NEW YORK, June 8—When the Council of Public Relations Firms published its annual rankings earlier this year, Ketchum was just 13th in technology revenues, its $30 million in fees trailing most of its top tier rivals. In the current economic climate, that lack of dependence on technology clients may be an advantage, but management at Ketchum clearly has its eye on the future, and expects technology to rebound strongly. That’s why the firm moved this week to acquire Corporare Technology Communications, the largest high-tech specialist in the midwest.
With a staff of 60 and revenues in 2000 of $8.9 million, CTC will instantly grow Ketchum’s existing tech practice by about 30 percent—enough to put it into the top 10 in technology fees. It will also almost double the size of the firm’s operations in Chicago to around $18.5 million, enough to lift in from tenth to fifth in that market.
But it’s the boost to its technology capabilities that Ketchum is emphasizing. “Combining our two organizations underscores our commitment to investing in technology,” says Ketchum CEO Ray Kotcher. “While most public relations agencies have been impacted by the recent softening in technology—particularly the dot coms—our practice has sustained healthy momentum. We see the flattening of the tech sector as only temporary.”
Corporate Technology Communications founder and president Paul Rand shares that view. He says he expects the firm to meet or exceed its 2000 revenue numbers in 2001, despite the overall softness of the technology sector. While CTC lost some clients, it has picked up $3 million in new revenues this year, according to Rand, with new business coming from clients including Navigation Technologies, which provides data to companies such as Mapquest; Oce, the world’s third largest copier company; and Verio, a major web hosting company.
Founded just three years ago by Rand, a veteran of Golin/Harris and Ruder Finn in Chicago, CTC has grown to become the largest technology PR firm in the Midwest, although it has been successful in attracting clients from around the country, and has a satellite office in Austin, Texas. It has also succeeded in building a strong brand, which is why it will operate initially from its own offices under the Ketchum/Corporate Technology Communications name, although Rand says he expects to fully adopt the Ketchum brand when the time is right.
“Joining forces with Ketchum provides us with a strong global presence, access to more of the industry’s best professionals, and greater resources overall,” says Rand. “Our belief that Ketchum is the right partner for us has only been strengthened as we have explored the complementary nature of our companies. Our cultures are well-matched.”
Rand says he explored several options for continued expansion, including funding from investment banks and the venture capital community, but that Ketchum was attractive because of its culture, and in particular its commitment to professional development.
The acquisition will give Ketchum’s global technology practice 290 full-time professional staff, and Rand—as well as Chicago managing director Adaire Putnam and Austin managing director Dan Arenz—will continue in their current positions. Rand will report to Ketchum Chicago director Michael Hatcliffe and tech practice director Paul McKeon.
Says McKeon, “While Silicon Valley has traditionally been thought of as the center of technology, we recognize that there are actually centers of excellence around the country. The addition of CTC to our technology offering will help ensure that as technology spending again becomes robust, we are positioned to offer current and prospective clients world class reach and depth in technology.”