Weber Shandwick, Cohn & Wolfe, The Braben Company and Camron PR have been approached by Waterstone’s, with pitches expected to take place in February.
Harrison Cowley, which has represented Waterstone’s for almost two years (PRWeek, 22 March 2002), ceased to work on the account last month.
HC chief executive Paul Kelly said: ‘Waterstone’s is a great brand… but we were consistently being expected to over-service on the account and we can’t justify that’.
It is understood that HC’s fees for the contract were around £85,000 and that Waterstone’s external PR spend is likely to be similar during the year ahead.
But Waterstone’s PR manager Jo Marino said the hired agency would work on ‘focused projects’ and not an ongoing retainer, as was the case with HC.
Marino, who worked at HC as associate director before joining Waterstone’s six months ago (PRWeek, 25 July 2003), said: ‘The HC team were great, but we want added creative value, a business passionate at all levels’.
Marino said the new agency would ‘provide creative ideas’ and act as an extension to her press office during busy periods, such as the summer holiday season.
Waterstone’s sales were boosted last summer by the latest Harry Potter book – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – and Marino conceded: ‘There is nothing of this magnitude [in respect of sales] expected this year.’
Specific Waterstone’s PR campaigns will promote the opening of a new flagship store on London’s Oxford Street this autumn, in addition to PR work for the competitive Christmas period.
Marino said she expected the hired agency to create ‘feature programmes’ that would ‘add value’.
Last week, Waterstone’s hired Inga McVicar as PR executive. She moved from a role as marketing and PR co-ordinator for Scotland, Ireland and the North-East.
Waterstone’s continues to retain Brunswick for financial PR.