Summary List Placement
Now, Porter Novelli is trying to jump-start its business under David Bentley, a vet of McKinsey and the ad agency AKQA who became CEO in March 2020, replacing Brad MacAfee.
Under Bentley, the firm has focused on four areas with an emphasis on purpose-driven marketing and the goal of broadening the scope of the work it does for clients:
- employee experience, which includes services like internal communications
- purpose and impact, focusing on diversity, inclusion, and sustainability
- corporate counsel, which helps clients with crisis management and executive visibility
- market growth, which is centered on traditional PR services like media relations
Speculation about Porter Novelli being acquired has swirled
Bentley started his tenure by closing several offices and making its US region a single P&L, spurring talk of consolidation.
In June, Porter Novelli shuttered its offices in San Francisco and Brussels and combined its New York and London offices with Rabin Martin, an Omnicom health strategy firm. In August, its Dublin arm, Drury Porter Novelli, left Omnicom in a management buyout.
These moves led to speculation that Porter Novelli could be swallowed by the bigger Omnicom PR firms Ketchum and FleishmanHillard, which absorbed some of its business after the closures.
Bentley insisted the firm would remain independent: “I’ve heard all that speculation, and there’s no truth to it.”
Pressure on corporations has created opportunities for PR firms
Like many PR firms, Porter Novelli is looking to grow by helping corporations facing pressure from consumers to take social stands and communicate to employees during the pandemic.
It teamed up with the solo practitioner Steve Delsohn, a former ESPN journalist, to pursue clients in sports and entertainment dealing with politics and social issues.
“The sports world is now on the forefront of change. That’s why there is a lot of opportunity for Porter Novelli,” said Sean Smith, EVP and leader of Porter Novelli’s corporate-counsel practice, citing MLB’s decision to move the game after a restrictive voting-rights bill passed in Georgia.
It also teamed up with the Global Situation Room, a PR firm of Obama administration PR vets like Brett Bruen and Johanna Maska, and together launched offerings like PN 2020Foresight, which updates clients on geopolitical developments. (Brett Bruen is an Insider columnist.)
Porter Novelli also launched a JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) advisory service under managing director Conroy Boxhill and EVP Sandy Skees, and it is trying to strengthen its healthcare business by working closer with specialty firm Rabin Martin.
But there are plenty of firms offering similar services
Such moves have helped the firm land more work with the likes of Sony, the Recording Academy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Quidel.
Porter Novelli expanded its work with the Recording Academy in March, for example, after its CEO was fired, while Quidel hired Porter Novelli in December to help the healthcare-diagnostics company launch a home COVID-19 test.
Bentley said Porter Novelli reversed its revenue decline in 2020, though he didn’t give specifics.
But purpose-driven marketing is a crowded field, with PR and ad agencies of all sizes making similar pitches.
That kind of positioning also raises questions about the kinds of clients a PR firm can pursue.
After Mother Jones and The New Yorker reported that Porter Novelli — which has been outspoken on its position around climate change — was working on behalf of the fossil-fuel trade group American Gas Association, Porter Novelli said it would drop the account.
Bentley didn’t directly address the episode, but he pointed to the firm’s history of working for noncommerical clients as a differentiator, citing its work in government, nutrition, and healthcare.
Porter Novelli started in the 1970s and became known for its work for the Peace Corps. It does work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ALS Association, and the Almond Board of California, and even briefly called itself a “global purpose communication consultancy.”
He said, “The work Porter Novelli does to align what clients say and what they do in terms of having a purpose that’s more than just a profit motive is more important than ever.”
Originally published at https://www.businessinsider.com/omnicom-pr-firm-porter-novelli-ceo-reveals-comeback-plan-2021-4 on .