Burson hires Edelman's Lombardo to run combined public affairs, crisis practice

WASHINGTON: Burson-Marsteller has appointed Steve Lombardo, formerly the global CEO of DJE Holdings unit StrategyOne, as chair of its combined US public affairs and crisis practice.

WASHINGTON: Burson-Marsteller has appointed Steve Lombardo, formerly the global CEO of DJE Holdings unit StrategyOne, as chair of its combined US public affairs and crisis practice.

He took over the role from Nate Tibbits, former chair of public affairs, as well as former US issues and crisis group chair Jano Cabrera. Tibbits has started his own shop called Blackwood Advisory, though he will continue to work with Burson as a consultant for several clients. The agency promoted Cabrera to EVP with a focus on internal-facing projects.

Lombardo will be based in Burson's Washington office and have 75 direct reports. He will report to US CEO Dave DenHerder. 

The firm chose Lombardo for the role because of his record of developing and leading successful client programs, said worldwide chair and CEO Donald Baer, in a statement.

In his most recent role as global CEO of StrategyOne, the insight and strategy division of Edelman parent company DJE Holdings, Lombardo developed message strategy for clients including Pfizer, Kraft Foods, and Disney.

Previously, Lombardo founded public opinion research firm Lombardo Consulting Group. He worked on the 1992 presidential campaign of former President George HW Bush and served as a senior research and communications adviser to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential campaign.

Lombardo's goal is to shape viewpoints of public affairs, crisis, and issues management as areas more proactive than reactive in nature.

“Clients have seen that when they do take a more active role engaging influential stakeholders and citizens alike that they can create  a more favorable environment in which to operate,” he said.

Former Burson CEO Mark Penn, who was widely credited with making research a more important part of PR work and expanding his agency's capabilities in the area, left the WPP Group firm last July to join Microsoft as corporate VP for strategic and special projects. Penn also cofounded Burson's polling and research firm Penn Schoen Berland, which had worked with former President Bill Clinton and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Less than two months later, Edelman hired Penn Schoen Berland president Michael Berland to lead Edelman Berland, its then-newly launched research and analytics business. The agency's existing market research unit, Strategy One, was integrated into Edelman Berland.

Penn Schoen Berland named Jay Leveton interim CEO, while continuing in his role as worldwide EVP at Burson, last October. 

“[Lombardo] has a background in research, polling, and politics that I'm sure will make him an asset throughout the whole organization,” said Paul Cordasco, MD of marketing and communications at Burson. “[Penn Schoen Berland] is a part of the Burson-Marsteller family, so as we work on projects, I'm sure there will be interaction between it and [Lombardo] at some point.” 

Tibbits added that it was his and Cabrera's idea to combine the practices. Lombardo had been suggested internally as a candidate to run the unit.

“Each of them are too small on their own, and they will be much stronger offerings combined,” he said.

Tibbits, who joined Burson in January 2012, said he approached management months ago about his desire to transition out of the role.

“I wanted a little more flexibility and to broaden the scope of work I was doing outside of public affairs,” he said.

This story was updated on April 25 to clarify that Lombardo was suggested internally as a candidate to run the combined public affairs and crisis unit.

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