Fahlgren Mortine
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
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Fahlgren Mortine

Multi-specialist firm Columbus, Oh., Atlanta, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Denver, Ft Lauderdale, Parkersburg, WV., Toledo

Holmes Report


With an 80-year track record, Edward Howard was justifiably proud of its status as the longest established independent public relations firm in the United States. That status came to an end in the first few weeks of 2010, as the firm was acquired by neighboring advertising agency Fahlgren, joining forces to create a public relations business with combined 2009 fee income of around $9 million, 60 staff members in five Ohio offices (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo) as well as smaller operations in Atlanta; Denver; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and, Parkersburg, W. Va., under the leadership of Neil Mortine, president of Fahlgren Mortine Public Relations and CEO of Fahlgren and Kathy Cupper Obert, formerly chairman and chief executive of Edward Howard.
Now all eyes are on the future, as the firm seeks to leverage a broad range of capabilities: Edward Howard was recognized for its unusual strength in public affairs and crisis communications, but was a full-service firm in the true sense; Fahlgren Mortine is perhaps better known in the marketing communications arena and brings strong digital and social media capabilities to the mix. In the latter arena, the firm offers a proprietary approach it calls SMORE (Social Media Opportunity Research and Evaluation), a review and analysis of online conversations across the social media landscape; Proof Positive, a process for researching, identifying and ranking the most significant bloggers for a company or category; and a Social Media Dashboard, which aggregates online activity relevant to a client’s brand, industry and issues based on customized criteria and serves as a listening post that filters the conversations that are relevant and important to them.
Other interesting products include an earned media scoring model, Editorial Eval, which factors in messages, placement, visuals, quotes, exclusivity, and more to provide a qualitative assessment of media relations activity. Brand New is a proprietary seven-step process for evaluating existing brands and helping create new or refined brand identities. And Fulcrum is the firm’s overall strategic planning model, an eight-step process designed to find a brand’s “pivot points” to ensure that all communications are on-strategy.
The firm’s leadership team is impressive in its depth of experience and quality. Fahlgren Mortine’s president and founder, Neil Mortine, was appointed CEO of holding company Fahlgren in 2009, making him one of only a handful of PR executives leading an integrated agency. Executive vice president and management supervisor Bryan Haviland, a 30-year public relations veteran who has held corporate communications roles at Nationwide and Dow Chemical, was similarly promoted to chief operating officer of Fahlgren. And Melissa Dykstra, who has held corporate positions with Nationwide and Bridgestone/Firestone, was promoted to senior vice president, executive director of Fahlgren Mortine. Meanwhile, Obert joined as managing director of Fahlgren and her Edward Howard colleague Wayne Hill will continue to play a management role as an executive vice president, and will also serve on Fahlgren’s management team.
The firm clients include McDonald’s (serving as agency of record for six co-ops in Ohio and Florida for more than 35 years), Kroger (AOR for more than 15 years), Emerson, Cardinal Health (for social media), Cooper Tire (AOR for more than 10 years), Elmer’s (with the addition of new brands and campaigns in 2009 contributing to FMPR’s growth), Balloon Time, Worthington Industries, Kidde (AOR for eight years), Cedar Fair, Sherwin-Williams, Progressive Insurance, Nokia, Hoover and Walmart (one of Edward Howard’s largest clients for the past eight years). New additions in 2009 included American Legion; Crown Equipment; Emerson Climate Technology; Good Samaritan Hospital; Leggett & Platt; Mars Horse Care U.S.; Pert Plus; and Westin Great Southern.
From working to support Walmart’s appearance on The Today Show on Christmas Eve after the company brought home a member of the armed forces to be with his family for the holidays, to helping McDonald’s with regional product launches, to counseling Heartland Petroleum through a gas leak, and helping several clients rebuild their reputations and brands during chapter 11 bankruptcies, the firm was busy on high-profile assignments in 2009. But perhaps the most high-profile work came when President Obama unveiled his economic stimulus plan at a client’s headquarters. FMPR handled international media relations for the event at Cardinal Fastener, just four days before the inauguration, generating widespread coverage for the President’s assertion that “Cardinal’s owners exemplify the American spirit.”
FMPR “adopted our mission & became ambassadors for our brand,” says client Kidde, while Rubbermaid says that “Edward Howard is in-tune to emerging consumer trends,” hailing the firm’s “insightful, creative recommendations.” According to Sherwin-Williams: “a major strength is how well creative and writers work in tandem to generate strong ideas,” while Genie praises the firm as “nothing short of brilliant…we couldn’t have achieved these results had we used our money only on advertising.”
Most of the firm’s work is in domestic markets, served via its own network of nine offices. But FMPR is also a member of the international IPREX network, which gives it access to the services of 68 independent agencies in 30 countries.
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