CINCINNATI: Procter & Gamble global external relations officer Chris Hassall will retire June 30 after working at the company for nearly three decades. P&G will reorganize its communications function with his departure.
Hassall will move to China to teach MBA and executive MBA business students at Sun Yat-Sen University. He will also learn to speak Mandarin Chinese, which he said could lead to “opportunities for the future.”
Hassall replaced Charlotte Otto as P&G's global external relations officer three years ago. He was ranked No. 7 on the most recent edition of PRWeek's Power List.
Marc Pritchard, P&G's global marketing and brand building officer, will lead the revamped communications practice. He said P&G is changing the unit at this point because of how “communications is rapidly changing.”
“When it comes to communications and PR, the expectations and scrutiny of companies is becoming much higher,” he said. “Technology is giving us 24/7 real-time information, we're all totally connected, people expect transparency and want to know more about our company and our brands and the people behind them.”
P&G operates in more than 80 countries and manufactures a wide range of consumer products, such as personal care, prescription drugs, and household cleaning supplies. The company owns more than 50 brands, including Bounty, Pampers, Gillette, Dawn, Old Spice, and Pantene.
The reorganized PR function will focus on mastering communications, delivering and developing stories and programs about P&G brands and the company at large, and creating connections and relationships with influencers and consumers, said Pritchard.
“PR and communications will become an even more essential and integrated part of how we build our brands at P&G,” he added.
The communications group will also work to grow its crisis prevention and management capabilities so it can “proactively prevent issues from damaging brands at P&G when possible,” Pritchard explained.
Hassall said the company will move two major components out of its external relations organization. It will consolidate government relations with legal because of the connection between public policy and legislative work, and regulatory and technical organizations will be merged with other groups in the R&D function.
“The core will be brand PR, corporate communications, and consumer relations, which will then be the new communications function,” said Hassall.
Paul Fox, director of corporate communications at the company, said P&G's agency partners will not change with the new structure, but they will be expected to deliver a “higher level of function.”
P&G works with MSLGroup, Citizen Paine, Weber Shandwick, Ketchum, DeVries, H+K Strategies, and Marina Maher Communications, among other firms. Last fall, it moved its Gillette account to Ketchum after working with fellow Omnicom Group agency Porter Novelli for two decades.
P&G reported revenue of $2.41 billion in the quarter ending March 31, down 16% from the year prior. Net sales were up 1.5% in the period to $1.9 billion. In February, the company said it will cut more than 4,000 positions and streamline its marketing spending.
Fox said the company began developing the communications restructuring two years ago.
“The new communications function was significantly ahead of the curve,” he said. “We were in a very good place to dovetail almost seamlessly into the restructuring plans for the company as a whole.”
The marketing and communications departments at P&G will remain separate functions, said Pritchard, but they will work more closely, especially when it comes to real-time and “always on” efforts.
“What we're doing as we're reorganizing our entire brand-building organization is we're defining roles between the global, the regional, and the local levels, and ensuring that we have partners in marketing and communications at each level,” he said.