Arun Sudhaman

Working the angles around media, comms and marketing.

Posts Tagged ‘PR

Hass hire means musical chairs are back

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Mark Hass’ arrival to head Edelman China is an interesting move in more ways than one. Hass, by all accounts, is well-respected within the industry, and his reputation actually appears to have been improved by his sudden departure from MS&L last year.

More importantly, the hire should shake up a China market where top-tier talent has proven hard to infuse. There are some superb agency heads in the country, but few new faces in recent years.

In getting a former global network CEO, Edelman may have pulled off a coup. Detractors, no doubt, will point to Hass’ lack of China experience. This should not be underplayed, but a move of this magnitude can only be good for the Chinese PR industry at large.

The Hass story, I feel, is likely to be the first of several senior moves in Asia-Pacific this year. Markets are unfreezing rapidly, and there is pent-up demand for talent. I’m already hearing of a number of pretty interesting senior shifts that will take place over the next couple of months.

A similar trend should also take place in more mature Western markets, albeit on a reduced scale. Already, we’ve seen the highly-rated Jonathan Jordan quit B-M UK to start his own shop. It’s been almost two years since the traditional talent game of musical chairs creaked to a halt. That, for better or worse, is a lifetime in PR terms.

Written by Arun Sudhaman

January 12, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Middleweight agencies make moves

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Looking back over 2009, one theme rings loud and clear: consolidation.

It is a term that can be applied to any number of procurement-led global reviews – from HP, British Airways, HP again, Lufthansa, Microsoft, HP again…You get the picture.

Perhaps of more interest, we have seen concrete consolidation in the agency world, via three major examples: MS&L merging with Publicis Consultants, Ketchum merging with Pleon, and Huntsworth’s decision to whittle down its 26 agency brands to four.

Already those decisions are starting to bear fruit. Grayling has bulked up to $150m after buying another agency in the US, making it the second biggest independent player after Edelman. MS&L Group won its first global mandate of note this year. And Ketchum Pleon has also been awarded significant new international business.

All of these agencies want to move out of the mid-size bracket, and compete with the handful of big boys that are worth $400-$500m in annual revenues, and are often viewed by clients as the natural destination for global PR mandates. In that sense, these moves are long overdue – more competition at the top can only be of benefit to the industry in general.

Inevitably, these developments also turn the spotlight on some of the other remaining mid-size contenders. Porter-Novelli, GolinHarris, Waggener-Edstrom and Cohn & Wolfe, to name four. In 2010, can we expect to see a little more expansionary zeal from this quartet?

Written by Arun Sudhaman

December 17, 2009 at 1:29 pm

PRWeek Global is live

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It has finally been dragged kicking and screaming into the world. So far the response has been good, thanks no doubt to a solid raft of launch content – including a Focus On Dubai’s PR market and an interview with LG Electronics’ comms chief Ken Hong.

Feedback and suggestions are most welcome. You can sign up for the free PRWeek Global email here, or access the webpage here. Or follow the Twitter feed @prwglobal.

Written by Arun Sudhaman

December 3, 2009 at 11:03 am

Posted in PR, PRWeek, PRWeek Global

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Restaurants thank Shel Israel for the plug

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We interviewed social media specialist Shel Israel at a Lewis PR event and, like a seasoned media veteran, he opted for controversy in this video.

Specifically, he said that PR people need to stop using social media as a pitching mechanism, and embrace the conversational and listening aspects. He namechecked the likes of Richard Edelman and Steve Rubel as people that get it right.

Those that don’t, he said, will soon be working in the ‘restaurant service industry’. Who knows, they might make more money over there. Obviously, this is going to get a bit of attention. But I think most good PR people understand Shel’s point only too well by now. And those that don’t are supported by a media landscape that is still largely skewed towards offline, one-way content.

BTW, what is with all of the social media events at the moment? I counted four major events that are taking place in a 2-week window in November. I find it hard to believe the industry can sustain this many…!

Written by Arun Sudhaman

November 14, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Posted in Digital, PR, PRWeek

Tagged with , , ,

Charming countries revisited

with one comment

My most popular post this year, at least in terms of generating comments, was one on whether countries can launch charm offensives. This surprised me, because I thought that the concept of overhauling a poor reputation through better comms was reasonably well established.

Instead, the idea that a national government can put its reputation in the hands of a PR agency sparked some interesting responses. None perhaps more succinct that Tom Crampton‘s remark that, unless the country itself has a reputation worth communicating, any image campaign would amount to ‘lipstick on a pig’.

Building on the debate, I’ve put together a feature for PRWeek UK that looks at this issue in a little more depth. Reputation of a nation puts six ‘countries’ under the spotlight – UK, US, China, India, South Africa and Dubai. Each suffers various problems in terms of how reputation issues are hampering the pursuit of specific goals. For example, China’s well-documented product quality crises continues to dog perceptions of its critically important manufacturing sector. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Arun Sudhaman

November 1, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Beijing hires H&K

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So Beijing has hired Hill & Knowlton to handle its global comms account.

It reminds of the run-up to last year’s Olympics, when a Government brief aimed at tackling China’s global image problems was doing the rounds. That never materialised into anything, and it appears unlikely to be related to this – given that the H&K win seems squarely focused on the city of Beijing.

It is a little ironic that H&K appears to have secured this account on the back of it’s work handling global PR for last year’s Olympics. For those with short memories, China suffered a number of reputation issues in the run-up to the games. One year before the Games, this story concluded that H&K was ‘hardly empowered’.

Anyway, by the time the Games ended, the country had presented a reasonably credible account of itself – although things would soon change once the milk scandal surfaced. Still, this is a smart move by Beijing as long as both client and agency are serious about addressing the full range of perceptions and opinions they are likely to encounter.

And, no doubt, this is exactly kind of nice follow-up business H&K would have been hoping for when it won the Olympics brief in the first place.

Written by Arun Sudhaman

September 25, 2009 at 5:03 pm

A little idea

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The Big Idea

The Big Idea

Over the last three months I’ve been lucky enough to work on a project for PRWeek that has been truly eye-opening. Called The Big Idea, the project is best described as an experiment to see how different types of agencies respond to an integrated brief.

First, we needed to find the right brief. The NSPCC indicated its interest and, through the tireless efforts of its director of comms John Grounds and his team, we managed to turn the concept into reality through its Helpline marketing campaign. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Arun Sudhaman

September 24, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Weber Shandwick to launch in Korea

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Word reaches me that Weber Shandwick is poaching Edelman Korea chief Tyler Kim to launch its presence in that market.

It’s an interesting move. Korea has been a blind spot for WS for a while now and some of its key clients – such as Microsoft and MasterCard – must be wanting support in the country. And, no doubt, the agency is shelling out plenty of money to affiliates anyway.

WS Asia-Pacific supremo Tim Sutton confirmed the development, but his Edelman counterpart Alan VanderMolen declined to comment. More comments after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Arun Sudhaman

September 23, 2009 at 11:05 am

Ranking PR networks in China by revenue

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PRWeek is running its 2009 Global Report Card here. It was a rather interesting exercise putting this together. As ever, though, our best intentions were hamstrung by the continuing (and unnecessary) unwillingness of holding groups to provide revenue numbers for their individual agencies.

I’ll save the big rant about Sarbanes-Oxley for a later date. Instead, working with a few top-level sources, I’ve managed to compile some numbers for what the big networks are approximately worth. Global numbers will follow later this week. Today is all about China: increasingly becoming the key battleground for networks desperately seeking growth.

Full ranking and numbers after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Arun Sudhaman

September 13, 2009 at 10:38 am

Astroturf wars

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There’s a piece in examining the ‘astroturfing’ that has now become a rampant part of American politics.

Hard to disagree with the story’s general thrust, that the lobbying process is becoming dominated by front groups that are funded by well-hidden corporate interests.

It’s a little more sophisticated than China’s 50-cent army, but the thinking is pretty similar – creating a fake grassroots movement. It’s a useful way for an insurance company, for example, to lobby against a healthcare bill it might not like. As if such a thing could actually happen…

Looks like astroturfing is moving up in the world. Last year it was all about hiring a few students to make the right comments on blogs and forums. Or watching Edelman get crucified for creating the  now-legendary Working Families for Wal-Mart fake blog.

A couple of weeks ago, meanwhile, Spinvox was accused of astroturfing on the PRWeek site – a charge it has strenously denied. In the Guardian story I wrote on the practice, I managed to find only person who would actually admit to paying astroturfers – a marketing consultant who went by the moniker ‘Sillicon Calley‘:

“I have in the past hired people to astroturf, but always temporarily. If you leave the same people in for too long, they get too obvious and it’s easy to get someone to do it for like a week.”

Calley also refused to name her clients –  “it would kind of defeat the purpose, if everyone knew it was fake”. Ain’t that the truth.

Update: As if on cue, it emerges today that a PR firm has been astroturfing the user review section of Apple’s iPhone store. Pretty sophisticated pricing model – they actually charge per successful app download. Expect a hailstorm of ethics to erupt around this one – but it’s practically impossible to police. Unless, like Reverb, you set your strategy out in a document.

Written by Arun Sudhaman

August 23, 2009 at 10:13 am


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