LONDON, April 18—In recent years, the role of public relations in the branding process has been transformed. Once an afterthought, often reduced to generating publicity for the ad campaign, PR played a lead role in building many technology brands, and mainstream companies have come to recognize that because it delivers enhanced credibility, PR is particularly useful in creating emotional bonds and building lasting relationships.

Golin/Harris International, it seems, wants to play an even more central role in the branding process, because today it announced the acquisition of Springpoint, a leading brand consultancy with its headquarters in the U.K. Led by co-founders Fiona Gilmore and Mark Pearce, Springpoint combines brand positioning and corporate identity expertise and has worked with brands such as Bird’s Eye Wall’s, British Tourist Authority, BAA, Saudi Telecom, Campbells, and Vodafone.

“This is a creative resource unlike anything we already have,” says G/H chief executive Rich Jernstedt. “It provides us with world-class expertise in brand positioning and brand development and strengthens our capabilities in corporate identity development, design and digital media. It gives us a unique capability to get involved at every level of the branding process, from naming and positioning to brand architecture.”

According to Gilmore, Springpoint operates in two distinct markets. In the brand-consulting arena, it competes against mainstream management consulting firms such as McKinsey, which has developed a brand management practice, and European specialist firms such as the value engineers. In the corporate identity realm, the firm competes with companies such as WPP’s Landor Associates and Omnicom’s Interbrand.

Golin and Springpoint first met when Gilmore worked with Anne Forrest—whose Hong Kong agency was acquired by Golin last year—on a major infrastructure project in Hong Kong.

“In that instance, we were developing the brand strategy and Golin/Harris was developing the PR plan that would build on the brand strategy,” says Gilmore. “We found that the two services are totally complementary. In a world where above the line advertising is no longer necessarily the answer to every marketing problem, PR is becoming absolutely critical to the branding process.”

In other cases, she says, the two firms will work together from the outset, developing brand strategies together.

She also sees opportunities for the two firms to work together in employee communications, too. “A lot of the work we do involves helping companies communicate with their own employees to help them understand what brand is and what it means to them. Brand is not just a marketing thing, it’s an experience, and employees play a major part in that experience.”
                Springpoint will retain its own name and will continue under its existing leadership, and both Jernstedt and Gilmore say they expect to expand the firm’s operations into overseas market, with offices in the U.S. and Hong Kong.