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05/27/2004

Public relations and communications director Virgin Group's highest paid employee

virginGlenn Rifkin of Booz, Allen and Hamilton has penned an interesting piece on Richard Branson, the man behind the $3.5bn Virgin Group, an international conglomerate whose business operations range from an airline fleet to soda pop, music, condoms and wedding gowns. Virgin, one of the world's most recognizable brands, is the product of Branson's irreverence, uncanny business sense and occasionally over-the-top publicity stunts. Along the way his company has managed to capture market share from some of the biggest names in business. What's the most powerful tool in his arsenal? Public relations.

Rifkin writes: "Indeed, so crucial is the continued high profile of Virgin that Mr. Branson says his highest paid and most important employee is Will Whitehorn, his public relations and communications director. 'I suspect in most companies, the public relations person is down at No. 20 in the pecking order,' Mr. Branson says. 'But, here, he is fighting incredibly important battles. If a negative story starts running away with itself in the press and is not dealt with fast, it can badly damage the brand. And so we put enormous weight on our public relations people.'

Mr. Branson reportedly sets aside at least 25 percent of his time for public relations activities, and Mr. Whitehorn has a staff member whose sole responsibility is devising the headline-catching publicity stunts for which Mr. Branson has become known. 'If your staff works enormously hard to create something they are proud of, it's foolish if you don't let the world know about it,' Mr. Branson states. 'Using yourself to get out and talk about it is a lot cheaper and more effective than a lot of advertising. In fact, if you do it correctly, it can beat advertising hands down and save tens of millions of dollars.'"

Can you name a Swedish or Nordic corporation that prizes its PROs as highly as the illustrious Mr. Branson? I didn't think so. //Billy McCormac (Hat tip to Dana VanDen Heuvel)


May 27, 2004 in Posts in English | Permalink

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