Alpine Investors’ Head of Marketing Audrey Harris is all about breaking the mold. As a former accountant turned marketer, her own career path embodies that personal philosophy and her approach to leading the growing firm’s marketing strategies. Whether it’s in how she’s building the expanding marketing function or how she engages with press opportunities, Harris believes in thinking creatively and moving beyond private equity (PE) industry standards. In exploring that perspective, the Bay Area-native shares why she believes marketing and branding is so important for the firm in a historically opaque industry.

I had—and still have—excitement around getting others to see finance and Alpine the way I did.

What first brought me to Alpine was the people. When I interviewed with the firm, which at the time employed less than 30 people at a small office in downtown San Francisco, I interviewed for an accountant role and felt inspired by how smart, intentional and ambitious each person I talked to was. I took the role and it was unlike any prior job I had. In addition to financial operations, I got to work on internal marketing and other firm projects that accounting typically doesn’t touch because the small team meant I could jump in as needed across departments.

In 2018, I made an internal career change to marketing because it felt like a better manifestation of my natural skills and passions. I’ve always loved storytelling to move an audience, whether that was in a visual way, written way or through building experiences. I also like being a motivator and energetic supporter—a hype woman for the great work of others. Plus, I had—and still have—excitement around getting others to see finance and Alpine the way I did.

When I started, marketing wasn’t a common department in the private equity industry, and even our own department was still taking shape. At the time and historically, private equity marketing typically consisted of the occasional new deal announcement added to a website. Firms were focused on reputation preservation versus reputation promotion. Because of this, we got to pave our own way, learn how we wanted to market ourselves and form our own opinion of what marketing meant for a private equity firm.

Today, there is increasingly more competition for both deals and LP investment (there are 3x more PE firms now than in 2010), so being able to effectively differentiate through marketing is no longer a cosmetic, “nice to have” investment—it is a critical function. It’s been energizing to be part of this shift and I’m excited to continue building and shaping marketing’s impact at Alpine.

Building the Marketing Function

At Alpine, we like to say that we’re in the talent business because business starts with people. I summarize my team’s work as telling the stories of Alpine and telling them in a way that incorporates an element of humanity. Private equity is not all financial engineering and reducing people to numbers—there are so many layers to the work that we do, and we’ve made great progress in sharing those stories.

My first marketing project at Alpine was a full firm rebrand. At the time, we had a generic logo and website, and we spent 9 months updating our brand assets, logo and website to better articulate our “people-driven” strategy and ethos. From there, I worked on multiple campaigns to drive intern recruiting, deal awareness and more.

Then COVID hit in 2020, which happened to be a silver lining for us. When the pandemic put the greater world on pause, we had more time to think and experiment with our brand. I started our “Stories” campaign, where we highlighted and wrote profiles about our portfolio executives. It took off–our LinkedIn followership grew and our website traffic increased. Not only did it give insight into our talent strategies and portfolio companies, it made people feel. The amount of engagement was exciting– so much so that that campaign is still running today.

In 2020, I also started working closely with our founder and CEO, Graham Weaver, to start his personal blog. Our goal was to share his learnings from building Alpine and teachings at the Stanford Graduate School of Business to help other business leaders and entrepreneurs make a change in their lives. His blog took off and what started with a couple hundred email subscribers is now a brand that has over 1.5 million followers across social media. We get emails daily about the impact he’s having on his audience, helping them reach their goals.

Soon after, we kicked Alpine’s PR and communications strategy into high gear. We hired a PR firm, worked with marketing agencies and got serious about content. I hired Anna Strelov, a former journalist, to build out our content strategy. We started seeing how our work resonated– founders were reading Graham’s blog and interns who never heard of private equity had seen our articles in the press. Last year, for example, Alpine was the first PE firm to be named to Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies¹ list due to our innovative executive talent programs, including CEO-in-Training (CIT) and CEO-in-Residence (CIR).² I believe Alpine is setting a new example by engaging in creative opportunities—and it’s paying off.

Audrey Harris (left) with marketing team member Anna Strelov (right).

Looking Ahead

Alpine has grown so much since when I started—today, that lean 30-person firm in downtown San Francisco is now over 150 people spread across the country in three different offices. I now lead our marketing team as it oversees public relations and media communications, content, digital and social media marketing, events, and other creative and branding initiatives– and our team continues to grow.

Our team’s vision is to change the perception and evolve the private equity industry by sharing our insights from 20+ years of building businesses. There is so much opportunity ahead, and I’m even more passionate than I was 5 years ago because we have the greatest combo – incredible people and winning stories.

¹Fast Company is a New York City-based publication and media brand that covers business, innovation and creativity. Alpine is not affiliated with Fast Company. As part of the application to be considered for this award, Alpine paid a fee and filled out a nomination form to be reviewed by Fast Company’s editorial staff. For more information about the selection criteria and process, please visit Fast Company’s website. This award was given on March 2nd, 2023 and was based upon the firm’s reputation at time of recognition.
² Any fees, compensation (including incentive equity), reimbursements or other amounts received by AOG members (including individuals in the In-Residence Programs) generally will be paid by a portfolio company or prospective portfolio company and/or the applicable Alpine Fund and do not offset such Alpine Fund’s management fee. Accordingly, the fees and expenses of AOG members are not covered by the Alpine Fund’s management fee and will not otherwise reduce the management fee. There can be no assurance that no other service provider is more qualified to provide such services or could provide such services at a lesser cost. Similarly, there can be no assurance that AOG services will be deployed on behalf of a portfolio company, or if deployed, that they will lead to investor returns.
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