Under the leadership of public relations industry veterans Joel Curran in Chicago and Deborah Radman in New York, the public relations unit of Midwest advertising agency Cramer-Krasselt, has emerged from undeserved obscurity in the late 00s, earning overdue recognition within the public relations industry and the marketing community for its creativity, its 360-degree approach to PR, and its ability to blend traditional solutions with innovative new media. But over the past couple of years both Curran and Radman have moved on, and there are worrying signs that the PR unit (formerly known as CKPR) is losing its identity and being subsumed by the parent agency.
To be sure, Cramer-Krasselt still has the leadership, capabilities and professional credentials to compete against stand-alone PR firms, but it’s the integrated offering and 360-degree approach that provide its main source of differentiation and competitive advantage: about three-quarters of the firm’s clients draw on the resources of other CK divisions, with expertise in brand planning, design, interactive and media buying, among other disciplines. The agency believes that the elimination of profit centers and other barriers to sharing business will create a genuinely integrated, channel-neutral model.
The firm no longer breaks out PR revenues, so it’s impossible to assess whether there was growth in 2009 (although the overall agency grew by about 2.5 percent). There were new PR-only assignments from clients such as Sobieski Vodka and SCA Global’s Tork Brand, and integrated business from Direct General, Crocs, and GlaxoSmithKline’s Avodart brand, while several advertising clients began to draw on the Cramer-Krasselt PR offering, including Johnsonville Sausage and Mohawk Flooring. Ongoing clients include big names such as AirTran Airways, Briggs & Stratton, Heinz, Kohl’s, InSinkErator, Pyrex, Sealy, University of Phoenix and Whirlpool.
With one month to go before the 2009 Chicago Marathon, the American Cancer Society tapped Cramer-Krasselt for ideas and resources to broaden awareness of its charity runner program. The firm’s solution was an aggressive viral communications campaign that educated online influencers, creating a conversation between the ACS and consumers, both locally in Chicago and nationwide. In Phoenix, meanwhile Cox Communications enlisted C-K to build its presence in Spanish-language media, resulting in a campaign that increased the company’s presence in the Hispanic media by an impressive 77 percent. And the firm continued its award-winning work with AirTran Airways as it became the first major U.S. carrier to equip and offer Wi-Fi access on every plane in its fleet, creating a social media microsite asking Americans what they would want to see on every AirTran flight. During the course of the three-week campaign, more than 230,000 votes were cast and 30,000 suggestions were made, ranging from ”mimes” to ”bunk beds” to ”Clint Eastwood movies.”
”AirTran Airways and Cramer-Krasselt have been strategic partners since 1997,” says Tad Hutcheson, AirTran Airways’ vice president, marketing and sales. “As our business has grown, so has our relationship with C-K,” ”The airline industry changes constantly, so we work with C-K and specifically the PR team to help us stay ahead of the curve, keeping AirTran’s message of low fares and a quality flying experience top of mind with travelers. Whether our airline is introducing Wi-Fi on every flight on the national stage or launching service to new cities locally, we know C-K will help us garner the results we need.”
The agency also made several management changes over the past 12 months, promoting Karen Seamen, general manager of the flagship Chicago office, to chief operating officer; adding expertise in digital, consumer engagement, and planning and on the public relations front hiring Kristina Peterson, who joined C-K in Chicago as vice president and management supervisor from Weber Shandwick.