WASHINGTON: Fleishman-Hillard has bought a majority interest in Stratacomm, a public affairs shop with strong ties to the automotive industry.
Stratacomm began 10 years ago as a company specializing in public affairs. Several of its founders had worked in government transportation regulation and so had contacts in key Washington agencies.
In the past five years, "we've tried to bridge auto public affairs and more traditional auto marketing and PR," said Ron DeFore, a founder and principal at the agency.
DeFore said Stratacomm was founded with the objective of building an agency that would be an attractive acquisition at some point.
Fleishman was enticed by Stratacomm's transportation expertise, said Paul Johnson, regional president of Fleishman's Mid-Atlantic region.
Stratacomm has "got this wonderful niche in transportation. It's really something we can learn from," said Johnson. "They've done a very good job of working across a number of different companies."
Because of its public affairs expertise, Stratacomm has done work for Ford, General Motors, and DaimlerChrysler - competitors that normally don't deal with the same agencies.
Stratacomm's senior people will stay, and the firm will keep its name. The deal gives Fleishman four offices in the DC area.
Fleishman began talking with Stratacomm about four years ago, but the economy caused it to put off a deal until now, said Johnson.
Fleishman continues to look for acquisitions in areas such as social marketing and grassroots public relations that complement its existing network.
"We're always looking; we never stopped," said Johnson.