EBay reorganizes its PR structure, focuses on branding

SAN JOSE, CA: As part of its plans to reenergize the brand, eBay is restructuring its communications team and eliminating marketplaces as a stand-alone PR team.

SAN JOSE, CA: As part of its strategy to reenergize the brand, eBay is restructuring its communications team and eliminating marketplaces as a stand-alone PR team.

Alan Marks, SVP of corporate communications at eBay, told PRWeek the company's marketplaces communications division is being folded into corporate PR. Marks recently brought on John Pluhowski, former SVP of corporate communications at AIG, to be his second-in-command to oversee this newly integrated division.

Earlier this month Melinda McMullen, VP of global communications for eBay marketplaces, left the company in a “mutual decision,” according to Marks. PRWeek was not able to reach McMullen for comment.

“There was so much overlap between the eBay brand and corporate communications this made sense,” Marks said. Also as part of this restructuring, eBay is focusing on hiring for more manager and director-level positions, rather than bringing additional VPs to the team, he added.

When asked whether the restructuring is related to costs, Marks said budget was not a factor.

"[It is] all related to optimizing communications' [organizational] structure and aligning to business model," he noted. "We're investing in the function and hiring across the team."

After a series of PR departures, the company's current openings include senior director or manager level openings in corporate, consumer, employee, and seller communications. In addition to McMullen's departure, eBay's director of communications Jose Mallabo, senior manager for marketplaces PR Wendy Sept, and director of employee communications Catherine Roberts have left since April.

Marks is also considering spreading its US PR team out, so it isn't completely centered on San Jose, CA. It would likely include placing a senior consumer PR manager in New York. The global communications team is already implementing “global centers of excellence” – a system that appoints global strategic leads rather than regional ones.

“If for example, we have the best social media team in London they'll be the global lead,” Marks explained. "We're shifting the center of gravity from just San Jose."

Its structural changes are part of eBay's strategy to move its brand association away from being “an online auction” to being known as an online marketplace with multiple options for buyers and sellers, in which the auctions will be just one component.

“Fixed price sales constitute about 50% of our sales right now, but we expect this number to grow,” Marks said. EBay plans to work closely with its marketing team on campaigns to ensure this message is consistent with its overall brand.

These changes come after a series of transitions the company has underwent since Marks joined in 2008. Earlier this year, eBay consolidated its corporate and marketplace PR agencies under Edelman. It continues to work with Voce Communications on some social media projects. Last October about 14% of the communications team was cut as part of company-wide cutbacks, Marks noted.

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