EDITORIAL: A new era for PR is now upon us

The Weber Shandwick/BSMG merger welcomes in a new era for the

public relations industry. Imagine a firm with more than half a billion

dollars in revenue. It would have been unthinkable even ten years ago.

Today, it's reality. And in this new reality, WSW has distanced itself

by some margin from its nearest rivals, Fleishman Hillard, Hill &

Knowlton, and Burson-Marsteller.

But it's not the size that makes this a new era. It's the sheer scope of

the combined operations, and the daring of the vision that underscores

it. Larry Weber has had his critics. But while PRWeek has criticized

some of the style and execution, the concept of providing clients with

true global coverage and strength in depth across a multitude of PR

disciplines is compelling, mirroring the development of global

accounting, legal, and management consulting firms.

Now, with the BSMG merger, WSW has filled in a number of missing pieces

from the global and operational jigsaw, giving an underdeveloped vision

a greater sense of fruitfulness and viability.

Is the new, improved Weber Shandwick going to be the solution for every

client? No. Are there a lot of truly global agency accounts? No. But as

the RFP at IBM illustrates, there are moves afoot at Fortune 200

companies to consolidate PR, following in the footsteps of other

marketing services like advertising and direct marketing (as well as

legal and accounting services). And the sums of money we're talking

about are big enough to keep Weber Shandwick executives happy.

It will be interesting to see how long it is before other PR agencies

react to this move. Ironically, the idea of a PR superpower was mooted

by John Wren at Omnicom four years ago, when he proposed a merger

between Fleishman Hillard and Porter Novelli. The suggestion was met

with howls of protest in impassioned defense of incompatible "cultures."

The new Weber Shandwick, on the other hand, promises a new style of

culture that celebrates diversity over homogeneity, while putting

greater emphasis on collaboration and entrepreneurship. It's a brave new

world we are entering here for public relations agencies. Welcome to the

new era.

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