WASHINGTON, D.C., July 2—More and more corporate clients are taking a pan-European approach to public relations programming on the far side of the Atlantic, but will multinational corporations ever take a pan-continental approach to their North American communications? At least one Canadian public relations agency believes they will.
When Bruce MacLellan left Hill & Knowlton Canada to launch his own public relations firm, Environics Communications, he had a vision: to create a midsize firm that would provide services for its clients throughout North America, focusing on four industry sectors: financial services, advanced technology, health sciences, and consumer packaged goods.
“We felt there was an important niche for an agency that could provide coverage of the entire continent but with the culture of a smaller or midsize firm,” says MacLellan. “I wanted to be more involved in client business, I wanted senior people who were hands on, and I wanted to operate in an environment where our only corporate masters were our clients.”
So after establishing itself in Toronto and Montreal, Environics became the first Canadian PR firm to open an office in the United States when it expanded into Stamford, Conn., in November of 1995. Now it is adding a second U.S. office in Washington, D.C., and has hired former Hill & Knowlton executive Dave Goobert as senior vice president and general manager.
Goobert, who was senior managing director and head of the marketing communications practice at Hill & Knowlton, will have a healthy portfolio of clients to work with, including the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, BITS (a banking consortium focused on e-commerce initiatives), Sylvan Learning Centers, the National SAFE KIDS campaign and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.
“Washington is a logical next step as we expand to serve our clients,” says MacLellan. “We have local relationships and several clients have requested our presence in D.C. Dave Groobert has the local expertise and diverse national client experience to build our new office and contribute to Environics’ established success in North America.”
Prior to joining H&K, Groobert was director of public relations at Comsat Corporation and spent more than 10 years in the PR divisions of advertising agencies W.B. Doner and Eisner Petrou.
Environics has revenues of $6 million, about one-third of which come from the its U.S. operations, and while MacLellan admits the firm is not handling many coordinated pan-North American programs, he says the fact that it has an established presence in each market is paying dividends. “About 25 percent of our business in the U.S. comes from clients headquartered in Canada,” he says. “Canadian companies are worried that if they choose a giant U.S. agency they will be a small fish in a large pond. In Environics, they find a firm that understands both the U.S. market and the Canadian corporate culture.”
In addition, he says, U.S. companies that hire Environics in Canada often go on to use the firm’s U.S. offices too.