ST. LOUIS, June 14—Public relations firms and their clippings agencies have long provided clients with reports on competitors’ media coverage, but as business in general wakes up to the realities of the knowledge economy, the demand for broader competitive intelligence services has been growing and this week Fleishman-Hillard launched what is believed to be the first worldwide competitive intelligence practice offered by a major public relations firm.

The new competitive intelligence group at F-H will provide clients with “high-quality, strategic communications analysis designed to help them create and maintain their competitive advantage in a complex, volatile business environment,” according to a statement.

The group will mine digital information retrieval sources, industry analyst databases, and traditional resources. Ronda Sauget, co-leader of the CI practice, F-H began offering a range of competitive intelligence products through its research group last year, and discovered pent-up demand. Today, the firm has 23 people working full-time on CI in the U.S., with a team of 40 in the worldwide practice.

“Typically, clients request a two or three-page daily analysis of media coverage, a monthly or quarterly share of voice report indicating media footprint, or information from industry experts,” says Sauget. “Clients will also request in-depth, customized analyses of current or developing industry trends or specific target audience behavior.”

Sauget says Fleishman’s offering differs from those of mainstream competitive intelligence companies by focusing on communications analysis and media coverage.

According to Lisa Richter, senior partner and leader of Fleishman-Hillard’s research capabilities, “Clients are seeking specialized assistance in articulating and communicating competitive business strategies—and competitive intelligence fills that need. Today’s information environment is as confusing as it is rich. But enterprise knowledge—when collected and analyzed for strategic competitive insight—can provide our clients with both communications and business advantages.”
Sauget formerly conducted market intelligence activities for the 8th District Federal Reserve Bank, and has more than 15 years experience in management, corporate training, and client service. She will be joined as leader of the practice by senior vice president Ron Penoyer, who has more than 20 years of experience in planning and executing corporate public relations and financial communications functions.