Arun Sudhaman 05 May 2011 // 11:00PM GMT
LONDON: Fenton Communications, the largest public interest PR firm in the US, has revealed plans to launch in the UK within the next 12 months.
The move is part of Fenton’s plan to grow a more concerted global footprint, given the international nature of many of the issues on which it works, and its ability to help foreign organisations make themselves heard in the US.
Fenton chief strategy officer Lisa Witter also pointed out that the rollback of the British state meant greater responsibility for non-profits and philanthropists - areas in which Fenton specialises.
“Because the issues we care about are global, we need to have more global intelligence,” said Witter, pointing to such areas as health, the environment, women and economic reform. “So our first stop is to open an office an London.”
The firm spent this week meeting with potential employees and partners in London, ahead of a launch within the next 12 months.
“We don’t pretend to know the British market,” explained Witter. “But we know the culture and politics of the US, so we’d like to be a bridge back to the US.”
“The other reason is that as the UK goes through these big changes in terms of how government delivers services, there are interesting conversations about the role of philanthropy,” she added. “We’ve been working with the philanthropic sector for a long time. And we’ve spent the last 30 years engaging the public in campaigns.”
Fenton was founded by progressive PR guru David Fenton in 1982 as a firm dedicated to advancing the public interest by only working on causes it believed in. The firm has worked on such issues as apartheid, global warming, food safety, nuclear power, sustainable fishing and liquor advertising.
Clients include liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org, the American Lung Association, Malaria No More and Americans for Financial Reform.
In recent years, the firm has broadened its offering to include a more active corporate CSR practice, led by SVP Susan McPherson in New York.
Witter noted that Fenton’s US experience could prove useful as Europe struggles with cuts in public sector spending. “Because government doesn’t take care of everything in the US, we’ve had to have a very active political and non-profit sector. I think that hasn’t been as robust in parts of Europe, because the government has done it. We really want to bring that campaign engagement model here.”
Fenton hit the headlines last year for its work on behalf of a Qatari group determined to break the Gaza blockade in Israel. The firm later resigned the account.
“While we do have a progressive angle, it’s really mainstream - just good causes.” said Witter. “I’d say 95 percent of our work is stuff that everyone agrees with.”
Fenton currently counts around 70 staffers working in New York, Washington DC and Los Angeles.