Hill + Knowlton Strategies is folding content speciality shop Group SJR — which it acquired in June 2013 — into the larger firm. The move changes course from H+K’s initial plan to have Group SJR retain its own branding and operational independence.
“You’re seeing a process that’s taking place, they will be much more embedded into what we do,” says Mike Coates, president and CEO of H+K Americas. “Group SJR will continue to use its own brand at times, but you’ll hear a lot more about H+K’s content division. In most of our major opportunities, we’re embedding content from SJR into our material.”[caption id="attachment_3014" align="alignright" width="150"] Mike Coates[/caption]
Amid the integration, SJR founder and managing partner Alexander Jutkowitz remains vice chairman and global strategist at H+K, reporting into global CEO Jack Martin. Coates, who was promoted to the role of CEO of the Americas in July amid Andy Weitz's resignation, calls integration his “mandate” across the region.
“It takes some sensitivity because the cultures [between digital and traditional PR] can be quite different,” he said. “But our traditional PR staff also sees where the market is going. And we are going to have to do more training, especially for our core staff.”[caption id="attachment_2704" align="alignleft" width="160"] Alexander Jutkowitz[/caption]
As part of this, digital players are being moved into general management roles that would give them more sway on the overall direction of the agency. For instance in August, SVP of creative and digital strategy Allison Knaupe was named GM of the Austin office.The other challenge is defining digital — which can be a vague term that’s definition varies often from organization to organization. When asked to define digital within the H+K, Coates says “When I think of digital, I think of a platform: social, video, content that all exist on a platform.” He added, analytics is increasingly being worked into this.
The integration also includes other global H+K acquisitions: Rice5 in China earlier this year and Ascentum in Canada from 2012. The integrated digital operation will be managed by the firm’s global digital leader Andrew Bleeker.