PR firm embraces a broad communications concept

One on One

June 03, 1991

One on One is a weekly feature offering excerpts of interviews conducted by The Evening Sun with newsworthy business leaders. Kevin O'Keefe is president of Adams Sandler, a public relations firm with offices in Baltimore and Rockville, and a proponent of integrated marketing communications.

Let's jump right in and explain what integrated marketing communications is.

Well, integrated marketing and communications is really a philosophy and approach to helping a client communicate to its public in a way that recognizes that no one communications skill -- be it advertising, public relations or sales promotion -- is likely to be the best solution, the best and only solution, to a client's needs. So it's a recognition that most client marketing problems require a combination of tools to achieve maximum results. And it's really the process of insuring not only that you can offer those tools to the client, but that they work in coordination to achieve the result.

Are there certain corporations that benefit best from this approach? Does it tend to be large corporations or large nonprofits?

A. No, I would say that really it's fairly universal in its potential application. Clearly, the larger the number of audiences that you have to talk to as a marketer, the greater the potential benefits of integrated communications. But it can work for a very small retailer all the way up to a multinational corporation.

Q. Tell me about Adams Sandler?

A. We've been in business in Baltimore since 1956. We have about 50 communications professionals here and in our office in Rockville. We are part of a division of a multinational corporation called Shandwick, which is headquartered in London. Shandwick a publicly traded organization with offices in 95 cities around the world.

Is it unusual for a firm that does public relations and advertising to be so large, with so many locations around the world?

A. Well, I think you have to separate advertising from public relations. Advertising, as a discipline, has been multinational for many, many years. And the biggest U.S. advertising agencies are found all over the world. Public relations has been international to a lesser degree for a couple of years. Prior to that, there were really two major public relations firms internationally, both of them based in the U.S. But their model was to take the American PR practice and duplicate it in countries around the world. The Shandwick model is different. We have the American model practice in the United States. But in our office in Singapore, we have a distinctly Singapore model of public relations, one that's tailered to meet that market. The same applies to our office in Tokyo and to our office in New Zealand, and others around the world. So that's our point of difference. We use the line of intelligence worldwide which really, you know, gets to the heart of the fact that you've got [an executive who is from that country] in that local office who understands how that local economy works.

Q. It seems that many Baltimore marketing firms tend to be more specialized. They either do strictly advertising, strictly public relations or whatever, and they don't integrate. Is that a correct perception?

A. I think it is historically a correct perception. I think that in more recent times, there has been certainly a willingness to embrace a broader definition of what an agency can be and should be, and a lot of that is dictated by marketplace demands. Certainly, some of the biggest firms in Baltimore stick to their knitting, and they do, you know, only advertising. There are some models of integrated firms. We happen to think we probably were among the first and are among the most integrated in our approach.

It's not a new concept for you? Is it something you've been doing?

A. Certainly for the last decade, we have consciously embraced it. But I think it also tends to be a phenomenon that you find in medium-sized firms who have clients that may need a variety of communications tools but don't want to have a separate PR firm or a separate ad agency. Even the larger clients are seeing the value of a coordinated communications program delivered through a marketing partner.

Since you have offices in Baltimore and Rockville, is there a difference in the communications strategies used by companies these two areas and how would you describe it?

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