Ketchum's Samson Joins Finn at Oracle
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Ketchum's Samson Joins Finn at Oracle

David Samson, for the past year general manager of the San Francisco office of Ketchum, is joining Oracle Corporation as vice president of international public relations and executive communications.

Paul Holmes

REDWOOD SHORES, March 25—David Samson, for the past year general manager of the San Francisco office of Ketchum, is joining Oracle Corporation as vice president of international public relations and executive communications. He will report to and work in partnership with Jim Finn, who joined the software giant as vice president of worldwide public relations in October.
When Finn came on board, overseas public relations professionals reported to local and regional marketing executives, without even a dotted-line report to headquarters. Now the heads of PR in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Canada will report to Finn, who has experience handling international PR in previous positions with IBM—where he worked briefly alongside Finn—and Levi Strauss & Co.
“I found a team that was really good, particularly at product public relations,” says Finn. “But internationally, the organization was at best regional. With this appointment, we will have a centralized worldwide public relations function. Dave and I share the same philosophy about strategic communication and bringing in someone of Dave’s ability will accelerate the transformation of the function, particularly overseas.”
The restructuring follows an extensive audit of the company’s worldwide PR operations by Don Ferguson, a partner at New York strategic communications firm Geduldig & Ferguson.
Samson will also be responsible for executive communications, with a particular emphasis on securing greater visibility for the executives who report to high-profile CEO Larry Ellison. Coincidentally, his appointment comes just a week after a Business Week story described the company as “Larry’s One-Man Show,” underscoring the need to get more recognition for the management team.
“They felt the media coverage was a problem,” says Finn, whose background is heavy in media relations. “But the media coverage is just a by-product of the echo chamber. We need to make sure analysts and customers and others understand our strategy and are on board, so that when we say something to the media the echo chamber is consistent with what we are saying.”
For that reason, he says, the public relations department has been working more closely with the investor relations function, and there has been a greater emphasis on corporate—not just product—communi-cations. And while Finn reports to the chief marketing officer, there is an understanding, he says, that PR is not just a marketing support function.
“In May we will be 25 years old,” says Finn. “We are an $11 billion company. We have 42,000 employees around the world. This is a mature company.”
Samson says he was attracted to the new position by the opportunity to work with Finn and with Ellison. “Oracle is a dynamic company. It can be provocative. That’s very attractive to me.”
In addition to Finn and Samson, the senior public relations team includes Kristen Hollins, who is senior director of product and industries PR; Jennifer Glass, who leads corporate communications; and Letty Ledbetter, who is responsible for community relations. Finn is still looking for a senior employee communications professional to round out the team.
He is also turning his attention to the company’s agency relationships. The company has cut back on agency expenditures in the U.S., taking more work in-house and terminating its long relationship with Applied Communications—although it continues to work with PR 21. The company works with Weber Shandwick Worldwide at the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) regional level, as well as local firms in key European markets, and with Burson-Marsteller in the Asia-Pacific region—a relationship that is likely to end after B-M picked up Oracle competitor SAP for U.S. and European PR.
Ketchum, meanwhile, announced new leadership for its San Francisco offices and its California operations. Doug Kinzley, hired last year from MGA Communications, will take over as general manager in San Francisco, while Sean Fitzgerald, general manager of the Los Angeles office, will add responsibility for other offices in the state.
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