Martha Depenbrock, a P&G spokesperson in the brand building organization, wrote in an e-mail to PRWeek that the company does not “comment on specific future plans,” but there will be no changes to the PR strategy.
“Our strategy regarding agency relationships remains unchanged,” she said. “Strong agency relationships are key to achieving our near- and long-term sustainable business goals and this is true of all of our agencies, including PR.”Depenbrock confirmed that P&G's agencies are MS&L, Porter Novelli, DeVries PR, Paine PR, Marina Maher Communications. The agencies all declined to comment on the leadership change.
Steve Boehler, founder of Mercer Island Group, spent 10 years with P&G and worked with both Lafley and McDonald during his tenure. Boehler foresees that the leadership change will have limited impact companywide as both men have a shared business philosophy.
“This is a company that throughout its history has taken a very long-term perspective on agency relationships and partnering closely with its agencies,” he said. “Both men are very results-focused and base their decisions on facts, so important areas that are showing good results will continue to be funded.”
However, in recent years change has been plentiful at P&G. In February 2007, the company reduced the number of PR agencies that it worked with from nine to five. And in July 2008, the company announced that global marketing officer James Stengel would retire and then-president Marc Pritchard would step in. (On July 1, brand functions will be integrated on the corporate level and Pritchard will have PR oversight.)
And the company has also been using a brand agency leader (BAL) model, “where one person is chosen from an existing agency to lead the brand or category's various agency teams in building integrated, holistic brand messages and communications,” wrote Depenbrock. None of the brand or category leaders are from a PR firm, but she writes that there is “nothing about the model that precludes it.”
A PR executive who is knowledgeable of P&G's PR strategies said the firms should be concerned about further consolidation under the BAL model and a greater shift to digital.
“The growing strategic space is digital and, on a level playing field where the different disciplines are represented, the interactive agencies are in a better position,” said the source. “More and more brand leadership will move to the interactive space.”
Depenbrock wrote that while digital is a priority for the company, it's not the only one.
“We follow the consumer – where are consumers are, we want to be with engaging messages about our brands,” she wrote.