Self-proclaimed “extrovert-extreme”, AJ Gerritson ’99 has used the fundamentals of journalism taught at UMass to flourish at work.
His successful communications and marketing company, 451 Agency, started up in a garage in 2004 as an idea between him and his business partner, Nick Lowe. Since then, it has expanded into a multimedia, creative and professional tool dedicated to helping companies of all markets, discover their message, and market that story toward their audiences.
“We’re problem solvers, first and foremost. Our job is about selling moments, validating and campaigning those shared experiences and messaging them to audiences,” Gerrtison said.
Gerritson is a Massachusetts native who first attended the university undeclared. His passion and curiosity for writing stories in particular drove him to the journalism department. He played for the UMass rugby team, which instilled a passion and sense of community in Gerritson.
“The skill set I acquired through journalism, the creativity, the ability to write well quickly- it all applies to what I do,” said Gerritson. Between writing press releases, taglines as well as brand-based marketing, he attributes most of the hard work he has accomplished at 451 to the dedicated faculty here at the university.
Professors Howard Ziff and Maddie Blais were integral in Gerritson’s development as a student and a professional. Blais’ memoirs class was transformative in his ability to develop a narrative for his clients and message a compelling story to a wider audience.
Integrity, commitment and passion are three words that describe both Gerritson and his company’s mission. 451 now operates bicoastally, with offices in Boston, New York City and, most recently, Los Angeles. From Budweiser to the Boston Red Sox, Gerritson’s company is multi-faceted in its clientele and creative marketing capabilities.
Their work in both public relations, marketing and creative communications has built companies into successful and marketable brands. Gerritson’s work is essentially about building and maintaining relationships with his clients, his exceptional team at 451, and the audiences his clients serve.
“People need to be more multi-faceted, today’s the era of the citizen journalist- they’re creators of media. If you’re talented in all of those mediums, you will do well. Keeping on top of everything, from trends, to culture and technology is essential. But most of all, it’s about passion and drive,” Gerritson said.
Gerritson discovered his passion and purpose through the journalism department and utilized his time at UMass to transform into a professional communicator. He’s eager to see how the journalism department’s new public relations concentration works out, since it’s precisely what he does on a day-to-day basis.
“UMass isn’t necessarily a place that coddles you,” Gerritson said. “You have to be resourceful, have drive and passion. If you find that at UMass, you will succeed.”