JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gus Wagner, President, founder and owner of The Rocket Group LLC, has an interesting structure of employees.
Technically speaking. Wagner is the only employee of the marketing company. Otherwise, about 12 people work regularly with his company on marketing for small businesses, large corporate promotions and political campaigns. They work as contracted employees, and Wagner remains the permanent face of the business.
“It’s set up as a virtual organization,” Wagner said. “But we keep about a dozen people pretty busy. Most of those people are Missouri based, but we’ve got people in different parts of the Midwest.”
Wagner is a Board Certified Social Media Strategist. He says that while social media marketing is not the largest part of his business, he considers it probably the most important.
“The number one thing I’m saying right now is that you always need to have your ears on,” Wagner told The Missouri Times. “People are always talking about your issues or your community somewhere. And if you’re not aware of the conversations, you’re missing out.”
Wagner was always interested in politics, for which he jokingly blames his father “shaking his fist at the county courthouse” when Wagner was younger.
Prior to starting his own company, he volunteered on several campaigns and worked as a staffer in the state Senate, primarily to former Republican Sen. Dan Clemens.
“Working on [Clemens’] campaigns was wonderful,” Wagner said. “It led to some really great turnout down in southwestern Missouri.”
Wagner said that while he’d worked on campaigns in the past, The Rocket Group has made him even more involved in the political spectrum. Wagner served as chairman of the state Young Republicans for seven years, and after leaving continued to work almost exclusively for conservative candidates across the state. He was deeply involved in dozens of races during the 2002 cycle when Republicans took the majority in the legislature for the first time in nearly 50 years.
And while Wagner’s earlier work focused on politics, The Rocket Group branches out with a large base of business clients including Coca-Cola, Mastercard and Phillips 66.
Not bad for a man who doesn’t have a college degree.
“We’re a full service marketing firm,” Wagner said. “We have significant web capabilities, but we also use traditional means of advertising and marketing as well.”
And while his firm does marketing in almost any medium, Wagner continually lectures and trains around the Midwest on the use of social media.
“[Social media] is a conversation tool,” Wagner said. “It’s a social element. If you want to say get elected, you can’t just blast out press releases or be standing on the mount shaking your fist at the sky. You have to be open and transparent and truthful across all of these different channels, and that’s something a lot of elected officials are still trying to understand.”