Editorial: PR ready for age of mega-mergers

’The death of old media’ was the way The Wall Street Journal spun last week’s astonishing news that America Online had agreed to buy entertainment and media titan Time Warner for dollars 156 billion in stock. Indeed, even in the current climate of merger-mania, this one sent jaws dropping to the floor, especially when its central implication - a company that didn’t exist in its current incarnation until 1991 has gulped down two of the most established names in American media with nary a hiccup - sank in.

’The death of old media’ was the way The Wall Street Journal spun last week’s astonishing news that America Online had agreed to buy entertainment and media titan Time Warner for dollars 156 billion in stock. Indeed, even in the current climate of merger-mania, this one sent jaws dropping to the floor, especially when its central implication - a company that didn’t exist in its current incarnation until 1991 has gulped down two of the most established names in American media with nary a hiccup - sank in.

’The death of old media’ was the way The Wall Street Journal spun

last week’s astonishing news that America Online had agreed to buy

entertainment and media titan Time Warner for dollars 156 billion in

stock. Indeed, even in the current climate of merger-mania, this one

sent jaws dropping to the floor, especially when its central implication

- a company that didn’t exist in its current incarnation until 1991 has

gulped down two of the most established names in American media with

nary a hiccup - sank in.



As for the PR industry, the deal once again validates the emphasis put

on hi-tech by the profession over the last decade. Few industries and

companies (including ostensibly forward-looking media conglomerates like

Time Warner, perceived as Internet dunces since the Pathfinder failure)

have been as quick to hitch their wagons to the Internet. Should the

Journal’s prediction that new-media hotshots will rule the future of

commerce and entertainment come to pass, PR is prepared.



Too, the existence of a behemoth like AOL Time Warner opens up an

enormous range of possibilities for communicators savvy enough to play

the news to their advantage. Microsoft, which has been grounded in

antitrust detention hall as the CBS/Viacom and AOL/Time Warner deals

went down, might choose to point its finger at the new, bigger kids on

the block and say, ’See, we’re not so darn huge after all.’ Other pros

might look toward the future and attempt to position themselves for the

next mega-deal (smart money is on a Disney and Yahoo! engagement within

the next six months).



In any event, it’s a whole new world. And it says a lot about the vision

of the PR profession that it is ready to make a seamless transition.



Hi-tech PR pros revel in spotlight



It wasn’t too long ago that the only people who cared to know the name

of the PR chiefs at Microsoft or Cisco were reporters at nerdy tech

trade publications like PC Week or InfoWorld. Now, Mich Mathews and

Lorene Arey are on the speed-dials of everyone from Time magazine to the

Today show.



As our feature on who’s who in corporate hi-tech (p. 20) shows, the

internal PR departments at companies from IBM to Women.com are

successfully transforming their firms from stodgy outfits with arcane

products into sexy, consumer-focused brands.



PR has always been more highly valued in the hi-tech world than in most

other industries, so can it be pure coincidence that this country is now

completely gaga over anything.com? Cisco Systems president and CEO John

Chambers keeps Arey and her PR team huddled closely around his office

(see analysis, p. 13), a perfect example of the primacy of PR at the

company.



Given the expanding range of duties performed by corporate PR managers

at hi-tech start-ups and that the majority of those profiled in our

feature are women, it probably won’t be long before female hi-tech CEOs

become de rigueur rather than headline news. And you heard it here first

- many of these future CEOs will have cut their corporate teeth in the

communications department.



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