CHICAGO, February 5—Long a laggard on the international public relations front, Golin/Harris wants to build “the best PR network in Europe” over the next three years, and has hired former BBC marketing chief Sue Farr to help it accomplish that goal. She replaces Mary Bartholomew, who retired at the end of 2000.
Farr is an interesting choice for the position because she has no PR agency experience, and relatively little experience in markets outside her native U.K., but she does have broad marketing services experience—including stints with ad agencies Wight Collins Rutherford Scott and Bates Dorland—and an impressive track record at the BBC, where she created a department of 300 marketing professionals virtually from scratch.
According to Golin/Harris chief executive Rich Jernstedt, “Sue has a very high profile because of her work for the BBC. She has been responsible for advertising, marketing , and public relations. We think this gives her a broad perspective on what clients want, as well as plenty of relevant experience managing the discipline.”
Farr’s appointment was accompanied by the news that Julia Thorn, chief executive of the London office of Golin/Harris, will retire at the end of March.
For years, London—operating under the Paragon brand—was a lonely outpost of an agency that operated primarily in the continental United States. But a recent restructuring of parent company Interpublic’s PR holdings put the London office of investor relations specialist Ludgate under the Golin umbrella, providing a more full service offering there, and the agency has supplemented that with acquisitions, including highly regarded Hong Kong agency Forrest International.
The firm’s current European network includes small offices in Frankfurt and Madrid, but Jernstedt indicates an interest in acquiring firms in France and Italy, and in London there is speculation that G/H might acquire its existing affiliates in those markets: Beau Fixe and Noesis Comunicazione respectively.
Farr declined to comment on those rumors but did say that the agency has “very aggressive acquisition targets in Europe this year.” She added that the firm would also be seeking ambitious organic growth. Initially, however, Farr has responsibility for an operation with fees of around $18 million and about 140 staff.
As director of public service marketing for BBC Broadcast, Farr was responsible for creating and implementing the marketing and communications strategies for all of the BBC’s public service brands, including BBC Television, BBC Radio, BBC News, BBC Education, BBC Sport, BBC Regional Broadcasting, BBC Online and all the BBC’s Digital Services.
Prior to her tenure with BBC, she held marketing positions with Thames Television, Northern Foods, and others.