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The power of truth

Published on Friday, 05 Jul 2013
Rachel Catanach
Photo: Berton Chang

FleishmanHillard’s rebrand signifies a new era in communications

Change always presents opportunities beyond its original purpose. So it is with communications, marketing and public relations (PR) giant FleishmanHillard, whose Quarry Bay office is one of 19 in the Asia-Pacific region, out of a total of over 80 around the globe.

FleishmanHillard has made huge strides since its 1946 founding by two pioneering marketing professionals, Alfred Fleishman and Bob Hillard. The company now has a global reach, but has not undergone a rebranding overhaul since 1990. This May, however, all that changed in a major way.

Rachel Catanach, managing director of FleishmanHillard’s Hong Kong office, explains that the revamp has allowed the firm to focus on “complete communications”.

“People often think of us as a PR company – and yes, public relations is at our core – but what the re-branding has allowed us to do is project the fact that we’re much more about integrated communications,” she says. “This means the whole range of communications across different channels and across different areas, from paid, earned, shared and owned.”

Changing times and fluid business environments require adaptability. “We are not a traditional ‘four-As’ advertising company,” Catanach says. “What we do is give clients access to an integrated solution for their marketing needs and goals. Through this rebranding, we are better able to convey this message, and others.”

This has produced a positive knock-on effect on recruitment. “As a result, we have been hiring people from outside the normal realm of traditional public relations – such as media planners, creative directors, strategists from advertising agencies, and journalists as content creators – so as to build up our digital capabilities,” she says.

One journalist brought in by the re-branding is New York-based Pat Wechsler, who previously held a senior editorial position at Bloomberg. He is now editor of FleishmanHillard’s newly launched digital magazine, True. The firm sees the magazine as a product for “forward-thinkers from business, academia, consulting and other disciplines to share their insights on new realities, challenges and opportunities that exist at the intersection of marketing, communications and media”.

The rebranding also brought about a need to communicate the firm’s evolving position to its staff. “For any rebranding exercise, you have to know what your objectives are,” where you are, and where you’re going,” Catanach says. “This was an opportunity to bring employees onboard while quite a shift was taking place in the organisation. There was a whole programme for our staff about why the re-branding was being undertaken, what was happening and what it meant – for both the firm and them – before anything was revealed externally.

“Staff are very much seen as the carriers of the message and of the spirit. There’s been a lot done in terms of helping employees get involved, to embrace the programme, and take it forward to their clients.”

The most immediate manifestation of the re-branding is the new logo. “The company has never had a change of name, but it has gone through several ‘evolutions’ of its logo since the company was established,” Catanach says. “This new one is rather special. Firstly, you can see an F and an H, if you look closely. Secondly, the logo reflects our values. The ‘pillars’ are us rooted in our industries and our capabilities, and the horizontal lines are the steps up to our new capabilities. It’s symbolic of how we’re stepping up to the new level of our evolution and of how we have really changed to adapt to the evolving landscape.”

Few factors have changed that landscape more than social media. “With a greater concentration of communication happening outside controlled environments, there’s been a need for all communications companies to adapt to social media – just like the media itself has done,” Catanach says. “In many ways, this re-branding is a response to a changing environment, one in which our clients are faced with the need to be more transparent than was previously the case. We have employed new people with skill sets in digital and social media to enhance our capabilities and raise our game.”

Catanach is more than ready to address the new paradigm. “Social media offers huge opportunities for communications companies and agencies. All too often clients view social media as representing a loss of control, but it is actually another means to communicate,” she says.

“Different clients will have different levels of social media activity based on their profile. With companies like Apple or McDonalds, people have all sorts of opinions all the time, especially when a new product comes out. Even before a new product comes out, there’s a lot of discourse in the social media area. On the other hand, take the example of a bank. Banks do no elicit the same level of social media attention, so they have different social media and communications needs. That’s not to say that people aren’t airing their views, but there’s a different kind of communication happening. It really requires listening and the understanding what is being said.”

Another component of the rebranding is its tagline: “The power of true.” Catanach explains that “this aspect of the rebranding reflects the need for authenticity and transparency – which has driven our desire for us to refresh our logo and much more. It’s what we stand for, too.”


Chief marketing officer Stephanie Marchesi gives her inside view

THE INTERSECTION"[Interviews with employees, clients and industry observers] found that three significant factors - who the firm is at its core, how the world has changed and new client demands - intersected at one word: true."

SIGN OF THE TIMES"Our former logo did an excellent job of reflecting the trust and confidence clients have long placed with us. Our new logo maintains those values, but with a fresh, innovative and more contemporary interpretation."

DIGITAL DRIVE"The first publication [of new digital magazine True] explored the evolving relationship between a company's brand - what it says about itself - and its reputation - what others say about it."

SPREADING THE WORD"[Ads drawing attention to the rebrand] have appeared in expected channels, such as trade media, as well as in channels not traditionally used by PR or communications companies, such as broadcast and digital display ads in mainstream business outlets."

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