SANTA CLARA—From the day Andy Cunningham opened what was then Cunningham Communication back in 1985 she sought to balance the traditional media-focused technology public relations business with a broader consulting approach, emphasizing strategy in a way that made her—for a while at least—unique among high-tech PR people.
Now, 17 years later, she is spinning off the consulting business of what is now Citigate Cunningham into a separate firm, with six employees, which she will head herself. Paul Bergevin, recently named president of Citigate Cunningham, will lead the PR firm on a day-to-day basis, reporting to Cunningham.
The new unit will be called Citigate Cunningham CXO and will handle a broad range of assignments including corporate and executive positioning, crisis management, brand momentum, and the creation of new product categories. It will typically work with the senior management of client firms, as well as with their senior corporate communications people, Cunningham says.
“During these difficult times, there is definitely a market for a company that is more project oriented, that can work with very senior people on strategic positioning issues,” says Cunningham. “PR has bifurcated over the past two years. There’s the day-to-day publicity business, which clearly has a strategic component to it. But then there’s the consultative, positioning business, which has always been the most exciting part of the business for me.
The new firm will continue to provide strategic input to existing Cunningham clients. “The only difference will be that clients get two invoices at the end of the month instead of one,” says Cunningham. “But our clients have always experienced that kind of input. This really won’t be anything new for existing clients.”
But the firm will also work outside the technology sector: one of its first clients is Eclipse Aviation, which is launching a new corporate jet. And CXO will also work with companies that are not clients of its sister firm.
“I don’t see CXO being anyone’s agency of record,” says Cunningham. “We will work with a client’s existing agency, whether that’s Citigate Cunningham or another firm.”
Both Citigate Cunningham and Citigate Cunningham CXO will be units of U.K.-based communications holding company Incepta.