NEW YORK, May 30—Over the past couple of years, French communications holding company Publicis Groupe has been building its public relations presence in the U.S., for the most part acquiring midsize firms with solid full-service capabilities, like Evans Group in Seattle, Selz Seabolt in Chicago, and LobsenzStevens in New York. But the company’s latest acquisitions are a departure from that pattern, adding a highly focused corporate and investor relations practice to its more generalist capabilities.
Publicis this week announced the acquisition of two New York corporate and financial specialists, Fabianne Gershon Associates and The Hudson Stone Group. The merger brings together some veteran counselors with impressive resumes, including Gershon, former head of corporate communications for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Bear Stearns, Hudson Stone’s Gary Fishman, an expert in turnaround IR programs; and Publicis-Dialog’s Mark Perlgut.
Gershon will head the practice as executive principal and executive director, with Fishman and Perlgut serving as group managing directors. The new corporate and investor relations practice will feature three core disciplines: investor relations for companies that want to increase value for shareholders: corporate relations for companies that want to maximize opportunities and minimize uncertainty; and a crisis practice for takeovers, mergers, acquisitions, workouts, reconstructings and spin-off situations.
The group will have just eight employees, but it will give Publicis crucial access to the executive suite, according to Publicis Dialog president Andy Hopson. “So many of our U.S. clients are publicly traded, and if we don’t offer them this kind of counsel, someone else will. If we do offer it to them, it gets us into the corner office.”
That’s a key to the “holistic” approach to communications espoused by Robert Bloom, chairman and chief executive of Publicis in the United States, who recently proclaimed the firm’s commitment “to a holistic approach to communications that builds brand equity by focusing on the delivery of consistent messages through multiple channels centered around a compelling idea.”
Gershon and Fishman “share our holistic perspective and can offer the kind of high quality expertise that will help clients to expand their brand equity in the marketplace and in the securities markets,” Bloom says.
That approach sounds suspiciously like the “whole egg” integrated marketing efforts promoted by ad agencies such as Young & Rubicam and Ogilvy a decade or so ago, but Hopson insists there are key differences. “This approach is the outcome of a year-and-a-half effort to differentiate ourselves. Integrated marketing, by its nature, says you have these different disciplines and different silos and you are trying to bring them together.
“Holistic means the disciplines were never truly apart. It requires a different kind of account planning, a different kind of account structure, and a different kind of accountability.” He says the company is training its people in a variety of disciplines, with Publicis Dialog PR people receiving training in advertising, media buying, interactive, direct marketing, and senior PR people educating executives in other groups about the role of public relations.
“The process dictates that everyone is around the table up front,” says Hopson, “before strategy is developed.”