IPG looks to better serve its clients by linking resources

In spring 2003, Weber Shandwick CEO Harris Diamond was handed oversight of Interpublic Group's PR holdings. Matthew Creamer talks to Diamond about the new role.

In spring 2003, Weber Shandwick CEO Harris Diamond was handed oversight of Interpublic Group's PR holdings. Matthew Creamer talks to Diamond about the new role.

PRWeek: Take us back into the thought process that led to the formation of Constituency Management Group [CMG, which is composed of Golin Harris, FutureBrand, MWW Group, DeVries Public Relations, and Weber Shandwick, among others] in spring 2003. Harris Diamond, CEO of Weber Shandwick and CMG: We wanted to see if we could take advantage of all of our PR resources, among other things, such as branding resources. The goal was to figure out if we could find a way to combine forces, or back-office resources, or intellectual capital to better service the clients. And I think that's been very successful. We're really finding that the benefit of this is that we're able to partner for our clients in a way that is significantly greater than we thought a year ago. We hoped to see some of that take place, but, to a certain extent, when we originally started we were just looking for a collaborative effort on the back office. We are way past that now. We are seeing on the front end, working with clients, the ability to bring in additional resources as really being the magic behind this group right now. PRWeek: Are you seeing that on pitches and on new-business efforts? Diamond: It's more for existing clients, bringing the resources to existing clients. It obviously takes place with new business, but it's almost always a new client benefit. PRWeek: How is CMG different from Advanced Marketing Services [the dissolved IPG group run by Larry Weber]? Diamond: It's a slightly different makeup of different companies, though some were the same. There's more of a collaborative focus, with the businesses working more together. PRWeek: Could you name a few achievements that have come with your oversight of the PR brands? Diamond: I think what we're finding is the ability to serve our clients has grown significantly as we have continued to combine resources. We can now draw on resources in different groups, and in the past that never would have happened. We're finding this more and we're building our services because of it. PRWeek: Do you find that those kinds of benefits can come from outside the CMG boundaries, from other IPG holdings? Diamond: Absolutely, though to a certain extent that's always been true. The reality is that the collaborative nature of the companies within this group is fundamentally very strong. The ability to partner with other groups within IPG is also very strong, and that's always been the case. PRWeek: Has your role within CMG changed at all over the past year? Diamond: It always changes: different groups, different companies. We now have FutureBrand; we have Jack Morton, an experiential marketing firm. There's a variety of different companies within the division, so from that perspective, things change. If there's anything we underestimated, it's the power of the group. It was very clear from day one that there were opportunities with respect to back office. What we didn't see was how much business we would actually end up sharing at the client's desire and request. We ended up putting together a group of what we call client-relationship leaders across all these disciplines, and now have the responsibility for their brands and making sure we're serving them in the best way possible. PRWeek: How does FutureBrand fit into what's pretty much otherwise a mix of PR agencies? Diamond: We have clients who fundamentally need access to the kind of intellectual capital that FutureBrand has, whether it's branding or packaging or analytics. That's a great complement for PR companies, which don't necessarily go into that depth and have access to those services. PRWeek: For a few reasons, it might not be clear just how prominently CMG stands within Interpublic. On the Weber Shandwick website, for instance, your biography lists your role within CMG first. The IPG website, however, doesn't play up the group. Is CMG something that IPG is pushing? Diamond: We don't market it externally at all, and we never will. It's an internal issue. PRWeek: Golin Harris is in the midst of a rebranding campaign. Do you expect that initiative to put to rest rumors that the agency will be absorbed into Weber Shandwick? Diamond: I think those rumors were put to rest a year ago. PRWeek: With your role in CMG, have you noticed an increase in your profile in the higher ranks of IPG? Diamond: IPG is the same as it always was. It's a corporation that tries to put the best resources behind its clients. PRWeek: Has this appointment in any way made it easier to talk to advertising people within or outside of IPG about the value of PR? Diamond: That's never been a real issue. The reality is that because of client needs, there are opportunities for PR and advertising to basically bring each other's resources to bear on issues. I think that works well and that it will continue. But that's client-driven more than a holding-company-driven issue. PRWeek: Is this the case broadly speaking or are you just referring to IPG? Diamond: Yes, in broad terms. When I talk to my peers, they say the same thing. PRWeek: So [the trade media] overplays that? Diamond: I think [the marketing trade media] focuses on one particular aspect of the company, and [it has] a tendency to focus on the corporate side, which is least likely to deal with the advertising group. Whereas most of our business - 60% to 70% of the total PR spend - is spent on the consumer side. At that level, there has always been partnering. The nature of the beast is that you partner. It's a client-driven imperative. PRWeek: You don't see the silos that other people profess to? Diamond: I don't think you get many people still seeing silos. Will you ever see 100% cross-penetration between advertising and PR? The answer is no, by definition. We have different clients and, in many cases, we work in different areas in the client's organization. Will you see 5% to 10% of the business being shared? I believe so. In a lot of places, that is already happening. Is it ever going to expand beyond 10%? Probably, but not today. But is 5% realistic today? Absolutely, and you've got to keep in mind that is client-driven. PRWeek: Is that growth contingent on the economy? Diamond: No, it's contingent on marketers becoming much more focused in a much more difficult environment to reach their core consumers. They don't want to bring every single marketing tool they can to reach them. Sometimes it's going to be just promotions; sometimes it's going to be direct; sometimes it's going to be a combination of two [disciplines]; sometimes it's going to be customer-relationship management; sometimes it's going to be PR. At the end of the day, a savvy marketer's going to want all those tools and have to be harnessed in one direction. That by definition means more collaborative efforts from marketing companies. This industry has to make that change. PRWeek: Change in what sense? Diamond: Viewing it from a client's perspective and looking for collaborative efforts. PRWeek: Do you expect additional brands to be brought into CMG? Diamond: Day to day, you're always looking to see what makes sense, where the clients' needs are driven from, where can there be collaboration. By definition, there will always be change. PRWeek: When you took on the CMG role, you said that you had no plans to leave Weber Shandwick? Has that changed at all? Diamond: No, not at all.

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