Northbrook, IL: Insurance giant Allstate is reviewing its three-year-plus relationship with Hill & Knowlton to determine if the firm will remain its agency of record.
Allstate routinely reviews vendor contracts, and considers whether to maintain existing relationships or change suppliers, explained Michael Trevino, senior communications manager for the company.
"It is not intended to reflect in any way on the kind of work Hill & Knowlton has done. It's just part of how Allstate does business," he said.
But in a year with few major corporate RFPs, Chicago PR people are assuming that all
the large agencies in town are vying for the account. As a standard procedure for Allstate, the company is known for putting agencies through a very stringent review process before making a decision.
Prior to the current recession, Allstate was spending more than $1 million annually on outside PR. While the insurance company has had budget cutbacks during the current
economic downturn, even a scaled-down budget would be a plum in this year when large
corporate assignments have been rare in the Midwest.
Harlan Teller, president of H&K's worldwide corporate practice, wouldn't discuss Allstate's PR spending, but noted that his agency has eight to 10 people in its Chicago
office working on the account at peak activity times.
H&K is competing to retain the business, he said.
"It's been a very strong relationship, and we're hopeful it will continue," he said. The Allstate account is "one of our anchor client relationships in the Chicago market," he said.
Allstate's Trevino said the company put out a request for information from agencies,
and that submissions will be reviewed and a decision will be made by the end of the year. Currently, no further submissions are being considered.
While he wouldn't specify how many responses Allstate received, Trevino offered, "I
can tell you that we have been very pleased at the level of response."
Allstate did not include a size requirement for potential agencies, although it's likely the
company will want a large PR firm to handle its business.
One PR issue for Allstate in recent years has been relations with its agents, who the company has been converting from full-time employees to independent contractors.
Allstate is the second-largest insurer of homes and cars in the US. In July, the company reported revenues of $7.9 billion for the quarter ended June 30, up 6% from the same period last year. Net income stood at $588 million, up 70.9% from $344 million.