Canada's National PR has acquired Boston-based Shift Communications, the 13-year-old, tech-savvy firm with a diverse client roster and around $20M in annual billings.

Shift retains its name and leadership team under the National umbrella. National chairman Andrew Molson noted growth is a key part of his agency's existence as it moved up from a two-person Montreal shop to a 550-employee, 17-office juggernaut across North America and Europe.

National Acquires Shift
Front, L-R: Shift's Amy Lyons, managing Partner; Todd Defren, founding Partner; Jim Joyal, partner; Paula Finestone, executive VP, operations. Back, L-R: National's Valerie Beauregard, executive VP; Jean-Pierre Vasseur, president and CEO, and Royal Poulin, executive VP and CFO.

Todd Defren and Jim Joyal founded Shift in 2003 and leveraged an early embrace of social media and data into a roster that spanned from McDonald's to T-Mobile. Molson noted Shift's "stellar industry reputation, notably in data-driven PR," as well as its three-office footprint on the East and West coasts were attractive to National. 

Defren, who became CEO in 2012, said the two agencies aligned on "values, culture and vision." He noted Shift has been approached by dozens of potential suitors, just in the past four years, and acknowledged concern about Shift's ability to "match guns" with larger agencies. But he demurred on a merger or sale until meeting with National.

"We’ll still be the data-driven PR agency angling to change perceptions about the role and value of public relations, but with the backing of a stalwart partner whose sole desire is to see our success and teachings amplified to the max," he said.

Shift has additional offices in San Francisco, New York and Austin with about 150 staffers. 

National is owned by holding company RES Publica. 

Rick Gould, managing partner of Gould+Partners, represented Shift and facilitated the transaction.