HP Begins Post-Merger Consolidation of PR Agencies
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HP Begins Post-Merger Consolidation of PR Agencies

H-P this week sent a request for information to a short list of about a dozen “major public relations firms,” according to newly appointed director of corporate media relations Tim Marklein.

Paul Holmes

PALO ALTO, August 5—Its controversial merger with Compaq newly consummated, Hewlett-Packard is looking to consolidate its public relations business with three or four major agencies. The review of HP’s business—believed to be worth at least eight figures—is likely to draw comparisons with the rationalization of IBM’s $40 million of PR agency spending a little more than a year ago.
 
H-P this week sent a request for information to a short list of about a dozen “major public relations firms,” according to newly appointed director of corporate media relations Tim Marklein.
 
Hewlett-Packard currently uses at least a dozen public relations firms in the U.S. alone, with many more handling overseas assignments. Among the firms with significant H-P business are technology specialists Applied Communications and The Hoffman Agency, and full-service firms Golin/Harris, Porter Novelli, and Weber Shandwick Worldwide. In addition, Hill & Knowlton and its Blanc & Otus high-tech brand have been handling a wide range of services for Compaq.
 
“It’s a much needed rationalization,” says Marklein, who emphasized that the move was not being made to reduce costs, but rather to increase efficiency. “We need to implement a new model for the new HP. We are looking to improve the quality and speed and competitiveness of our global PR efforts.”
 
H-P will be looking for agencies to handle its corporate communications, as well as PR efforts on behalf of its four business units: imaging and printing; personal systems; enterprise systems, which includes software; and IT infrastructure services. It needs representation in its three major regions: the U.S.; Europe; and Asia-Pacific.
 
It is not yet clear how the restructured business will be allocated. It is possible that one firm will represent one division across all regions, or that one firm will handle all four business-units in a particular region, depending on capabilities.
 
The search is being led by Kay Hart, vice president of corporate communications and media relations, formerly vp of communications at Compaq, and by Allison Johnson, senior vice president of HP global branding and communications.
 
Marklein says that presentations will be made over the next few months, with the aim of having a new model in place and agencies selected by October, to begin work in November, which is the start of HP’s new financial year.
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