HP moves past Fiorina era with new PR appointment

PALO ALTO, CA: Hewlett-Packard took another step toward moving beyond a tumultuous management shake-up last week by officially advancing Robert Sherbin to VP of external communications.

PALO ALTO, CA: Hewlett-Packard took another step toward moving beyond a tumultuous management shake-up last week by officially advancing Robert Sherbin to VP of external communications.

Sherbin, who joined HP in October as VP of corporate media relations, has led the communications team on an interim basis since Pam Wickham, VP of corporate communications, left just three months after she took the job to take a similar post at Raytheon.

Wickham was one of two high-level marketing departures following the very public ouster of CEO Carly Fiorina. The other was SVP of marketing Allison Johnson, who left to join Apple as VP of worldwide marketing communications.

HP's key challenge is restoring the luster to the company's image and reputation in light of the management upheaval and increasing competition. It must also reassure everyone, from investors to customers, that new CEO Mark Hurd is moving the company in the right direction.

Because communications will be an essential component of meeting that challenge, Sherbin says he wants to focus on better coordinating the different pieces of external PR - particularly media relations, analyst relations, and executive communications - which have not been as integrated as needed "in the absence of a permanent leader," Sherbin said via e-mail.

"From a corporate perspective, we're most interested in the short term in sharpening our execution," he wrote.

Last year, HP realigned its communications structure around audience segments, but has now shifted back to being aligned around business units.

Beyond the centralized corporate function, HP is in the process of re-establishing PR and other marketing activities so they are tied directly to the business.

"But that doesn't mean we're no longer looking at [audience] segments," he added.

Sherbin takes the reins as HP's agency relationships near their three-year mark. In late 2002, HP consolidated its global PR with Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton, and Porter Novelli. As for whether those contracts will be renewed, or whether HP will conduct an agency review, "we are in the midst of reviewing this very subject," said Sherbin, the fourth communications leader since that consolidation.

Sherbin, who will report to CMO Cathy Lyons, will oversee media and analyst relations, executive communications, corporate messaging, and all other external communications.

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