Confusion reigns as Tyco begins review of PR firms

PRINCETON, NJ: As it tries to leave behind the corporate scandals that trashed its reputation, Tyco International is conducting an audit of the dozens of PR firms that work for the conglomerate's many business units.

PRINCETON, NJ: As it tries to leave behind the corporate scandals that trashed its reputation, Tyco International is conducting an audit of the dozens of PR firms that work for the conglomerate's many business units.

But unlike audits at other large corporations, Tyco's review has been met with a unique challenge: The company isn't exactly certain of all the agencies it retains.

"We have an effort under way to find all the firms that are working with us," said Charles Young, SVP for marketing and communications at Tyco. "We think it is as many as 50 PR firms that are working with Tyco around the world. We are doing an audit right now to figure out who is doing what and to what extent."

The confusion is a result of two factors: the massive changes in leadership following the scandals and Tyco's attempt to change from a holding company without a centralized communications effort to a more integrated operating company.

For Young, the audit has required some detective work. Since joining Tyco a year ago, he has frequently observed PR efforts on behalf of the company that are, quite literally, news to him.

"About every other week, I see some publicity about something that's going on somewhere in Tyco, and I see some PR firm's name attached to it that I hadn't heard of or didn't know we were working with," he said. "It's been as simple as PR firms putting out press releases on our behalf. There are lots of firms that are doing work for us that are really off the radar screen. And only through their work or the results they're generating is it hitting my radar screen."

Tyco has not issued any RFPs, nor is it looking for an AOR. Young said the audit is expected to last about six more months. "I think the answer is going to be fewer firms but having more strategic alignments," he said.

He said Robinson Lerer & Montgomery, the firm brought in to handle communications when the crisis broke, is still working for Tyco.

Tyco is a sprawling, nearly $40 billion company that makes countless everyday products. Its popular image, however, has less to do with its conduits, connectors, and cables than with former CEO Dennis Kozlowski's $6,000 shower curtains.

In its marketing efforts, Tyco is trying to distance itself from the scandals. It is launching a global ad campaign with the tagline, "You may not know everything we make. But everything we make is vital."

The new positioning is "in contrast to all the reporting that's been done about the prior management," Young said, adding, "The real Tyco is an industrial and hi-tech conglomerate that's in a very wide variety of industries. Tyco provides products and services that are all around us."

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