AUSTIN, TX—Public Strategies, an Austin, Texas-based public affairs firm that operates on a national level in the United States and internationally in Mexico, has been acquired by WPP, the global communications services company and parent of Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton, and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.
Public Strategies, has nearly 175 employees in 15 U.S. cities and additional offices in London and Mexico City. Much of its practice involves managing high-stakes campaigns for corporate clients, anticipating and responding to crises, assessing public opinion and risk, and developing strategies to impact corporate reputation.
“Public Strategies has a unique approach to public affairs, something it describes as the ‘fifth seat’ at the table. By engaging with clients at the highest levels, Public Strategies ensures consideration of public opinion and the media in important corporate decisions,” says Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP. “In addition, Public Strategies has the depth and breadth of talent to deliver on its promises.”
The firm’s senior counselors include former Governor Ann Richards, who serves as senior adviser; vice chairman Mark McKinnon, media guru to President George W. Bush; president Jeff Eller, who was director of media affairs in the Clinton White House; and founder and chairman Jack Martin, who was a counselor to Texas politicians including Senator Lloyd Bentsen and late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock before starting the firm in 1988.
According to Martin, “Over the last several years, we have been approached repeatedly by companies offering to buy Public Strategies. WPP’s offer was the right one because it met our three core criteria: It allows our firm to maintain its independence, provides our clients with additional resources and our employees with extensive professional opportunities.”
The firm’s “Fifth Seat” approach sees public relations professionals taking a role alongside general counsels, accountants, investment bankers and management consultants in times of corporate crisis.
“While those advisors offer sound advice, they are not traditionally responsible for paying attention to the public,” says Martin. “And when the public is ignored in the corporate decision-making process, the consequences become evident: consumer backlash, shareholder turbulence, damaging headlines and government policy that runs contrary to business interests.”
New York-based investment banking firm AdMedia Partners acted as financial advisor to Public Strategies in the transaction. According to Abe Jones, managing director at AdMedia, “Communications holding companies like WPP recognize the need for resources that can advise senior client management on critical corporate and public affairs issues.”