Aaronson Leaving Avaya After PR Restructuring
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Aaronson Leaving Avaya After PR Restructuring

Steve Aaronson, who has headed the corporate communications operation at telecommunications firm Avaya since it was spun off from Lucent Technologies in March of 2000, is leaving the company.

Paul Holmes

BASKING RIDGE, March 18—Steve Aaronson, who has headed the corporate communications operation at telecommunications firm Avaya since it was spun off from Lucent Technologies in March of 2000, is leaving the company following a restructuring that split up the public relations and investor relations functions and placed public relations under the firm’s marketing organization.
 
Taking Aaronson’s place at the head of the PR function is Lydia Whitefield, whose title is vice president of external relations. She will be responsible for communicating with the media and industry analysts, as well as for the speechwriting for company executives and Avaya’s philanthropic community activities. Aaronson had been responsible for branding and corporate image, investor relations, media relations, employee communications, industry and financial analyst relations and philanthropy.
 
Also this week, Avaya announced it was cutting 1,900 jobs as it deals with declining sales for its telephone systems. The company cut 5,000 jobs last year, although the public relations function remained largely intact. The firm did cut back on its use of outside agencies, although it continues to work with Weber Shandwick Worldwide and others.
 
Aaronson suggested that the restructuring was just one reason for his departure.
 
“After two years as VP of public relations and investor relations, I believe the launch of Avaya—as a public company and as a brand—is complete,” he says. “Avaya is now averaging three to four times more positive press coverage than at the start, has about doubled financial analyst coverage and is seen in increasingly positive terms by industry analysts. 
 
“With the restructuring of the PR and IR function, and with my recent 50th birthday, the time seemed right to retire and assess other professional opportunities—which I am planning to do starting next fall.” Aaronson says he expects to do some consulting, although he will consider other opportunities at they present themselves.
 
He added, “I believe the PR team led by Lydia Whitefield is held in extremely high regard both within and outside Avaya, and I have confidence that PR will continue as a highly valued and respected function within marketing.”
 
Whitefield said the decision to split PR and IR and the change in reporting structure—PR had reported to the senior vice president of operations, also the company’s CFO—did not represent a downgrading of the function, which has 35 people around the world. She said she was working closely with Derrick Vializ, vice president of investor relations, and that upcoming organizational changes would place addition functions under the PR umbrella.
 
Prior to joining Avaya, Aaronson was vice president of service provider networks public relations at Lucent Technologies and vice president of global corporate public relations. Before Lucent’s spin-off from AT&T, Aaronson was responsible for AT&T communications in the Asia/Pacific region, based in Hong Kong. He can be reached at [email protected].
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