AT&T Restructures PR to Focus on Stakeholders
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AT&T Restructures PR to Focus on Stakeholders

Under recently appointed executive vice president of public relations and brand management, AT&T is reorganizing its corporate communications department. The reorganization will enable the telecommunications giant to better serve its key audiences.

Paul Holmes

BASKING RIDGE—Under recently appointed executive vice president of public relations and brand management, AT&T is reorganizing its corporate communications department. The reorganization will enable the telecommunications giant to better serve its key audiences and creating centers of excellence designed to better support field PR staff.

The changes came about after Weaver, who had been head of investor relations at AT&T before she took over from Dick Martin as head of the PR and brand management function in October, retained the consulting firm of Mercer Delta to help refocus the PR operation on three priorities: a clear external focus to ensure the organization was realistic about the perceptions of key stakeholders; teamwork and open communication to ensure information and ideas were being shared throughout the practice; and trust and accountability.

“As a result, we are bringing a more defined and laser-like focus to our work,” she told staff in a memo this week.

The department will focus on four key audiences: business and consumer customers; public officials and political influentials; employees; and “leadership and influentials.” It will have a new leadership team, including Steve Cross, who will lead the team that support AT&T Business; Bill Oliver, who leads public policy efforts; Bob Schauer, who will lead the field PR team; Jim Byrnes, who has AT&T Business and speechwriting responsibilities; Eileen Connolly, responsible for media relations; Barbara Trumpbour, who leads industry analyst relations; employee communications leader Michele Tringali; Sara Lipson, who will lead the brand management function; and Rochelle Fuhrmann, who heads the PR operations center.

A search is under way for a leader for the AT&T Consumer public relations unit and for a new corporate communications function.

Says Weaver, “While we will be linked tightly with our two primary business units, we must also work to remind key constituencies that we are ‘one AT&T’ with a rich history of involvement in the communities in which our people live and work and where we serve customers. To that end, we will build a corporate citizenship capability to support our role as one of the country’s leading corporations, and to enable us to tell that story to targeted audiences. 

“As such, we will integrate our media, constituency relations and industry analysts teams, as well as our philanthropy, to succeed in this new focus on the leadership dimension of our business.” To that end, the company will create a corporate communications function “which will be proactive and strategic in delivering key messages across our target audiences.”

The company will also strengthen is field PR, brand management and operations teams through the creation of what Weaver calls centers of excellence.

Weaver describes field PR as “the frontline team reaching many of our constituencies, and doing so with the local knowledge critical to keeping our work relevant to customers and local audiences.” Field PR will now report directly to Weaver.

Meanwhile, the brand management team will assume responsibility for company-wide management of AT&T’s website, and will have broader responsibilities for company sponsorships, such as the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. The team will lead a new AT&T Marketing Council and will continue to provide the business with critical research to foster ongoing understanding of the AT&T brand across key audience.

Finally, the PR Operations team will continue to focus on budget and planning and will also now include creative services, and corporate donations that occur outside the AT&T Foundation.

“I remain excited about the business opportunities AT&T faces in 2003 and beyond, and the critical role PR and brand management has to play in our company’s success,” says Weaver. “While the challenges facing the telecom industry are sure to continue, AT&T remains in an operationally and
financially superior position to many of our industry peers. As such, the role of the AT&T PR and brand management function has never been more critical, and the potential to make a meaningful contribution has never been greater.”

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