PALO ALTO, CA: In the largest communications consolidation since IBM's mammoth pitch last May, Hewlett-Packard is planning to streamline its numerous global PR firms down to three or five by November 1.The HP-Compaq merger brought more than 50 PR firms around the world to the new HP. The company issued an RFI last week to about a dozen "top industry PR firms, said Tim Marklein, HP's new director of corporate media relations, who late last month joined from Applied Communications - one of HP's agencies. "Our goal is to build the quality, consistency, and competitiveness of HP's communications. We really need an agency model that best supports that. There are currently too many agencies worldwide to have a coordinated and focused communications effort." Prior to the merger, HP was served by Applied Communications on the corporate and product side, with The Hoffman Agency, Porter Novelli, Weber Shandwick Worldwide, and Golin/Harris International providing PR for various business units. Hill & Knowlton and Blanc & Otus worked with Compaq. "The model we want to get to is having three to five international agencies that have a good combination of consumer and enterprise technology expertise, as well as breadth of services for corporate and product PR. We don't believe there is a single agency that can provide breadth and depth across all geographies, Marklein continued. HP will meet with agencies that reply to the RFI, and then will issue an RFP. After final presentations, HP will make a decision by early October, so that the "new agency model is running by the start of the new fiscal year, November 1. The new agencies will provide corporate communications, as well as PR for four business units: imaging and printing, personal systems group, enterprise systems group, and HP services. Marklein left Applied Communications as an SVP and partner, and started at HP July 22. "It's really a special opportunity to work for an industry icon, said Marklein. "The new HP will be able to set the industry agenda. That's what I love to be a part of." Marklein led the research team at Applied, contributed to agency management, and ran many accounts - including HP - for the past two years. "Tim was a star player here, said Applied founder and CEO Alan Kelly. "He has developed into a formidable person in our industry. I was quite prepared to move forward and grow with Tim. But frankly, it's tough to begrudge his decision. I treasure him. I think Tim will be a fantastic client. In part, he's an architect to our fairly differentiated approach. HP came to us two years ago, and their nabbing Tim is the oddest form of flattery." Applied has a handful of people ready to step in for Marklein, said Kelly, touting the "caliber of our talent. A few have taken on Marklein's work already, and the firm is evaluating how to replace Marklein as head of Applied's research team.