Arthur Andersen Thought Leadership Campaign
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Holmes Report

Arthur Andersen Thought Leadership Campaign

Ketchum’s challenge was to help launch the new positioning – “Partner for Success in the New Economy” – with a sustainable public relations program that would make the strategy real and credible.

Paul Holmes


Arthur Andersen, a top five global professional services firm, was in the process of a brand repositioning.  To support this effort, Ketchum reenergized traditional public relations with the proprietary News Engine process, and successfully increased the visibility of Arthur Andersen in a crowded professional services marketplace.  Ketchum’s creativity in developing a solid, sustainable media relations program has been lauded by Arthur Andersen and new business prospects alike.


Arthur Andersen’s leadership recognized that the business world was changing, and in order to remain competitive, the Big Five firm embarked on a new strategic direction in January 2000.  As agency of record for the firm, Ketchum’s challenge was to help launch the new positioning – “Partner for Success in the New Economy” – with a sustainable public relations program that would make the strategy real and credible.


Our target audience was buyers of professional services, who were reached through top-tier business and technology media. Research conducted by Arthur Andersen’s brand and identity consultant studied the behaviors and tendencies of our end targets – CEOs, CFOs, Chairmen of the Board and their direct reports – and we incorporated this information into our planning process. We discovered that executives in large companies generally viewed the Big Five as accounting firms with limited expertise in other services. In addition, the executives gravitated toward specialists and tend to work with consultants they already know or those recommended by other CEOs and CFOs or their board.

To complement the knowledge garnered from the brand consultant’s study, we conducted additional research to aid us in the development and measurement of the program. For instance, we conducted a benchmark study to set the stage for annual measurement of both quantitative and qualitative media results we would achieve for the firm. Media audits helped us more effectively develop and target our pitches by identifying key reporters’ attitudes and perceptions of Arthur Andersen’s broad scope of services and expertise.  Most importantly, the Ketchum team employed “rolling research,” using research methods and results to monitor trends on a daily basis and continuously improve and expand our efforts.

As Arthur Andersen had never before undertaken a media relations campaign of this magnitude, Ketchum was charged with building a massive public relations strategy from the ground up.  Planning began in August 1999, and the program’s strategy evolved to focus on Arthur Andersen’s most valuable assets: its people, knowledge, ideas and culture.  Based on pressing business issues in the New Economy, the aforementioned research, and genuine sources of expertise within the firm, we identified the following four Thought Leadership Platforms to support Arthur Andersen’s new strategy:

  • Value Dynamics
  • eBusiness
  • Employer of Choice
  • Mergers & Acquisitions

With this structure in place, we set out one overriding objective: Begin to raise Arthur Andersen’s reputation and credibility within specific subject areas (thought leadership platforms) aside from the tax and audit specialties.

Consistent with Arthur Andersen’s need to refresh and renew its image in the New Economy, we realized the need for a new focused approach to media relations.  As no central information repository existed to catalog specific sources and areas of expertise, an essential first step was to create a knowledge inventory and management solution. We developed a process – called the Ketchum News EngineSM – through which we are able to:

  • Forecast media demand 
  • Catalogue our inventory of knowledge 
  • Analyze gaps in our knowledge inventory 
  • Create an online knowledge warehouse 
  • Monitor media, analyst, event and speaking opportunities and produce a daily report of relevant coverage
  • Instantly respond to media opportunities 

With the News Engine as the catalyst for all four programs moving forward, our strategy was to:

Identify and capitalize on trends affecting the four Thought Leadership Platforms on a just-in-time basis; and 

Constantly adapt the Thought Leadership positions to keep them relevant to what the media is interested in.


For each program, we first catalogued our inventory of knowledge by interviewing partners with expertise in a broad range of topics associated with each platform. By design, these discussions yielded myriad benefits: they provided information to comprise the News Engine “inventory;” they helped us identify hot-button issues; and they gave us insight into the interview capabilities of our spokespeople to help identify the most “media savvy.”  We then compiled a Credentials Book and distributed it to key media.  It was also used by the account teams to match up spokespeople with media opportunities. 

As a result of these interviews, the Ketchum team members became highly knowledgeable on the topics, enabling them to work effectively with the spokespeople and the media. When the pitching began, we were infinitely qualified to initiate, negotiate and moderate discussions with our top-tier media targets on behalf of our clients, expertise that has proved invaluable.

All along, the News Engine kept on chugging… Every day, beginning at 7:30 a.m., the Ketchum Chicago News Engine team began monitoring the day’s news in targeted newspapers, magazines, journals and Internet news outlets. By 8:30 a.m., the articles, announcements, press releases and other intelligence identified through this “Daily Reads” process were collected and forwarded to those with appropriate media outreach and editorial responsibilities. Specified members of each account team acted quickly to respond to relevant articles with sources for interviews, client survey statistics, etc.  Other team members used the industry analyst information, speaking opportunities, editorial calendar updates and relevant trends identified in the day’s media output to continually update the Opportunity Matrices maintained by each account team. In the meantime, Daily Reads reports were formatted, summarized and analyzed for specific content and relevance, and by 11 a.m., they had been edited and distributed internally and to the client.  Each week, the results of the Daily Reads reports were analyzed by the teams to help match the clients’ messages to current business trends and “get ahead” of developing stories. It’s through these real-time media strategizing sessions that we were, and continue to be, able to keep coverage current and relevant.

In response to the Internet’s transformation of the media, the News Engine invigorated traditional PR processes, encouraging real-time media relations.  Through constant monitoring and contact with reporters, the Ketchum team was able to predict trends and position the Arthur Andersen partners as thought leaders at the forefront of these trends.  In addition, the News Engine fueled publicity vehicles including surveys, book tours, speaking engagements and conference and trade show appointments.


As we previously stated, our objective was to begin to raise Arthur Andersen’s reputation and credibility within specific subject areas (thought leadership platforms) aside from the tax and audit specialties.

In 2000, Arthur Andersen increased its revenues 8.2 percent from 1999.  While this movement cannot entirely be attributed to public relations, the executive team at Arthur Andersen recognizes the strong role Ketchum’s efforts played in this success.

Overall, Arthur Andersen saw an increase of 3,975 percent in media coverage, with a total of 

318 media placements in business, technology and trade outlets of the print and broadcast media. Current and prospective clients laud the first year of the Arthur Andersen Thought Leadership Platform program as an exemplary strategic program. 

As a result of our efforts, Arthur Andersen was included in the “media conversation.”  For instance, the number of appointments secured with the top-tier media at the World Economic Forum in Davos jumped from three in 1999 to nine in 2000 and 12 in 2001.  In general, we were able to create a consistent movement to position Arthur Andersen at the forefront of the business consulting and professional services industries.

Specific measures of our success include: 

  • Secured extensive global media coverage of the brand/strategy launch, including placements in The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and regional, U.S. and international media outlets
  • Increased Arthur Andersen’s position as a valuable media interview source in the two highest-priority Thought Leadership Platforms:
  • Value Dynamics: Increased media placements 5,550 percent, from two in 1999 to 111 in 2000, including Business Week, Business 2.0, Upside, Forbes and CNNfn
  • eBusiness: Increased media placements 
  • 1,450 percent from six in 1999 to 87 in 2000, including Business Week, Information Week, Wired, The Industry Standard and CNN
  • Made inroads in coverage of the two newly created platforms by capitalizing on issues and trends:
  • Employer of Choice: Secured 113 placements through media outreach and the issuance of a topical survey 
  • M&A: Secured seven placements relating to high-profile mergers and acquisitions
  • Secured speaking opportunities for Arthur Andersen experts that highlight strategic areas of expertise
  • Developed relationships with key industry analysts to validate Arthur Andersen’s Business credentials and expertise – arranged more than 60 briefings in 2000


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