AUSTIN, TX: Edelman has performed a hat trick of changes by hiring Thomas Graham away from SWG&M Advertising: It reentered the Austin market, added public affairs capability, and gained major PR clients.
Graham went on Edelman's payroll as Texas VP of public affairs, and expects to soon hire another three or four people. Edelman previously lacked public affairs muscle in Texas, and may use Graham's expertise to beef up state-level practices elsewhere, said James Florez, Edelman's Texas GM.
"This really is not about establishing a presence in Austin; it's really more about acquiring a new capability for our competitive mix, Florez said, stressing that the office will be a full-service PR shop. "We will be looking to do mainline PR work out of Austin as well."
Among the work Graham brings with him is the public outreach contract for State Highway 130, a 90-mile Austin bypass planned to relieve I-35 congestion. Lone Star Infrastructure, a 19-company consortium of which SWG&M was a member, won a $1 billion-plus contract to build the road.
The public outreach effort is believed to be worth $2 million over six years, including functions not handled by Edelman, such as working with those affected by right-of-way acquisition.
Graham began working with consortium sponsors before merging his Graham & Associates PR firm with SWG&M in 2000, so the contract transfers to Edelman. SWG&M will still handle creative work and other highway-related projects.
Edelman's move marks a return to the state capital's roots, where public affairs ruled long before Austin became technohip. Last year, the agency closed an Austin office it acquired in 1998 with the purchase of GTT Communications, a pioneering tech PR firm. "Our Austin practice at the time was 100% technology, Florez said. "It rode high for several years, and got hit pretty hard. GTT cofounder Miller Bonner has since left Edelman, and he and former partner John Pope formed a new tech agency, Alliant Public Relations, which has offices in Austin and New York.