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By Michael Kleiner
Marshall McLuhan famously said, “the medium is the message.” Message Agency, an interactive firm based in Philadelphia, believes that the message is ultimately what really matters—that finding ways for websites and other web-based media to deliver an empowering message is the critical goal in the digital age.
“Message is important. Message has agency, especially for nonprofits and folks working for the greater good. We help empower our clients to be change agents, to promote their missions, and to engage people using digital tools,” says Marcus Iannozzi, the firm’s founder and principal. It’s not only the meaning behind the firm’s name but also a perspective that helps to guide how Marcus and his team feel business itself can be a force for change.
A certified B Corporation, Message Agency defines itself as a social enterprise. The firm only works with mission-driven organizations: nonprofits, universities, foundations, government agencies, and like-minded sustainable businesses. “We’ve chosen to focus exclusively on organizations that do good, because it’s where we all want to apply our skills and talents, to have an impact. A majority of our staff come directly from the third sector or have experience in it,” says Marcus. “It’s part of our DNA as a firm.”
Message Agency’s philosophy is to empower its clients, giving them the tools and knowledge they need to manage their websites and leverage the applications they build to improve outcomes such as fundraising and revenue generation, stakeholder engagement, and data management. “We look at clients’ problems comprehensively and spend as much time on streamlining their business processes as formulating strong messaging and content strategies,” says Marcus.
The latest client they are doing this for is SBN, as they have designed and implemented this organization’s new membership directory. “The vision for the SBN directory is to make members front and center,” Marcus explains. “The web-based directory was relatively unused previously, and SBN was missing an opportunity to market members to potential customers. We sought to take the best aspects of the print directory and incorporate them with an updated digital version. The search is better, there is more content focused on members, and more opportunities for customers and members to find one another.”
The directory is responsive and can be accessed and fully used on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone, regardless of OS or platform. It is also integrated with Salesforce so that any changes members make to their profile on the main website will be reflected in the directory profile.
“The directory gives SBN the ability to feature businesses committed to supporting the network, making it easier to make great connections to a broader audience looking for information about what sustainable businesses are and find out who they are. Internally, member businesses can better network and partner.”
Marcus has focused his entire career on working for the greater good. He started out as a sole prop
rietor in 1995 working with university-based researchers and translating study results into content for broader audiences, such as policymakers and the general public. As the Internet became a primary way of delivering information, his practice grew with it. The current configuration of Message Agency has been in operation since 2005, when they started working exclusively with Drupal, an open source content management system, for website development.
As open source software, developers can build their own modules for Drupal and help promote its growth. “We have given back by making a lot of contributions. We were the original team that developed the modules that integrate Drupal and Salesforce, and about 75% of our projects involve connecting these two applications,” Marcus says.
As Message Agency has grown, the philosophy of giving back has not changed.
The firm scored in the top 10% in the B Corp Assessment, earning a “Best for the World” designation. Marcus credits employee benefits and participation, as well as the narrow distribution of wages across his organization for the high score, in addition to their focus on the nonprofit market.
Recently, Marcus also received recognition from The Philadelphia Business Journal as a LGBT Business Advocate. Message Agency does much more community work with the Arts and Business Council as a Tech Connector volunteer; with SPARK, a middle school educational program exposing students to careers and worksite mentoring; and Gearing Up, which helps formerly incarcerated women re-enter society by placing them with a cycling mentor. Marcus also chairs the South Street West Business Improvement District. His economic development work led to an invitation to join Mayor-elect Jim Kenney’s transition team.
Marcus grew up in the Norristown-Conshohocken area and moved to Philadelphia in 1987, when he started at Penn. “I love urban environments,” he said. “I saw the potential the city had. Philly is a hidden gem. I not only have been able to watch the change over the last two decades, but have been grateful to be a part of it.”