Porter Novelli Buys Hilburg Firm, Creates Consulting Unit
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Porter Novelli Buys Hilburg Firm, Creates Consulting Unit

Porter Novelli has acquired reputation-consulting firm Hilburg & Associates and created a new division, PNConsulting, which will advise boards of directors, CEOs, general counsel, chief financial officers and other senior executives.

Paul Holmes

NEW YORK—Porter Novelli has acquired reputation-consulting firm Hilburg & Associates and created a new division, PNConsulting, which will advise boards of directors, CEOs, general counsel, chief financial officers and other senior executives about “the organizational behaviors that can make the difference between business success and failure.”

The new unit will incorporate the Hilburg firm—best known for its work in litigation support; the U.S. operations of Smythe Dorward Lambert, a change management and employee communications firm also owned by Porter Novelli parent Omnicom; and Porter’s own strategic philanthropy unit, launched last year. Alan Hilburg will lead the unit and will report to PN global chief executive Helen Ostrowski.

According to Ostrowski, the new unit is built around the premise that “institutional and personal reputations will be the currency of the 21st century—swinging unexpectedly as information crosses media boundaries and time zones with increasing speed.” PNConsulting will initially focus on areas that represent the greatest threats to managements and shareholder value: risk management, litigation consulting, crisis management, strategic philanthropy, corporate brand strategies and change management.

“Business, non-profit and religious organizations are learning—the hard way—that it is their actions, not words, that are essential to earning and keeping the trust of their key audiences, be they investors, employees, customers or policymakers,“ said Ostrowski.   “Public relations must reclaim this territory or we are in danger of being relegated to the ‘wordsmith’ role and becoming marginalized during this pervasive crisis of confidence.”

Hilburg says his firm has seen an upsurge of interest from CEOs concerned about the crisis of confidence in corporate America and its leaders, and believes working with a large agency will allow his firm to offer greater depth of service.

“We have traditionally offered three components to our assignments,” he says. “The first is an unconventional approach to evaluating threats and opportunities. The second is finding the answer to the clients’ problem. And the third is implementation. Allying with Porter Novelli will allow us to deliver much broader implementation, on a global scale.”

Hilburg says his firm had talked to several agency over the years, but elected to go with Porter Novelli because the firm understands that public relations is about behavior rather than just communication.

Says Ostrowski, “Porter Novelli was founded upon a single bedrock principle of marketing—whether it’s marketing health, coffee or financial services. We’ve always been about changing behavior.”

The new unit will continue that tradition, focusing on organizational behavior.

According to Hilburg, “Our success at Hilburg is based on providing embattled managements, their outside counsel and high-profile individuals with senior judgment, non-conventional strategic advice and insightful counsel that helps them ‘see around the corner.’ We’ve integrated traditional values and original thinking in a successful approach that is an accurate forecaster of how PNConsulting is likely to succeed.”

In the U.S., the Smythe Dorward Lambert name will be discontinued, although SDL Europe will continue to operate as an independent consultancy under the direction of Omnicom’s Diversified Agency Services. 

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