BERKELEY—With the recent demise of so many dot-com clients, one might be forgiven for questioning the timing of Burson-Marsteller’s latest alliance, with Berkeley-based Mainsail Web Development Group. But Scott Wallace, chairman of B-M’s online communications group, BM3W, insists the timing is perfect.
Says Wallace, “Our Internet-related business is soaring. The collapse of e-trailing has gotten all the ink recently, but the use of the Internet as a communications medium is very dynamic. Even the oldest of the old-line companies are using the Internet as a principal way of reaching their customers and other stakeholders.”
While BM3W has its own Internet specialists in most of its major east coast offices—offering web hosting, web design, web casting and video-enriched e-mail services—it does not have a dedicated capability in its west coast operations, which is where Mainsail comes in.
“We are unique in that we employ a mix of web designers and PR professionals,” says president and CEO Mark White. “That makes us an ideal partner for public relations firms.”
Many of Mainsail’s senior executives have experience in the public relations field, including senior vice president of strategic service Chris Clark, former head of GCI Interactive and most recently the New York general manager of Alexander Ogilvy, and director of marketing Bob Purcell, another GCI veteran. The firm has worked with GCI, Hill & Knowlton, and a host of smaller firms—and will continue working with them after the B-M agreement, which is not exclusive.
According to White, “The great benefit of this partnership is that we will get called in very early in the process. We will be involved from the very beginning on project proposals, and we will help make sure that the web components of the program make sense.”
As examples of the way in which Mainsail can help, Purcell points to two recent programs, including the development of http://www.lycrashop.com/, an online catalog, for DuPont; and diaDexus, a corporate communications site for a Santa Clara-based biotech company. Other clients include GE, Glaxo, Aventis, and the Yale School of Management.
“A lot of web design firms have a consumer marketing mentality,” says Wallace. “But we’re more interested in the quality of hits we get, the ability to reach opinion leaders, than the quantity. We might get only a couple of hundred hits, but if they’re the right couple of hundred hits—key journalists or financial analysts—then we’ve done our job. And those people are increasingly online. If we hold a press conference today, we might get three or four times as many hits online as we do at the event itself.”