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January 29, 2001

PR agency hired, Carlson promoted

By Jan Gleason

Emory has hired the national and international public relations agency Burson-Marsteller (B-M) to assist with its efforts to raise the University’s profile among American universities.

The contract is set to begin this week and will be managed at the University by Bill Fox, senior vice president for institutional advancement, and by Curt Carlson, who is concurrently being promoted to vice president for public affairs.

According to Fox, “Because of the considerable additional responsibility of managing the university’s relationship with a major national public relations firm and his success in leading Emory’s pbulic affirs office since 1994, I also wish to announce Curt’s promotion from associate vice president to vice president for public affairs. This promotion is in recognition of his excellent leadership of the public affairs office since 1994 and to enhance his effectiveness going forward as he continues to guide this vital area.”

The project will be managed out of B-M’s Washington office with local assistance from Atlanta-based B-M affiliate Cohn & Wolfe.

“We expect that adding the Burson-Marsteller team to our own highly regarded internal public relations team will improve Emory’s visibility in the national media and enhance Emory’s reputation as a national university of the first rank,” Carlson said.

The B-M team, led by Marsha Wilson, the agency’s Washington Office director of public affairs practice, will undertake a series of projects to strengthen Emory’s positioning among national universities. They will work to discover and articulate Emory’s identity and vision through research conducted by a series of interviews, surveys and conversations across a spectrum of Emory audiences.

The project also will include the development of a database of opinion leaders and key influencers. B-M will create communications materials to build the perception of Emory as a leading national research university among this “thought leadership.”

B-M will leverage the talents of its own group of national and international media experts to create a strategic media-placement program designed to increase coverage of Emory in major broadcast, print and Internet media outlets. Finally, the firm will review and modify Emory’s crisis communications plan.

The move to hire a national PR agency began about a year ago as a business decision by top University administrators, in collaboration with trustee leadership.

“This was simply the right time for this communications initiative,” said Fox, who worked with Carlson to select Burson-Marsteller. “With all the gains that Emory has made in the quality of its students, faculty and facilities, our thinking is that now is the time to capitalize on all those gains by making sure that people know how great Emory really is. For years we’ve been on the rise, and it’s time to enhance our ability to tell the world we’ve ‘arrived’ among the top ranks of American universities.”

After the decision was made to hire a national agency, a set of criteria was developed, and research was conducted on the top agencies resulting in six selected to visit. Carlson and Fox made those visits last fall and narrowed the list to three finalists to come to campus to make presentations to the President’s Cabinet. The deans of all schools were also invited to attend a presentation and meet the firms’ representatives.

“It was not an easy decision since we were considering some of the most successful teams of professional communicators in the world,” Carlson said. “The selection of Burson-Marsteller finally came down to the fact that they not only fit all our criteria, but they had done an exemplary job of researching Emory, and they spoke directly and eloquently to our needs. They were a group most of us felt we could integrate into our own PR team to achieve the results we’re looking for.”

Established in 1953, B-M is a leading global communications counseling and public relations firm with revenues of $164 million in 1999. B-M employs more than 2,000 professionals in
76 offices in 35 countries and was the second-largest agency in the terms of revenues in 1999, according to the Council of PR Firms. B-M was acquired by WPP Group in 2000.


Back to Emory Report Jan. 29, 2001