ARMONK, NY: The first round of the battle for more than dollars 40
million of centralized IBM PR business will end this Friday.
This is when agency credentials are due to be submitted for the
company's three new, streamlined PR divisions, for which between one and
three agencies are expected to scoop the bounty.
Requests for information (RFIs) were sent out six days ago and industry
sources have speculated that close to 100 firms have been contacted.
This is IBM's first step to consolidate its PR agencies from more than
50 firms around the world to barely a handful.
Agencies will eventually pitch to represent one or more of IBM's three
new group divisions: research and technology, product, and customer
IBM plans to have new firms in place by the end of the summer.
Edward Barbini, VP of corporate PR for IBM, confirmed agency
consolidation is a result of IBM's plan to align its PR efforts with its
three major business areas. Previously, each division at IBM chose its
own firm. The company's in-house PR officers will be similarly realigned
to the three new PR divisions.
'To strengthen our global capabilities, part of the solution is to
consolidate our relationships,' said Barbini. 'But the original goal was
to find a way for IBM to discuss its strategy in a thoughtful way.'
Barbini couldn't be specific about how the review will proceed after
agencies submit information, but confirmed that responses would be sent
by May 25. Jon Iwata, IBM VP of corporate communications, will head the
committee to choose an agency or agencies.
Among other PR firms, IBM currently uses Brodeur World-wide for work in
its software group, global services consulting arm and its personal
systems group. Manning Selvage & Lee works on software business and TSI
Communications Worldwide works on divisions including technology,
products (hardware and software), sales and distribution. Brodeur and
TSI have confirmed to PRWeek that they have received the RFI and plan to
bid for one or more of the new IBM divisions.
John Brodeur, chairman of Brodeur Worldwide, which has an 11-year
domestic and foreign relationship with IBM, said he does not yet know
which part of the IBM business his firm will pitch for.
'We're going through the process and we support IBM's ongoing commitment
to hiring the best agencies,' said Brodeur.