As a proud alumnus of Hill & Knowlton, I was interested (and then disheartened) to read of the firm’s name change. Effective immediately, Hill & Knowlton is now Hill+Knowlton Strategies. Wow! Talk about cataclysmic news. I’m not sure I’ll ever be quite the same. Adding the word strategies is, well, really strategic, but opting for a plus sign instead of an ampersand is, as my Japanese clients at Sony used to say, truly epoch-making.
Ken Luce, global COO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, said, “Clients have caught up to the fact that PR and marketing communications are strategic, and not just about press releases anymore.” The name change, says Luce, emphasizes the firm’s position in strategic communications and increased investment in digital and research. Oh.
This might have been a fairly significant announcement back in, say, 1998. But, to suddenly wake up and insert the word strategies in 2011 is akin to Rip Van Winkle’s snoozing for 20 years.
One of our clients pinpointed the name change problem. He said that, from a typical client's perspective, strategy is already assumed. If a big agency couldn't provide it, who in the world would be working with them in 2011? He likened the announcement to H+K’s saying: "We just got religion!"
Strategic counseling is table stakes for any public relations firm today. To call attention to the fact that they’ve finally decided to alert the world to their strategic thinking tells me Hill+Knowlton Strategies hasn’t been doing much strategic thinking about its own brand. But, that’s nothing new. I was at the firm when it underwent its very first name change in the early 1980s. That, too, was heralded with similar fanfare. And, the change was just as startling. The corporate color was switched from blue to brown and the word ‘and’ was replaced with the now equally defunct ampersand.
At this rate, I’m predicting in another 10 years or so, we’ll be reading about the firm’s next, big name change. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing (drum roll, please):
And, the global COO at the time will be quoted as saying, “Clients have caught up to the fact that PR and marketing communications firms can now handle social media, and aren’t just about strategy anymore.”