Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann - building the corporate reputation following acquisition - 2009-11

In May 2009, London-based headhunting firm Whitehead Mann was acquired by US executive search firm Korn/Ferry International. In London, the firm became Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann (KFWHM). The Communication Group plc had worked with Whitehead Mann from 2008 and won a competitive pitch to retain the business after the acquisition and to re-launch the newly branded company to the UK market.

As the US marketing team became more involved in the marketing of the London office, it became clear that the US leadership of Korn/Ferry International took a more aggressive approach to public relations than the legacy Whitehead Mann incumbents. In addition, the Global CEO Gary Burnison made the decision to establish the London office as the centre for Korn/Ferry International’s European expansion. There was a requirement to address the PR strategy and activity in order to support Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann’s growth strategy and to reflect the new status of the firm.
Against this backdrop The Communication Group plc developed a hard-hitting communication plan that aimed to dramatically increase the firm’s profile in the UK market.

1. Utilise Global CEO Gary Burnison as a dynamic leader of a successful global business on his visits to London:

• Global CEO Gary Burnison was briefed to showcase the London Korn/Ferry offer and to highlight dramatic expansion plans.

• Arranged a series of broadcast interviews to introduce Korn/Ferry International’s plans: CNN, “Quest means Business”, Fox Business News, CNBC Squawkbox.

• Negotiated an exclusive interview with the Financial Times and an article focusing on Korn/Ferry’s European expansion ambitions appeared in June.

• Built on our initial broadcast success by securing profiling opportunities with: Ian King, The Times, Jonathan Sibun, The Daily Telegraph, Adrian Wooldridge, The Economist.
2. Promotion of Richard Emerton as head of the board practice:

• Used his experience at Heidrick & Struggles and previous consultancy experience at Accenture, to promote him as an expert in his field.

• Richard was briefed to promote KFWHM and Korn/Ferry International’s record of success in this area.

• Created a targeted briefing programme with key national journalists which resulted in meetings with The Sunday Times, Financial Times and International Herald Tribune amongst others.

3. Specialist media briefing programme:

To capitalise on the wide and varied sector specialisms within KFWHM, we prepared media briefing programmes for the following spokespeople in the sector press: Iraj Ispahani – Financial Services; Chris Kirkness – Private equity; Rosemary Collins – Media; Sally Elliot – Retail; Ben Jones – Finance directors; Claire Skinner – Clean technology; Simon Hankey – Legal.
“The work of The Communication Group plc in London to raise Gary’s profile and that of Korn/Ferry was a best in class example of media relations” Dan Gugler, Korn/Ferry International, Los Angeles.

Results achieved in relation to aims:

• The message that the London office was growing rapidly and that it was seen as the doorway to European expansion was consistently communicated across all major pieces of coverage.

• There was a significant increase in requests from specialist media wishing to speak to consultants such as Iraj Ispahani (financial services), Chris Kirkness (private equity) and Claire Skinner (Green energy), who were seen as becoming expert commentators in their field.

• Through media coverage, there was an increased recognition of the importance of the board practice which communicated the power, expertise and relevance of Korn/Ferry International and Whitehead Mann combined.

• KFWHM was repeatedly referred to as part of the largest executive search firm in the world and enjoyed a higher profile in the media and the UK market than their competitors in the time period of the campaign.

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