Comment: Editorial - Bully pulpit or just pit bull attitude?

Larry Weber is a larger-than-life character. A former nightclub bouncer who used a small hi-tech agency in Cambridge, MA as a springboard to the big time, he has never made a secret of his desire to run the largest PR agency in the world. And as the architect of last month's merger of Weber and Shandwick, he even gets to keep his name on the letterhead.

Larry Weber is a larger-than-life character. A former nightclub bouncer who used a small hi-tech agency in Cambridge, MA as a springboard to the big time, he has never made a secret of his desire to run the largest PR agency in the world. And as the architect of last month's merger of Weber and Shandwick, he even gets to keep his name on the letterhead.

Larry Weber is a larger-than-life character. A former nightclub bouncer who used a small hi-tech agency in Cambridge, MA as a springboard to the big time, he has never made a secret of his desire to run the largest PR agency in the world. And as the architect of last month's merger of Weber and Shandwick, he even gets to keep his name on the letterhead.

Weber is unashamed about the importance of being the biggest agency.

And he doesn't just want to be No.1 in the world, he wants to be No.1 in hi-tech, healthcare, financial services, entertainment/lifestyle, public affairs - the same five practices that Shandwick's Scott Meyer named 18 months ago as part of his 1,000-day strategy to become, er, the largest PR agency in the world.

The key, to Weber, is that as the largest agency, he believes Weber Shandwick earns the right to be 'the bully pulpit to set the industry agenda.'

The question is, will this fighting talk come across more as pit bull than bully pulpit? Does anyone like a bully, anyway?

Weber dismisses small details like office mergers almost with contempt.

But in dealing with a merger of this size, it will require tact and attention to detail, as well as big ideas. And if, as Weber predicts in his big vision, PR needs experts in oncology rather than just healthcare, semiconductors rather than just hi-tech, how come Firestone hasn't hired PR counsel with expertise in rubber technology and glue?

Reputation name must be pushed

The Council of Public Relations Firms recently released a comprehensive study about the state - and the fate - of reputation management.

The study is exhaustively thorough, and thoughtful. Selecting seven popular reputation measuring tools, including the Fortune Most Admired list, it examines the nine most popular criteria that the industry has used for measuring reputation. It also aims to unify industry jargon by incorporating 'corporate reputation' into our lexicon in place of 'brand equity,' which it argues has an advertising/marketing bias.

Above all, the study illuminates the need to bring standards to an industry often seen as full of intangibles, and is a good first step toward reaching that goal.

The next challenge, before acknowledging differences of methodology, is to mobilize support for the phrase 'corporate reputation.' And it must hammer home the word to three key audiences. First, there are the PR agencies and in-house practitioners. If they can agree to employ the term 'corporate reputation' universally there is a better chance that the second audience - clients and journalists - will understand and use the phrase themselves.

But perhaps the most problematic audience is the researchers themselves: of the seven tools identified in the study, three have the term 'brand' in the title of their product; three use 'reputation'; two talk about 'perception'; and each includes the phrase 'admiration' and 'image.' It will take some persuasion to make them all lump their methodologies together under the umbrella of 'corporate reputation' - particularly because one of the studies - the new 'Corporate Reputation Index' by Fortune/Roper Starch - has taken ownership of it





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