Sarah Bowles (left), Brent Eidson and Mariah Hugo at Katz & Associates.

Katz & Associates, a San Diego-based public affairs and strategic communications firm, has announced three new staff members, including Sarah Bowles as account executive, Brent Eidson as senior account supervisor and Mariah Hugo as account coordinator.

Bowles, a native of Boulder, CO, has a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Colorado and grew up as a competitive figure skater. She previous spent two years at Nuffer, Smith, Tucker, and also worked as a figure skating instructor. At Katz, she will work on the Pure Water San Diego program.

Eidson previously spent 21 years with the City of San Diego’s Public Utilities Dept. in various roles, including policy advisor, assistant director of governmental affairs and deputy director of external affairs. He will work on SANDAG’s Mid-Coast Trolley Extension and other Katz clients.

Hugo, a native San Diegan, graduated from San Diego State University in 2020 with a degree in public relations. She was a member of the inaugural class of Broom Student Fellows at SDSU’s Glen M. Broom Center for Professional Development in Public Relations. Prior to Katz, she was an intern at JSA Strategies.

Founded in 1986, Katz & Associates celebrated its 35th birthday on July 1. The firm’s 35 employees work at the San Diego headquarters and other offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

J Public Relations Changes Name to J/PR

San Diego-based J Public Relations, specializing in travel, consumer brands and hospitality clients, has announced a name change for the agency to J/PR. Additional changes include new offices, a website redesign and an agency rebranding with a “Own Your Story” theme.

“Own Your Story, those three simple words mean the world to us at J/PR,” Jamie O’Grady, founding partner, said in a statement. “We take immense pride in our story, our journey and our evolution. Today, we introduce our new brand, one that honors the past 15 years and also represents who we are today, a global communications agency.”

“Over the past year we have seen our team grow in strength and resiliency, and new doors have opened not only for our team but also for our clients,” said Sarah Evans, partner. “Over the past 15 years, we have grown into a global powerhouse, while maintaining the core values and relationships that are the agency’s backbone. Our team, clients, and new vision reflect our organic global evolution.”

“We are the same passionate, collaborative and committed team dedicated to evolving, while never losing sight of the ethos that’s allowed us to expand both our physical office locations and our services,” Marrissa Mallory, vice president, told Times of San Diego.

Founded in 2005, J/PR operates offices in San Diego, New York City, Los Angeles and London. Recently opened offices are in Nashville, Toronto, Denver and Scottsdale, AZ.

Clients include tourism organizations, including Visit Utah and Visit North Carolina and flagship hospitality brands, including Hilton Luxury Brands, Relais & Châteaux, Vail Resorts Hospitality, Under Canvas, Iconic Luxury Hotels and Pendry Hotels. Lifestyle and consumer brands include Geneo and Set Jet.

SOCi Acquires Brandify to Bolster its Localized Online Marketing

SOCi, a San Diego-based developer of social media and a localized marketing platform built specifically for multi-location brands, has announced the acquisition of Anaheim-based Brandify with nearly 25 years of experience in providing location-based digital marketing solutions. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Brandify’s company name will change to the SOCi brand, according to the Brandify website.

A SOCi spokesperson told Times of San Diego that all of Brandify’s roughly 60 employees have been offered jobs to join SOCi, which had 234 employees prior to the Brandify acquisition. The spokesperson said SOCi is expecting the majority of former Brandify staff will become, as he put it, “new SOCilites.” 

In a statement, SOCi said the acquisition will accelerate its rank as the world’s largest localized marketing platform and deepen SOCi’s local search leadership and expertise. The company also said the deal means SOCi is poised to become the local marketing data and analytics platform of choice for brands.

SOCi also said the acquisition brings additional functionality to the SOCi platform and market-leading search expertise to the SOCi team. With the additional resources from Brandify, SOCi said it is the largest localized marketing platform globally with more than three million locations under management. The deal also strengthens SOCi’s relationship with key partners, including Google, Facebook, Apple, Yelp and others.

SOCi also said the acquisition means it is now the platform of record for nearly 700 national and global enterprises, including Ace Hardware, Hertz Corp., SportClips, Dollar Tree and Liberty Tax.

“We are incredibly excited for this new chapter at SOCi,” said Afif Khoury, SOCi founder and CEO. “Over the past year, it has become more important than ever for brands to connect with customers on a localized level. The integration of Brandify’s suite of solutions further solidifies SOCi as the leading all-in-one platform for executing the most important digital marketing campaigns across search, social, reviews and ads, helping our clients continue to connect with their customers, maximize their online presence and drive customers to their locations.”

“Our deep history and expertise with location-based marketing solutions will be instrumental to SOCi in realizing its future vision,” said Manish Patel, Brandify founder and CEO. “SOCi is the perfect home for the Brandify team and roster of enterprise clients. Our teams have a shared vision and together we are dedicated to helping multi-location brands establish and deepen their connections with customers on a local level. I’m proud of all that we have achieved since Brandify’s inception in 1997, and I look forward to supporting the SOCi team as they continue to execute their strategic growth plan and keep the combined company on an upward trajectory.”

The SOCi spokesman also said Patel has decided not to join SOCi. He said Patel is expected to continue to service the advertising portion of the previous Brandify business through his new company called Omni Local. 

The transaction of Brandify comes on the heels of SOCi raising $80 million in Series D funding announced earlier this year. The Series D investment round was led by La Jolla-based JMI Equity, a growth equity firm focused on investing in leading software companies. Additional Series D participation included Ankona Capital, Afif Khoury, SOCi CEO and co-founder, and Doug Winter, SOCi board member and co-founder and CEO of Seismic. SOCi has raised roughly $115 million since its founding in 2012.

East County Magazine Hosts Awards Program, Fundraiser

East County Magazine, a local news website covering the East County region and national politics, has launched a “Community Champions” awards program to honor outstanding community service. Award categories include healthcare, public safety, environmental-wildlife preservation, social-racial justice and humanitarianism. Nominations deadline is Aug. 5.

Winners will be recognized Saturday, Sept. 25, at East County Magazine’s “Party in Paradise,” a fundraising event to be held at Jamul Casino’s open-air rooftop deck. Admission tickets begin at $55 per person. For information on submitting a nomination and event sponsorship, contact editor Miriam Raferty at (619) 698-7617 or

East County Magazine is published by East County Media, a nonprofit charitable organization. In addition to news, East County Magazine sends wildfire and emergency alert emails.

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.

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