NEWS: Canning resigns as B-M role disappears

Alison Canning has resigned as chief executive of Burson- Marsteller UK, the country’s fifth largest PR consultancy. She will leave the company on September 30.

Alison Canning has resigned as chief executive of Burson- Marsteller UK,

the country’s fifth largest PR consultancy. She will leave the company

on September 30.



Her decision was prompted by the introduction of B-M’s new practice-led

management structure which takes effect in Europe from October. The new

structure does away with the role of UK chief executive, leaving Canning

without a job.



Burson Marsteller offered her other roles, but Canning turned them down

because she felt none had the same level of responsibility. She also

declined overseas posts because she did not want to move away from

London.



Her decision is a blow to B-M. Canning is considered one of the

brightest prospects of her generation. She grew B-M’s fee income by nine

per cent to pounds 11 million in 1995 and is said to have set it on

course for growth of over 10 per cent in 1996.



From October, her internal management and external marketing

responsibilities will be handled by corporate and financial divisional

MD Paul Philpotts and UK chairman Alan Watson respectively. At the same

time, Watson becomes European chairman.



European CEO Ferry de Bakker said he very much regretted Canning’s

departure. ‘But in the new structure there is no real CEO type of role,’

he said. ‘That is the role that Alison aspires to and it is just not

available.’



De Bakker said the new structure had worked well for B-M in the US,

encouraging the agency to bring forward the change in Europe. But he

admitted it would not come without upheaval. ‘I have told staff to

expect it to be 50 per cent better and 30 per cent worse at the same

time,’ he said.



Canning is stoic. ‘Some casualties are inevitable,’ she said. ‘You

either live by the new structure or you don’t. They tried to find me

another job, but I know what I like doing and what I’m good at, and

that’s not available.’



She has no firm plans, except to ‘hang out for the next good job’ either

in a rival agency, a start-up, an in-house role, or another business

altogether.



She said she fully supported the new structure which uses much the same

principle she adopted in the UK. But she is sceptical about agencies

ignoring geography altogether.



‘The pendulum will swing across and then come back a bit,’ she said.

‘People underestimate the importance of country managers. They are both

ambassadors and the corporate glue in local markets.’



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