INTERNATIONAL NEWS: Burson tapped by Miller after commsconsolidation

MILWAUKEE: Miller Brewing has decided to consolidate its $1 million-a-year PR activities with Burson-Marsteller.

MILWAUKEE: Miller Brewing has decided to consolidate its $1 million-a-year PR activities with Burson-Marsteller.

The country's second-largest brewer had used a variety of agencies - including Ketchum and Weber Shandwick World-wide - in the past, said Mike Hennick, director of communications.

Miller reorganized its communications team at the end of last year, bringing together what had been corporate, marketing, and internal communications into one group. No layoffs were involved in the change, Hennick explained.

With that done, the company also decided to consolidate PR that had been handled for those once-separate communications areas. An RFP went out last year, and Ketchum, WSW, and Burson all went after the consolidated business.

Ketchum continues to work on some marketing communications projects, but will likely be phased out of Miller's plans as those projects wind down, Hennick said.

The biggest PR issue for Miller recently has been the persistent rumor that it's about to be sold to South African Breweries, which owns such beers as the Czech-made Pilsner Urquell. Stories about the possible takeover have focused on Miller's market troubles and poor advertising in recent years.

Hennick said the takeover talk isn't impacting his communications department.

"It's in the news, and that has certainly been a point of interest for the media.

But it hasn't affected us; there's nothing we can say about it,

he said.

Miller's communications efforts are focusing on a concert tour called Rellim (Miller spelled backwards) that will visit 19 US markets this spring and summer.

Concert tours are a staple of beer and alcohol PR. Miller is trying to put a twist on this practice by using small venues and setting up the audience area to resemble backstage, so concertgoers feel like they're behind the scenes, Hennick said.

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