Nortel hires WS as global AOR to build reputation, momentum

TORONTO: Nortel Networks has selected Weber Shandwick as its global AOR, after a comprehensive review in which the telecom giant sought to consolidate its global PR structure and regain its voice in the industry.

TORONTO: Nortel Networks has selected Weber Shandwick as its global AOR, after a comprehensive review in which the telecom giant sought to consolidate its global PR structure and regain its voice in the industry.

The company, which provides telephone equipment to large and small organizations, has endured a few quarters of poor financial results, recent job cuts, and the issuing of civil fraud charges against four former employees, including former CEO Frank Dunn.

"Nortel in the recent past has suffered reputation issues, and some customers have lost confidence; we're still working our way out of that," said Lauren Flaherty, Nortel's CMO. "Our goals for the marketing efforts are all [geared toward] building the reputation of the company and getting the news out there about Nortel's momentum and future."

Flaherty said the company expected to run a results-based marketing strategy.

"It's about showing the customer wins, and the value and outcomes you are delivering for your customers," Flaherty said. "Most people will use [strong] financial results as the yardstick for sustaining momentum."

Billings for the account, which began May 1, are undisclosed. Toronto-based VP James Cook will lead WS' relationship with Nortel.

"The fact that [Nortel makes] great products and [has] a history of innovation, that's been lost in some of the concerns about the business over the past couple of quarters," said Casey Sheldon, president of WS' global technology practice. "Our challenge and opportunity is making sure [Nortel gets] credit."

"Our strategy will be much more about the company being on offense," Flaherty said. "When companies are going through troubled times, they tend to pull back their voice and don't offer their point of view."

She said Nortel would be vocal about which telecom technologies should be supported and why, and the PR team will achieve that via traditional means, as well as by enhancing the company's blogging and podcasting capabilities.

Flaherty pointed out that the blog CTO John Roese started in January has garnered a lot of positive feedback.

"He started running it three or four months ago, and the reaction was, 'You [Nortel] are back. We hadn't heard from you in awhile,'" she noted.

"Another strategy is selling what's on the truck" by working with the Nortel and WS media team to target initiatives locally, Flaherty said. "As opposed to just a high-level, macro-approach, we want to demonstrate our presence and contributions locally."

She added, "We looked at [WS'] local footprint to ensure it could translate our global strategies to be executed locally."

The company previously worked with a number of agencies across the globe, mainly concentrated within Omnicom. Woburn, MA-based Lois Paul & Partners, a subsidiary of Fleishman-Hillard, previously held the North American account. Other Nortel AORs were Pleon in Europe, Porter Novelli in Central and Latin America, and a mix of regional firms in Asia.

The decision on WS was made following a comprehensive review of proposals from a list of global agencies, with the goal of consolidating worldwide PR support within a single organization.

"When I joined the company a year ago, the agency support structure for media relations and advertising was fractured," Flaherty said. "When you're trying to build and leverage a reputation, you must make sure you have consistency of messages."

She added: "That's difficult to do when you have a fractured stable of agencies. I decided, of the many different challenges we face, managing an arsenal of [marketing] teams would not be one of them."

The company chose IPG sister agency McCann Worldgroup as its advertising AOR in November.

Flaherty said the relationship between McCann and WS was not an insignificant one. She said the agency had "tremendous respect" for Lois Paul & Partners, but that the agency search was about consolidation and better synergy.

"[The end result] was more about the opportunity to leverage synergies with McCann and trying to drive integrated 360-degree marketing," she said.

Sheldon said the pitch was truly a global one.

"We provided information on our tech teams in 36 countries," she said. "When we [met] Nortel, we had a global team with us. Our global stuff is our specialty."

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