EDITORIAL: B-M’s borderline strategy rethink

Burson-Marsteller’s decision to reinstate country managers just four years after restructuring its former UK head Alison Canning out of the picture, is likely to prompt some cries of ’I told you so’ in certain quarters of the industry.

Burson-Marsteller’s decision to reinstate country managers just

four years after restructuring its former UK head Alison Canning out of

the picture, is likely to prompt some cries of ’I told you so’ in

certain quarters of the industry.



It was in 1996, that B-M consolidated its practice-led structure to the

extent of relocating profit and loss responsibility away from geographic

offices giving it to practice leaders across Europe. The example of

practice-led structures soon filtered through the industry, but even

those companies such as Ketchum and Ogilvy PR Worldwide which followed

suit were sceptical of the wisdom of dispensing with geographic profit

centres.



There is a logical link between product and people development and P&L

management - a crucial factor in an industry where people are the major

asset. And, let’s face it, no matter how good the technological

infrastructure of a company, it is tough for a manager on the Continent

to convey a hands-on approach to staff sitting in London. Canning voiced

this concern at the time in PR Week and predicted that the pendulum

might well ’swing back a bit’. And so it has.



B-M denies that the move is a reversal of its previous policy and says

the increase in its practice offering from five to 11 means that its

client-facing staff would be better placed concentrating on pure PR,

leaving country managers to handle the administration of the

business.



What is clear is that for all the emphasis on globalisation in the

industry, at a European and financial level at least, the geographic

model is one that is likely to continue to form the framework for PR for

some time to come.



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