Two weeks ago I posted a piece on this corporate drama and of course today has been another eventful day what with the resignation of their General Counsel. Anyway when I wrote my last piece a Google News search on ‘HP and pretexting’ brought up around 4000 news hits. Two weeks later that number has jumped to just over 7000. That’s an average of over 200 new stories a day or roughly 9 new stories per hour. HP will be relieved to know it still lags well behind the Iraq War which is generating 100s of posts an hour on a good (bad) day.
Like many PR people I’ve been wondering why the crisis gurus have not been able to get the HP board under control. Surely the board doesn’t want the entire saga to be played out in the media? Right now though, every move of this mess seems to be getting air time in one media outlet or another (Google news has about 4000 news stories on the topic already). Having said that this seems to have been a recurring issue for HP – remember the whole Walter Hewlett saga?
Going back to the current problems, if the media circus continues and it shows no sign of stopping yet, then the very man that appears to have turned the business around (Mark Hurd) could be the one to pay the biggest price. Patricia Dunn meanwhile could end up with a cozy non-executive seat (I’m curious as to why she’s being allowed to stay on btw).
I can’t blame HP’s internal team for this situation. Company boards are notoriously tough to deal with and will rarely take good counsel even when offered. That said, when matters escalate as they have here, they usually listen to some crisis management expert. For HP’s sake I only hope someone is able to take control soon or the blood on the carpet may start to get thicker.
The news that Financial Dynamics was being acquired was hardly the world’s biggest surprise. Indeed there’d been speculation in the trade media about a deal for some time. What was unusual was the buyer: management consulting firm, FTI and of course that $260m price tag. This news should be welcomed by those in our sector as it shows other industries value the PR world. It also shows that the PR world isn’t necessarily destined to be owned by WPP et al. Indeed the deal shows that there is an alternative out there to the ‘integrated marketing’ message being touted by the large agency groups. That alternative would seem to be based more on integrating a company’s ability to reach specific communities – where communications is just a part of the process. At the heart of this new approach would seem to lay the need for ‘focus’ or specialization. Few would argue that FD was a pretty focused business and it would seem their skill in helping companies manage their profiles in financial circles is to be married to FTI’s skill in helping firms solve commercial problems and set strategy. Combined they should be able to offer businesses a way to strategically review their business, undergo the changes that review proposes and manage the communication of that change to the world. Put another way what FTI gets through this deal is the chance to squeeze every last consulting dollar out of some pretty large engagements. It certainly has logic on its side. If they pull this off it could herald a new wave of M&A activity for the PR sector – presuming of course that agencies remain sector focused AND remain connected at the highest levels within their client base.