WASHINGTON, D.C., March 26—Hill & Knowlton is mulling several alternative plans for its Washington office following the news that general manager Victoria “Torie” Clarke has been nominated as Pentagon spokeswoman by the new Bush administration.
Clarke, who worked on the unsuccessful 1992 presidential campaign of George Bush, would become the second woman to hold the Pentagon’s top communications post, following Kathleen deLaski, spokeswoman for the late defense secretary Les Aspin for 1993-94. Clarke joined H&K from BSMG Worldwide two years ago, taking over the Washington office after the departure of Tom Buckmaster. Previously she was assistant U.S. trade representative for public affairs from 1989 to 1992, and press secretary for Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain from 1983 to 1989.
Hill & Knowlton was the first of the major public relations agencies to recognize the potential for merging public relations and public affairs, and was the largest firm in the nation’s capital for several years in the late 80s and early 90s, following its acquisition of Robert Gray’s agency Gray & Company. But in recent years it has slipped in the rankings, and diversified beyond the public affairs practice, adding consumer marketing and technology capabilities.
H&K is believed to be in negotiations with at least two Washington area firms, including a specialist in high-tech public relations and a lobbying firm. The outcome of those talks could impact the future of the D.C. office. One possibility is that it could begin to focus more on the technology arena, while the lobbying and public affairs operations are developed under a second brand.
Confirmation hearings for Clarke’s new position have not yet been scheduled.