WASHINGTON, D.C., June 15—For more than a decade, Earle Palmer Brown Public Relations has labored in the shadow of its advertising agency parent. While it has grown at a steady pace—from around $5 million in revenues in 1990 to slightly more than $13 million last year—it has slipped in the national agency rankings, from just outside the top 20 in 1990 to just outside the top 30 today. And the Earle Palmer Brown brand is still associated with advertising more than with public relations.
Says Phil Armstrong, managing director of EPB Public Relations in Washington, D.C., “Earle Palmer Brown is a pretty established brand in the advertising world, and that may have overshadowed what we were doing in public relations. We were not the first agency corporate communications people, or even marketing communications people, thought of when they are planning a public relations program.”
In January, EPB made some structural changes designed in part to change that. The firm created a new holding company, Panoramic Communications, in the process creating EPB PR as a separate profit center with its own management structure and eventually in its own culture. Now there are signs that the new structure may be paying off, with Earle Palmer Brown picking up a $34 million contract from the U.S. Bureau of the Public Debt to promote U.S. Savings Bonds and TreasuryDirect, the online sales channel for U.S. Treasury investment products.
The contract has a maximum life of five years and will be led by public relations, with advertising, promotions, and interactive components. EPB won the business in a competitive pitch that included leading PR firms Burson-Marsteller, Fleishman-Hillard, and Weber Shandwick Worldwide, each of which pitched with an advertising agency partner.
“This was a great team effort drawing on staff from multiple offices and all our key marketing disciplines—public relations, advertising, creative and interactive,” says Armstrong. “It’s gratifying that the U.S. Treasury recognized EPB’s ability to deliver seamlessly a truly integrated program.”
Earle Palmer Brown has always been committed to integration, but has had mixed success in making it work. Within the PR community, many have long suspected that agency president Jeb Brown’s vision of integration placed public relations in a secondary role. The new holding company structure gives public relations greater autonomy, and it will lead the effort on behalf of U.S. Savings Bonds and Treasury Direct.
The agency will draw on its experience working with the Department of the Treasury, conducting a public education program on behalf of direct deposit.
“Our primary goal is to focus our marketing program on increasing the public’s consideration of savings bonds as a great way to save money and a preferred choice for consumers looking for a safe, competitive investment,” says Theodore Langlois, Public Debt’s acting executive director for savings bond marketing. “We believe improved marketing of our products will increase accurate consumer perceptions of I bonds and EE bonds, and reinforce the value of saving through U.S. Treasury securities.”