Sonesta spins its PR staff into a separate subsidiary

MIAMI: In an attempt to profit from the talents of its PR staff, Sonesta Hotels has spun off its corporate communications department into a wholly-owned subsidiary, PR By Design, headed by cor-porate director of public relations Deborah Roker.

MIAMI: In an attempt to profit from the talents of its PR staff, Sonesta Hotels has spun off its corporate communications department into a wholly-owned subsidiary, PR By Design, headed by cor-porate director of public relations Deborah Roker.

Roker, who will also serve as president of Miami-based PR By Design, told PRWeek that the idea came to her in March when Boston-based Sonesta was faced with losing one of the four beach resorts it manages and handles public relations for but does not own.

'A fifth to a quarter of our income might be gone, so I talked to (chairman and CEO) Roger Sonnabend and (president) Stephanie (Sonnabend) and they said if it didn't compete with Sonesta, why not?' Roker said.

PR By Design joins a family of Sonesta subsidiaries such as Training By Design, an employee-training unit created in 1984. 'Deborah was looking at how she could enhance (Training By Design) with some of the work she had already been doing in crisis communications,' Stephanie Sonnabend said. 'This is outside the norm - I don't know about this happening in the public relations field.'

With a staff of four, PR By Design will offer public relations training in crisis management, consulting and spec-ial project work. Training programs will include Effective Crisis Communica-tions, developed by Roker in 1995.

'With crisis management, I have a strong belief that companies must respond and be open,' she said. 'There needs to be a plan in place, and training - that's what saves a company. It's all about reputation management.'.

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