NetApp retains Porter as it consolidates agency roster

SUNNYVALE, CA: NetApp, a data management, delivery, and storage company, is consolidating its global agency roster of 17 firms.

SUNNYVALE, CA: NetApp, a data management, delivery, and storage company, is consolidating its global agency roster of 17 firms.

The revised lineup will be comprised of one agency for each of three geographical regions: the Americas, EMEA, and Asia-Pacific. It will also include one Washington-based firm to handle the US public sector and an agency to assist the company with broader communication and coordination. Porter Novelli will manage the Americas region and coordinate strategy and messaging with the other regional firms.

“The best of breed model worked really well for us for a long time, but as the business needs changed and the company really started to grow, we just felt that at this point, after reviewing this for the past year, we needed a different infrastructure,” said Jodi Baumann, senior director of corporate communications at NetApp. She added that the company is not dissatisfied with any of its current agencies.

Voce Communications served as NetApp's North American agency for the past 11-years until it was acquired by Porter in February.

At that point, NetApp was determining its new communications strategy. The company spent about eight months meeting with Porter to determine how the firm could best serve the company's needs.

“We were really trying to vet them to see if they would be a good firm for the global agency,” said Baumann. “If they weren't, we were going to RFP that.”

NetApp hired Porter for the global agency role earlier this month, when it also began to notify its other firms that it planned to move to a new model.

A Porter representative confirmed the agency's roles, but deferred further comment to the client.

NetApp also issued separate RFIs for the APAC and EMEA regional accounts to 22 agencies. Submissions are due January 5. The company declined to specify interested firms or the accounts' budgets.

“Quite frankly, the same firm could win both of those [geographic assignments],” Baumann said. “We put it out as two separate RFIs. I suspect that some agencies we put it out to will bid for both parts of the business.”

NetApp plans to narrow the search processes to five or six firms in each region and issue RFPs on January 16, Baumann said. Pitches for APAC and EMEA will take place the weeks of February 13 and February 20, respectively.

NetApp hopes to make a decision on each of those accounts by March 1, with the selected agencies beginning work at the May 1 start of NetApp's fiscal year. Its current regional firms will remain in place through the end of their contracts on April 30.

The vast majority of NetApp's current firms will not participate in the review processes because of their boutique size, which makes them too small to pitch a geographical account, explained Baumann.

For both regions, the company is looking for a full-service communications firm that can handle PR, social media, internal communications, executive communications, media training, crisis communications, geo-level strategy planning and execution, day-to-day execution, customer reference development, and case-study work.  

“Our goal is to try and find a large, branded firm for EMEA and APAC versus an agency partner network," Baumann added. "We're really looking for a firm that has branded teams in the countries that we are supporting as a business.”

NetApp wants firms to help it raise awareness at a regional and global level, rather than within specific countries, which is what had occurred with the company's current agency lineup.

“It's really about how do we better align NetApp headquarters, our geographies, and, of course, the in-country marketing and communications team, so there is more consistency,” explained Baumann.

NetApp did not previously have a firm specifically handling its US public sector business. The agency search for that account, which is on an accelerated timeline, is in its final stages. The company sent an RFI to 16 firms, including a mix of smaller specialized shops and global agencies with public-sector arms.

For that account, NetApp is seeking an agency to implement a full-service PR program for its public sector business, which includes federal government work and NetApp's state and local government and education businesses, Baumann explained.

As many as five agencies will pitch for that account next week in Washington, with the winning firm announced in January. NetApp declined to name the firms participating in the pitch or the account's budget.

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