IBM set to consolidate global PR agency roster

ARMONK, NY: The first round of the battle for more than dollars 40

million of centralized IBM PR business will end this Friday.



This is when agency credentials are due to be submitted for the

company's three new, streamlined PR divisions, for which between one and

three agencies are expected to scoop the bounty.



Requests for information (RFIs) were sent out six days ago and industry

sources have speculated that close to 100 firms have been contacted.

This is IBM's first step to consolidate its PR agencies from more than

50 firms around the world to barely a handful.



Agencies will eventually pitch to represent one or more of IBM's three

new group divisions: research and technology, product, and customer

contact.



IBM plans to have new firms in place by the end of the summer.



Edward Barbini, VP of corporate PR for IBM, confirmed agency

consolidation is a result of IBM's plan to align its PR efforts with its

three major business areas. Previously, each division at IBM chose its

own firm. The company's in-house PR officers will be similarly realigned

to the three new PR divisions.



'To strengthen our global capabilities, part of the solution is to

consolidate our relationships,' said Barbini. 'But the original goal was

to find a way for IBM to discuss its strategy in a thoughtful way.'



Barbini couldn't be specific about how the review will proceed after

agencies submit information, but confirmed that responses would be sent

by May 25. Jon Iwata, IBM VP of corporate communications, will head the

committee to choose an agency or agencies.



Among other PR firms, IBM currently uses Brodeur World-wide for work in

its software group, global services consulting arm and its personal

systems group. Manning Selvage & Lee works on software business and TSI

Communications Worldwide works on divisions including technology,

products (hardware and software), sales and distribution. Brodeur and

TSI have confirmed to PRWeek that they have received the RFI and plan to

bid for one or more of the new IBM divisions.



John Brodeur, chairman of Brodeur Worldwide, which has an 11-year

domestic and foreign relationship with IBM, said he does not yet know

which part of the IBM business his firm will pitch for.



'We're going through the process and we support IBM's ongoing commitment

to hiring the best agencies,' said Brodeur.



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