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Published: Monday, 5/3/2004

PR firm does job on time, on target, and on budget

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

When Mark Luetke and Jim Funk joined forces 20 years ago this month to start their own company, they had a clear objective.

"Toledo had a very vital advertising community that worked with a number of Fortune 500 companies, but there really wasn't a public relations firm, so we wanted to fill a void on the PR side," said Mr. Luetke of the creation of Funk-Luetke Associates, Inc.

A decade into their partnership, Mr. Funk decided to leave the firm to combine his love of marketing and the arts. He was replaced as a partner by Jan Skunda, who had joined the company in 1993 from her job as executive director of college relations at what is now Owens Community College.

During that time, the face of the advertising and public relations industry in Toledo changed drastically with the loss of a number of large accounts. The partners realized the renamed Funk Luetke Skunda Marketing, Inc., could offer clients much more than just public relations help.

"Now, at our 20th anniversary, we see this as an opportunity to [rely] on the strength of our name and highlight our creative capabilities," Ms. Skunda said.

In the last six months, the two have named Bruce Yunker and Ed Hunter, two veterans of local advertising and marketing firms, as co-creative directors and are getting the word out about the services they offer, including crisis communication.

Revenues for the firm of 20 employees probably will be $1.8 million this year, Mr. Luetke said.

The two said they are most proud of the relationships they have built with longtime clients.

"We have worked very, very hard at building the trust of our clients," Mr. Luetke said. "They have confidence that we'll get the job done on time, on target, and on budget."

Controversial projects the company has worked on include the Burlington Express cargo hub at Toledo Express Airport, and the Home Depot store and St. Anne's Hospital in west Toledo. The firm has been behind a number of successful tax levy campaigns, too.

The company gets high marks for its relationships with the community, said Olivia Summons, spokesman for Sunoco's refinery on the Toledo-Oregon border. "Basically, I trust them. I trust their judgment and their ability to deal with public affairs-type issues."

The firm's two leaders said they choose projects based on whether it serves the public interest and "won't be overly harmful to the community." For example, the firm helped with the no-smoking campaign in Toledo so it opted not to work with someone trying to overturn the ban.

The executives said they expect the company to be around in 20 years, though they might not be at the helm. "We have an excellent bench," Ms. Skunda said. "If it was just us, we wouldn't have had the success that we've had."

Small Business Profile is a weekly feature on local companies. To be considered, send information about your company to Small Business Profiles, Business News, The Blade, P.O. Box 921, Toledo, Ohio 43697-0921.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at mmclaughlin@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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