CHICAGO—When British holding company Incepta began its U.S. expansion almost a decade ago, one of its first acquisitions was Chicago-based boutique Deborah Gordon Public Relations. Citigate has since focused its attention in the U.S. on two sectors—investor relations and more recently Incepta—but now it’s returning to the Windy City for another acquisition, social marketing and public affairs specialist MSI Communications, formerly Media Strategies, Inc.
It’s a deal that has apparently been in the works since Incepta’s Citigate Communications unit appointed Ron Kelly, a veteran of Cohn & Wolfe and The Dilenschneider Group, to run its Chicago operations 18 months ago. Kelly is a longtime admirer of MSI and its president Susan Silk, and says he advised Citigate management during his interview that MSI would make a smart acquisition target.
“One of the things this does is broaden our client list in the U.S.,” says Kelly. “Currently, we work with a lot of public companies, but with the addition of MSI we add government clients, and association clients, and non-profit clients.” MSI also works for healthcare providers and corporate clients. Its client list includes the American Bar Association, Arthur Andersen, Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco, Motorola, Pfizer, and the Robert Wood Johnston Foundation.
Two years ago, MSI restructured, creating three “centers of excellence.” The firm’s Outreach Center provides clients with corporate communications, public affairs, and media relations services; the Creative Center designs and produces old and new media collateral materials and special events; and the Training Center provides spokesperson training.
“One of the things I heard when I talked with other Citigate firms was that in the investor relations business in particular everyone is trying to add new services,” says Silk. “We have been helping clients produce a lot of big meetings—external meetings and employee meetings—and we think some of the skills we have developed in that area could help our sister companies make their IR presentations even more spectacular.”
Says Kelly, “We are doing a lot of work with clients who are going through change, whether it’s an IPO, a restructuring, or a merger. Those companies understand the need to communicate with employees and shareholders, and meetings and events are a key part of that.”
Citigate’s existing U.S. holdings include Citigate Dewe Rogerson, Citigate Sard Verbinnen, and Citigate Cunningham.
The Chicago office will operate under the Citigate Communications brand, with Kelly serving as managing director and Silk as senior director. It will have fees of more than $3 million.