Yesterday’s announcement that former L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would join Edelman to advise clients on public policy was interesting on its own, but one detail made it more so: last month the infamous “nutritional products company” Herbalife also hired him as an adviser.
This fact creates a conflict of interest, because venture capitalist Bill Ackman recently hired Edelman to help publicize his accusations that Herbalife is an illegal pyramid scheme in which the vast majority of paying members lose money. Both Villaraigosa and an Edelman spokesman say no such conflict exists, but we don’t see how that could be true considering that the most valuable advice Herbalife could receive from anyone right now concerns escaping the shadow of Ackman’s very public campaign (which, again, is managed by Edelman).
Ackman’s hardly the only one pressing Herbalife: while Villaraigosa praised the company for its “strong presence within the Latino community” when he took the job in September, several major Black and Latino advocacy groups recently called upon California’s attorney general to investigate its supposed misdeeds more thoroughly. In defense of Villaraigosa, Edelman’s global public affairs spokeswoman Katie Burke told the Los Angeles Times that he’s “not coming on board for any specific client or project”, which reads like a classic case of obfuscation.
At any rate, we wouldn’t put money on Herbalife if we had it.
…and the hits just keep coming: Edelman has tapped former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to work in a “senoir adviser” role in the firm’s global public affairs division. This announcement is interesting primarily for Politico’s description of the role Villaraigosa will play:
Villaraigosa will work mostly for the firm’s corporate clients on issued related to public policy — but he will not lobby. Edelman has no lobbying division or registered lobbying clients.
Instead, he’ll help clients navigate a variety of public policy challenges in the United States and abroad from a public affairs and public relations perspective. He is to be based mostly in Los Angeles.
His responsibilities will obviously go far beyond telling executives that they’re now required to provide health insurance to their employees (and those employees’ same-sex spouses, depending on the state in which they live), and we’d be very curious to sit in on some of those meetings.
One thing is certain: the Edelman gig will be far more productive than Villaraigosa’s other new position as senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Today brings news that in some way touches everyone in the public relations industry: Ruth Edelman, who helped build husband Daniel’s eponymous firm into the world’s largest, died this weekend at 84 after a brief battle with leukemia.
The Chicago Sun-Times describes Ruth as the firm’s “matriarch”, but of course her role went well beyond “pick[ing] out the lamps and furniture” for Edelman’s first Chicago office.
In fact, she was something of a bellwether for powerful women in the industry, and her networking skills were legendary. Son and current president/CEO Richard Edelman explains:
“She was my dad’s kind of silent partner…In the present generation, she would have been an executive, but in the ’50s she was the corporate wife. She never had a formal title while my dad was alive, but everybody knew she was the power behind the throne.”
Add Edelman Digital to the list of firms making big changes this week. David Armano, formerly managing director of ED Chicago, will assume the newly created position global strategy director of key accounts and report to Cricket Wardein, head of U.S. digital practice, while southwest digital lead Brian Mays will succeed him as MD reporting to Rick Murray, GM of the larger Edelman Chicago operation.
Armano, who joined the agency in 2009, has become quite the presence as a quotable expert on all things digital, and he’ll provide “senior-level guidance” to CMOs, digital marketers and social media teams on the client side.
Mays, who has nearly two decades of experience and specializes in helping brands lead online conversations, will replace Armano in overseeing 75 employees in Chicago.
Back in March, Edelman advisor Steve Rubel told us that upcoming PR professionals need to “look at the bigger picture” and “orient [themselves] toward both creating and distributing content”. The firm’s newest tech advisor Burghardt Tenderich recently gave The Holmes Report a more direct version of that statement:
“PR needs to grow up and become real content creators.”
Edelman picked Tenderich, who is an Associate Professor/Associate Director of the Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center at USC Annenberg, to advise clients tech clients; his specialty will be “transmedia storytelling” campaigns like this one which include both paid and earned media across platforms.
The quote may seem obvious now, but remember that Edelman was a little late to the paid content game. The firm’s sponsored content partnership with Reuters on Twitter had a bit of a rocky reception, but we’ll be watching to see exactly how they put Tenderich and Rubel’s statements into action.
*Photo via Edelman Digital
We’ve all heard enough about this weekend’s Publicis/Omnicom merger to know that it’s too big for our limited minds to even fathom, much less evaluate.
So many questions followed: will it lead to mass layoffs or protracted battles over antitrust laws? Will it doom boutique agencies that don’t get picked up by major “holding company” conglomerates? Will it change our jobs in profound and permanent ways?
These are all valid, fascinating issues that must be considered—and for now we’ll let other people do the thinking for us, starting with those smartasses at The Onion.
Surprisingly accurate! That headline stings a bit, though we finally understand why they didn’t hire us for the grad school internship we wanted so badly (should’ve learned to code in high school, dammit). On a more serious note, Richard Edelman is skeptical of this supposed sea change, writing:
Bigger does not mean better. My 84-year-old mother’s first reaction yesterday was that this reminds her of AOL’s* merger with Time Warner. “They were all screwed up for years,” she said.
In other words, don’t freak out…at least not yet. But there will be blood.
This week we posted on Weber Shandwick‘s decision to publicize its new content-creation wing, Mediaco, and what that means for the future of PR. This morning we had the opportunity to speak with Steve Rubel, chief content strategist at Edelman PR, to go over how his firm is addressing this newest chapter in the ongoing “PR vs. marketing vs. advertising” debate.
How does the Weber Shandwick announcement relate to recent “creative” moves by Edelman?
There’s a lot of hype in the never-ending hunt for shiny objects in marketing, but the bigger picture here is that the economics of the industry have changed – demand side platforms (ad exchanges) have made advertising more efficient, which caused the price of CPM (cost per impression) and ads themselves to plummet. This is good for the industry but bad for publishers, because media outlets squeezed by tech developments can’t make the leap to other revenue streams like subscription, video, etc.
This has led to a greater willingness to open their platforms to branded/sponsored content, thereby empowering marketers to make good on their longtime desire tell their stories their own way on some of world’s largest websites (Ed. note: see The Washington Post). That is the big change here.
Some people say this is all old news. How do you respond to that point?
We’re fascinated by the very concept of public relations in a formerly closed society like the one now run by Russia’s Vladimir Putin. But the practice certainly does exist, and this weekend Edelman PR announced plans to continue the scheduled reboot of its Russian operations after facing some challenges that led the firm to liquidate its Russian acquisition Imageland.
In 2012 Edelman “ran into some problems” due to pushback from Russia’s Solidarity trade union, which encouraged laid off Imageland employees to form their own union and take legal action against the firm. That spat appears to have resolved itself; in an interview with The Holmes Report, Edelman Russia general manager Kerry Irwin confirms that the office’s staff will include several former Imageland executives who stuck around through a wave of departures.
Edelman represents brands like HP, Wrigley and Mars in Russia. The firm apparently does not plan to work directly with Putin’s government like Ketchum sometimes does, but the Kremlin could certainly use the help: Edelman’s own 2013 “Trust Barometer” study found that Russian citizens unsurprisingly report some of the world’s lowest rates of trust in their own government and media outlets. We’d suggest more Boyz II Men concerts as a good way to start winning the public back, because if there’s one thing pretty much everyone around the world can agree on, it’s the healing power of 90′s R&B.
Trojan‘s promotional stunts just never seem to get off (yep, bad puns already) without a hitch. This time, the company’s Valentine’s Day plans have hit a road block.
Trojan arranged to have its fleet of three Safe Rides taxis pick up passengers in the Greenwich Village and New York University areas of New York City on the nights of February 14 and 15. Passengers would not only enjoy free rides to their love day destinations, but would also be quizzed on sexual-health topics on the way — because nothing gets couples in the mood like a thorough refresher course on VD (venereal disease, not Valentine’s Day. Try to keep up, people).
Unfortunately, if you were hoping to woo your date with a ride home in a condom cab, you may be out of luck. The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission says that neither the purveyor of prophylactics nor its PR company (Edelman) cleared the promotion–and the plans may violate regulations in the first place.