Black alliance fights invasion of big guns

NEW YORK: Aiming to compete with agencies 'invading' black PR territory with their newly-formed diversity marketing practices, a consortium of 10 firms last Wednesday launched the African American Public Relations Alliance.

NEW YORK: Aiming to compete with agencies 'invading' black PR territory with their newly-formed diversity marketing practices, a consortium of 10 firms last Wednesday launched the African American Public Relations Alliance.

'If you don't know us, you can't get the message to us,' boomed Rev. Al Sharpton as he welcomed its formation.

The alliance is designed to win more work for its member firms and increase the volume of business in the black community as a whole.

The 10 charter agencies already signed up to the organization are Walls Communications in Washington DC; Tobin & Associates in Los Angeles; Flowers Communications in Chicago; Crawley Haskins & Rogers in Philadelphia; Anderson Communications in Atlanta; Campbell & Company in Alexandria; Circulation Experti in New York; The Terrie Williams Agency in New York; and Trust Marketing & Communications in Memphis.

The Alliance estimates that its members have combined PR income of more than dollars 16.8 million as well as a total of 112 employees. The agency principals involved claim a total of 300 years experience among them.

'According to PRWeek's numbers, collectively we'll be three times bigger than the top-ranked ethnic marketing firm,' said Flowers Communications chief Michelle Flowers. 'And we'll have warm bodies on the ground in 10 of the top 15 African-American markets. We have all proved we can move the needle when it comes to shifting product.'

At the Alliance's introduction, several speakers focused on the big agencies that have recently created or grown their diversity marketing practices.

Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said these shops are a sham.

'They set up a practice group and put someone in charge who looks like us, then they say "We're doing this,"' he said. 'But I say that if it acts like a show and looks like a show, it probably is a show.'

On the same subject, Bruce Crawley of Crawley Haskins & Rogers added, 'We won't spend a lot of time putting together how-to manuals?the PRSA is already there to do that. But we do want to increase business and provide an advantage to members who are having to compete with these generalist agencies that have suddenly invaded our business.'

Questioned about the effectiveness of these 'alliance' groups, Crawley responded, 'The problem faced by the generalist networks of PR firms is that they don't necessarily have an exclusive offering. We have that unique selling point?no other PR firm can offer what we offer.'

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