Monday, July 03, 2006

Global Advantage

Whenever our organization is approached by a potential client with global operations, it's almost a certainty that we'll be asked whether we have offices in key markets worldwide. Of course, we do! But it is important to point out that our representation is through IPREX -- a corporation of independent public relations and investor relations firms in 23 countries and 37 cities throughout the United States -- and that there is a distinct advantage when they use our firm and IPREX rather than mega firms that have their own offices.

As a founder of IPREX, I've seen this advantage at work for more than 20 years, but it was underscored for me at the IPREX annual meeting in Washington, D.C., just a few weeks ago. As I watched the interactions of the 40+ agencies during the two days of discussions, field trips, lunches and dinners, I was struck by the cultural blend and similarity in values of these firms which hailed from three continents. That, I felt, is why this group has had such an amazing client success rate, apart from the high professional standards required for admission. Perhaps to some extent this may be partially attributable to the "laws and values" written into the founding bylaws.

We are a true partnership, as we are all shareholders in IPREX. And it is the partnership that makes it work. Rather than setting billing thresholds for what clients must pay, when it means helping out a partner, each firm is committed to doing the work ... whether it is planning and executing a major media campaign or simply obtaining a copy of a report at a trade show across town. We have discussions at meetings on how to better manage our firms, teleconferences on best practices and educational programs for up-and-comers. We call each other throughout the year to pose questions on the best way to approach emerging challenges and opportunities. All of this interaction increases pride of authorship. How can you face your partner at a continental or international meeting without the assurance that you've done the very best for your partner's client?

Our relationships have created accountability. This is not always the case among mega firms ... or at least my experience with a mega firm I was with for many years where there was tremendous interoffice competition. For example, it was not in the best interests of the client for the New York office to waste time wondering why the Chicago office won an assignment from a New York-based client, when it "should've" gone to New York. Then when New York was asked to do a New York project, the Chicago office worried about the whether the client was going to be sold on moving to NY. Managers of the various offices would expend a lot of energy protecting their turf. Nevertheless, I am certain there are some mega firms that approach it more holistically.

Our IPREX offices are all fully staffed with considerable resources in every international location -- not a 3-person office here and a 50-person office there -- and the staff most frequently consists of people who grew up in the city in which they are working and who know the local media, the culture and the local events because they are already part of the fabric of the community.

It is no small feat that 800 professionals have been together for more than 20 years and billings have grown to over $100 million annually. But the biggest feat is having created significant value for thousands of client companies over the years. All of the partners take enormous pride in these accomplishments.

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