Two years ago, several public relations firms set up shop in Orange County to attract the high-technology companies that were going to turn the county into the next Silicon Valley.
The county hasn't completely turned itself over yet to microchips and megabytes, and one of those public relations agencies--nationally known Burson-Marsteller--is cutting back its Orange County operations.
Such cutbacks in public relations agencies are occurring, as well, in other high-tech areas, such as Silicon Valley where several agencies have reduced their presence, said Chris Barnett, senior editor of Bulldog Reporter, a Bay Area-based newsletter for public relations agencies.
"We're not pulling out of the marketplace," cautioned Tim Conner, B-M's executive vice president and western regional manager. "We have a duplication of talent by having two full-service offices 45 miles apart."
Such duplication "dilutes income and revenues," Conner said, when the county can be served just as well by a smaller staff in its Irvine office and the larger Los Angeles center.
He said three or four of the nine professional account executives and one of the four support staff members will remain in the Irvine office.
The cutback comes two months after Burson-Marsteller lost a major client, Archive Corp., when the Costa Mesa company decided to hire an in-house public relations manager and retain only one public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton. Archive had both public relations firms on retainer, Hill & Knowlton for financial matters and Burson-Marsteller for new products.
Archive represented about $150,000 in revenues to B-M, or about 15% of what Conner expects to get this year from Orange County clients. He said the agency quickly made up for Archive's loss by signing up several other clients.
Conner said that while high-tech firms attracted B-M to Orange County, the agency quickly sought a broader base, including health care and real estate clients.