What makes a global account?

Julia Hood finds global PR relationships must be built over time, not overnight.

Julia Hood finds global PR relationships must be built over time, not overnight.

Global accounts are top of mind these days, especially with the recent consolidation of HP's business. There are also continuing signs that more companies, even those not yet internationally focused, are looking for the capabilities from agencies to take on that brief as their needs change. Typically, there is a lot of talk surrounding a big consolidating review about what type and size of agency is best equipped to handle global business: large, multinational agencies, with a common culture and offices around the world; independent agency networks, fostering an entrepreneurial spirit with global reach; or small agencies, with the flexibility and senior-level involvement in accounts to meet international needs. But the debate can be a distraction from the important question. Namely, what does it take to truly execute a global account, and what do global accounts look like from inside the company, and inside the agency? Global PR evolution When you start drilling down into some of the multiregional relationships out there, what becomes clear is that most of these accounts are made, not born. It takes time for clients to gain trust and confidence in their agencies before they will let them loose in the global candy store. Equally, agencies must assess the corporate structure of clients, to develop relationships with company contacts in local markets, and to enact their own model for servicing the business. Agilent Technologies is another company that recently consolidated its PR business, and the organization's selection of Weber Shandwick Worldwide is, in some ways, a reflection of the kind of relationship development that goes on. WSW had been working with Agilent for several years on a project basis, primarily in the US, but also on some international programs. To a certain extent, WSW was auditioning for its new lead role as AOR during that time. "It's a smart approach, and the one I have seen work most effectively," says Casey Sheldon, president, WSW Northwest, and global director of the Agilent team. She was speaking generally about the practice of developing and growing PR teams into broader international roles. "Sometimes, clients that aspire to be global, but aren't there yet, want to throw the global switch overnight. They're setting themselves up for problems." Sheldon adds that a lot of organizational change needs to take place in a company in preparation for going global, including everything from developing global priorities and messaging, to the sheer logistics of dealing in multiple regions. "Companies that do it in more of an evolutionary way will find those changes can happen more easily and comfortably, and in a natural time frame." Michele Drake, corporate PR manager for Agilent, says WSW's brief will be a combination of strategic and program implementation. "Each Agilent business has its own PR support needs and manages its own WSW program separately," she says. Corporate concerns Drake adds the biggest concern about bringing in a PR agency for international work is one that will be familiar to many companies - that of the firm's ability to truly integrate teams globally, and remain cost-effective. Creating a sense of unity and alignment is also a top priority on the corporate side. At JD Edwards, an enterprise software company, the job of doing precisely that belongs to Victor Chayet, director of corporate communications. "I have restructured my team here in Denver at the corporate level, so that they each have a geographic responsibility, as well as a local corporate responsibility," Chayet explains. "Their job is to be a conduit of information and to advocate at corporate headquarters, and to provide me with greater visibility around the world." The corporate staffing arrangement lines up with the geographic arrangement of Fleishman-Hillard, its agency of record. The Hoffman Agency was brought on as AOR of CommWorks just as the company spun off as a separate entity from parent 3Com. From the beginning the firm was involved in helping the company set down its global strategy, right through to the implementation phase. Agencies not only have to coordinate this way with the clients, but often with other local firms that will continue to work with the company regionally. MS&L works with Western Union in 32 countries and works with other firms in several locations. "We are not arrogant enough to just walk in and demand PR in every country," says Tim Fordham-Moss, worldwide account director and MS&L's European consumer head. "We have to earn that." Sometimes the agency involvement is less tactical locally, and geared to a more high-level overview. Novartis Oncology works principally with Ruder Finn as its AOR, "to craft global programs from a strategic and execution perspective," explains Gloria Stone, Novartis Oncology's director of global PR. "However, on a local level, companies will implement the programs that meet their needs in that country," Stone adds. Sometimes Ruder Finn is the local agency working in the country, and sometimes it is not, but their involvement locally depends on whether or not the local Novartis representative wants their interaction. "What is important is that Ruder Finn is there to provide global messaging, information, and access to support local outreach efforts." Experience goes a long way Knowledge and experience in the client's industry is no less important on an international scale than it is for US-centric accounts, and it has to be evident across the regions. Ketchum's global reach helped them with the Kodak Imaging account a year ago. But that was not the only consideration. "What made Ketchum the right fit for us was that they demonstrated to us a better consumer insight than any of the other agencies we were talking to at the time," explains Charles Smith, director of worldwide PR and VP for the Kodak Imaging. "The people in Europe are every bit the experts in the consumer area as their counterparts in Chicago or any of the American markets that work on the business." ---------- Five truly global accounts Client Agilent Technologies Agency Weber Shandwick Worldwide After working on a project basis with Agilent for a few years, WSW took the global account last month, working in the US, Europe, and Asia-Pacific on test and measurement business, semiconductor products business, corporate, and Agilent Laboratories. Local firms still work in some markets. Account managers in the regions report to Casey Sheldon, global team director. WSW also employs a client relationship leader, accountable for maintaining consistent quality and strategy. "We expect WSW to integrate the work of their respective teams across regions," says Michele Drake, Agilent's corporate PR manager. "And, wherever applicable, to work effectively with non-WSW agencies." Client CommWorks Agency The Hoffman Agency CommWorks was spun off from 3Com in December 2000, at the same time it consolidated its global PR business with Hoffman. The firm's "one-point-of-contact" model proved a winner, offering one strategic contact managing the account and pulling in resources as required. Hoffman has offices in Europe, Asia, and North America, and works with Burson-Marsteller and Ogilvy on CommWorks business in some areas. Kevin Petschow, CommWorks' senior analyst relations and PR manager, is a fan of the firm's midsize as he feels it prompts better communications than larger firms. "I can honestly say that people in Hoffman's offices communicate with each other, and their footprint matches ours." Client JD Edwards Agency Fleishman-Hillard Fleishman won JD Edwards' US business in November 2000, and focused mainly on media relations and corporate work at that time. That brief has grown as the company has looked to better align its efforts. Six people work on the corporate team in the US, and marketing managers the world over handle PR, and other marketing tasks. Along with Fleishman, the company retains about 15 firms globally, and dialogue is the key. "Managing a global comms program is like managing a single media contact," says Victor Chayet, JD Edwards' corporate communications director. "It takes trust, responsiveness, respect for deadlines, and understanding that without two-way communications, nobody wins." Client Kodak Agency Ketchum Ketchum recently celebrated its one-year anniversary as Kodak's global AOR for the consumer imaging business. Kodak has six regional directors dedicated in key markets, coordinating PR and some other marketing communications activities. The agency selection was the culmination of a competitive assessment of Kodak's global PR structure, which began in 2000 the naming of Charles Smith as the company's first global PR director. At first, the account was more strategic than tactical. Now, a year on, Ketchum is working in many markets, and developing global strategy. "The first year's focus was getting the worldwide program running," Smith explains. "The focus now is on category growth." Client Gleevec, Novartis Oncology Agency Ruder Finn Ruder Finn has worked with Novartis since 1999, prior to the FDA's approval of Gleevec. The account, which is run by Eve Gallaudet, Ruder Finn SVP, is managed from New York, and is executed through the firm's offices in Singapore, London, and Paris. The company's internal teams report regionally, but interact frequently. The main goal for both the corporate and the agency functions is to support local efforts with global counsel and information. In effect, the company's regional offices are the client, with both the corporate and agency teams working together to service them. "The biggest challenging is ensuring that you provide a value to the countries," says Gloria Stone, global PR director.

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