rather than a centralized repository of many high-end cards. There were no customized programs to take advantage of holidays and special occasions.

The Goals

  • Blackhawk wanted to establish their Gift Card Mall as the destination of choice with the best selection as well as convenience.
  • Blackhawk embraced the notion that an outside spokesperson offered significant advantages over an internal executive.
  • Blackhawk and the agency developed a honed campaign that would resonate with consumers for Valentine’s Day, Mothers and Fathers Day, Back-To-School and the Holidays.
  • Blackhawk’s aspiration was to become the global thought and gift card leader and innovator.

The Solution

  • The key was to bring a piece of “plastic” to life by bringing in the emotional factor of how the card can bring happiness and fulfillment to the recipient.
  • Initially, we utilized a gift-giving expert to talk about holiday and special occasion with products and services from participating retailers including
  • Nordstrom; Bed Bath & Beyond; Borders; and Marriott Hotels, for example. This communicated the lifestyle experiences that gift cards offered without any concern about style, color, size or other factors that can put a damper on a well-intentioned gift.
  • Ongoing research over the first four years demonstrated the growing acceptance and desire for gift cards as opposed to more “traditional” gifts like ties, shirts, cookbooks and towels.
  • Demonstrated the “human” factor of how gift cards can change people’s lives by working with such shows as Live with Regis & Kelly and Good Morning America, to provide gift cards that help needy people make a significant change in their lives.

The Results

  • The public relations program grew exponentially over the first four years mirroring the growth of Blackhawk Network which has become a $2 billion company.
  • The deployment of a gift-giving and lifestyle expert dramatically increased the quality and quantity of television coverage averaging more than 25 broadcast appearances annually with a viewership in excess of 75 million per annum.
  • The distribution network grew to more than 80,000 storefronts including many non-competitive supermarket, convenience and drug store chains throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. A number of the larger participants took an active involvement in the public relations campaign.

Contact Us

14415 Benefit Street, Suite 202 Sherman Oaks, CA. 91423

Phone: 310.849-5573

Fax: 818.849-5696



Articulating the broad-based philosophy and passion of the founders of a truly revered product requires a skill set that is much more strategic and complex than a traditional marketing campaign. Steve Smith and his team were selected to craft and implement just such a program for Cakebread Cellars which would persuasively convey the family’s commitment to community, education and the joy of wine and food. The quality and demand for their premium wine was the foundation for communicating the Cakebread’s ideals and values to a high end audience through a flow of ‘backend’ stories by top-tier media and through proprietary events. This included the American Harvest Workshop, which brings together leading chefs and journalists and Cakebread U, which provides a three-day educational program for students from leading universities about the world of wine. The agency focused on the most powerful non-wine press continuing to build on brand cache and the vision of the founders. There aren’t many agencies that get it but Smith PR does.
Cathleen Burke Visscher, Founder, Wine Works & Co., Former senior vice president and director of corporate development at Kobrand Corp., a leading high end wine and spirits company with interests in California, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and more
We brought Steve onboard to help us define our position in the marketplace and provide a marketing strategy to take us to the next level. He performed a comprehensive audit of our senior staff, board members and other key parties to provide a positioning for our business model, searched for a branding agency overseeing all elements of the RFP, and conducted an advertising agency resource review with equal skill and professionalism. He handled these challenging tasks with enthusiasm and efficiency that made our senior staff’s time effective throughout this process. Following the completion of the branding and advertising searches, Steve supervised a number of other marketing programs including a public relations outreach which resulted in highly positive exposure in USA Today, CNNRadio, ABC television, CBS Marketwatch and many more placements for our new brand. He has become an important part of our team and I would recommend him without reservation as a professional who is a quick study, able to drive a marketing campaign to successful goals and is focused on providing tangible ROI for his clients.
Gary Brahm, Chancellor & CEO, Brandman University, part of the Chapman University System, Former EVP & COO, Chapman University