FOSTER CITY, April 16—Fleishman-Hillard handled public relations for the highly successful introduction of Sony’s PlayStation console gaming platform six years ago, at a time when the market was dominated by Sega and Nintendo. Last year, it handled the even more successful introduction of PlayStation 2, which shipped 10 million units in its first year. “We felt we had a tremendous year last year from a publicity standpoint,” says Molly Smith, director of public relations for Sony Computer Entertainment.

Nevertheless, Sony—which will focus more heavily on corporate communications than on any individual product this year—decided to put its account up for review. “Our goal this year is to build on that success to expand our market,” says Smith. “We needed to be sure we had the best talent out there to get to the next level.”

So Sony put its PR account up for review, and Hill & Knowlton beat out Fleishman and Burson-Marsteller for a piece of business that is worth around $1million. According to Smith, there was “really great chemistry” between the agency and the marketing team, and “real enthusiasm” for the product and the company’s mission.

The account will be headquartered in H&K’s San Francisco office and will be led by office general manager Rick Rice. The Los Angeles office and H&K’s Blanc & Otus technology subsidiary will also assist on the Sony business.

“We have a lot of people who have game experience,” says Rice. “And we have strong capabilities in the corporate positioning arena.” The assignment will include marketing communications, with a focus on the 18-35 year old male consumers who are PlayStation’s primary target market, as well as corporate reputation management, business media and analyst relations, and finding speaking opportunities for the company’s senior executives.

 According to Smith, “We have been around for about six-and-a-half years now and as we have grown to represent a bigger piece of the overall Sony pie we have been feeling the need to do more corporate positioning.”