WALTHAM, MA—Larry Weber, who founded The Weber Group and parlayed his success in the technology public relations business into leadership of Weber Shandwick Worldwide—the world’s largest public relations firm—has announced his return to the PR realm with the launch of a new venture, W2.
The new enterprise will be a holding company to bring together a mix of firms to implement Weber’s characteristically iconoclastic new vision, leveraging digital technology and data-driven communications practices to enable organizations to reach their target markets with a new level of precision and impact.
“W2 Group will redefine marketing services by creating an ecosystem of companies offering the most advanced digital research, delivery and measurement technologies to provide analytics and understanding of constituents and market trends and highly targeted message delivery,” says Weber. Clients are demanding the level of measurable, predictable results that traditional marketing services firms are not delivering.
“Our strategy reflects the kind of marketing needs hundreds of companies have asked for in conversations in the past year. They want vision, deep-domain knowledge, and advanced data-driven, digital solutions that deliver breakthrough results.”
W2’s first two ventures will span public relations and what he calls “constituency management through digital channels.”
On the public relations front, W2 has acquired Racepoint Group, the two-year-old high-tech PR firm founded and led by Marijean Lauzier, who worked with Weber at The Weber Group and was chief operating officer at Weber Shandwick Worldwide. Racepoint clients include Red Hat Software, Dendrite International and World Wide Packets.
Digital Influence Group, meanwhile, will specialize in constituency management within digital channels, which Weber says “responds to the unmet need of major multinationals for new strategies and tactics to impact conversations hosted on the burgeoning unpaid media on the Internet and via digital channels including mobile devices.” The group will use advanced constituency management techniques, including precise segmentation and analytics, and apply new digital communications tools—from weblogs to wireless—to enable client dialog with key audiences.
“We have software that is monitoring the unpaid side of the Internet,” says Weber. “Companies need to know what is being said in blogs, in chat rooms, even instant messaging, in order to be able to participate in those discussions and drive the kind of word-of-mouth that is increasingly critical to their brands. We believe people are the new media. Rather than trying to influence a journalist at The New York Times, we want to influence people directly, online.”
Backed by a group of private investors, W2Group will go on identify, build and acquire high impact marketing technology and services companies.
He says he anticipates expanding rapidly into other areas, including strategy consulting, mobile marketing, and next generation web design and Internet services. He will also expand his public relations operations beyond the technology realm to include consumer, government and public affairs and healthcare—an area where he sees tremendous opportunity.
“It’s all about deep domain expertise,” he says. “I remember talking to a senior healthcare PR person. He didn’t want to know whether we had a healthcare practice. He wanted to know whether we had people who were experts in introducing new oncology drugs to women in a particular demographic group. Clients are looking for that kind of deep domain expertise, and we will be looking for firms and people who can deliver it.”
Weber says clients have already indicated an enthusiasm for his approach. “It’s something they are not getting from firms that are focused on the traditional model,” he says. Interest has come from both PR and marketing executives, he adds, but the most enthusiastic have been chief marketing officers, who recognize that advertising cannot deliver the audience it once did, nor the credibility they need to build their brands.
“Larry has an incredible reputation for understanding the marketing needs of technology, health and science companies,” said Mukesh Chatter, founder and CEO of Axiowave, an innovative router company. “He already has leveraged this vision and reputation in the industry to build a successful company and I expect that with W2 Group, he will succeed with even greater impact.”
Weber is launching W2 Group after his consulting agreement with Interpublic Group expired earlier this year. While at IPG, Weber helped build Weber Shandwick Worldwide into the largest PR agency in the world, with billings of $450 million and formed Advanced Marketing Services, a $2 billion marketing services group.
Weber is also working on a new book, The Morphing of Marketing.