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Burson Marsteller Offices, Central London

Burson-Marsteller is one of the biggest PR and lobbying firms in the world. It is owned by communications conglomerate WPP.


Burson-Marsteller (B-M) is one of the largest public relations (PR) agencies in the world and also the most notorious. When helping its industry clients to escape environmental legislation or sprucing up the image of some of the most repressive governments on Earth, B-M brings to bear state of the art techniques in manipulating the mass media, legislators and public opinion.

In spite of B-M's claims that the best way to deal with problems is to put one's own house in order, the usual effect of PR is to maintain the status quo. By manipulating public opinion PR diverts attention away from difficult issues and creates the illusion of change so that a company or government can go about business as usual without having to worry about its reputation. By lobbying government and creating Astroturf campaigns PR helps to maintain a legislative environment on which industry can avoid real change.

Market share/importance

Whilst in recent years Burson-Marsteller slipped back from the number one spot it remains one of the largest PR firms in the world, and with recent restructuring looks set for strong growth in the coming years. Since 1979 the company has been a part of the Young & Rubicam Inc. advertising conglomerate, which in turn was acquired by WPP Group plc [1], the global communications services company, in October 2000. Its revenues for 2000 totalled $175m in the US and $303m worldwide, the highest in its history.

Today Burson-Marsteller employs 2,000 people in more than 60 offices in 35 countries around the world. That gives it a more international presence than any other agency, which is both an advantage (the firm is still the first choice for clients looking for genuine global reach) and a disadvantage.

B-M's reliance on international business makes it vulnerable to economic downturns or under-performing offices, as well as currency fluctuations. In recent years the Asian market was under-performing, then Europe, which was flat last in 1999. But B-M Europe has now moved back to a geographic structure - a reversal of the practice area commitment the agency made five years ago - more suited to local conditions, and that should spur growth. Meanwhile, the firm is picking up high-profile wins in Asia, like the Hong Kong government's economic development program, and expanding in Latin America, where it has a strong e-commerce practice.



Founded in 1953 by Harold Burson, a freelance PR man and Jim Marsteller, owner of Marsteller Advertising, Burson-Marsteller has grown to become one of the largest PR agencies in the world and a market leader in all of the major areas of PR services.

Harold Burson’s original vision for the new company was to model it on Hill & Knowlton then the clear leader in the PR sector. He quickly took the company into new fields of PR wanting to diversify into new fields from his original speciality in business-to-business communications. B-M quickly set up offices across the USA and began to pursue larger and more prestigious clients. By 1959 revenues had reached nearly half a million dollars.

Although not yet a top-tier PR firm, B-M took the gamble of moving into the European marketplace in the 1960s, a move that only Hill & Knowlton had previously taken. B-M established offices in London and Paris as well in Washington DC, and Los Angeles during the sixties.

Throughout the 1970s B-M continued to expand. In 1970 it entered the field of consumer public relations with its acquisition of Theodore R. Sills Inc. And it opened further offices in Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Sao Paolo, Bahrain and in Russia. In 1979 B-M was acquired by the Young & Rubicam group of companies, and could thus begin to integrate its services with a family of other companies practising PR, lobbying and advertising.

In 1983 B-M's revenues exceeded those of Hill & Knowlton and in 1985 it was the first PR company to earn $100m in a year. The company’s expansion was relentless and yet more offices opened across the United states and around the world.

After years as the premier public relations agency, a position that became unquestionable after H&K's partial collapse in the early nineties, B-M saw its leadership position erode throughout the '90s, thanks to internal problems and the fact that several other agencies improved dramatically over the same period. With recent restructuring however it has shown strong growth and in 2000 earned $303m placing it fourth in the league table of global PR firms [3].

In 2000 Young & Rubicam was itself acquired by the WPP Group. So now Burson-Marsteller works in an even larger family of companies including its old rival Hill & Knowlton.



B-M offers the full range of PR services including government relations, crisis management, issues and reputation management, brand building, product marketing, and communications training, to name a few of the twenty services listed on its web-site. These services are delivered by seven 'practice' areas within the company: advertising/creative, brand marketing, corporate/financial, healthcare, media, public affairs and technology. [See below for details]

Practice Structure


B-M structures its business around seven key practices or specialisations: advertising/creative, brand marketing, corporate/financial, healthcare, media, public affairs and technology.

Activities within the Advertising/Creative practice are conducted by three subsidiary companies. According to B-M’s web site Marsteller Advertising is a "full-service advertising agency specializing in corporate, business-to-business and issue-related (or public information) communications," whilst Burson-Marsteller Productions handles event management and TPS "offers a wide range of communications services, from designing and producing Web sites, interactive CD-ROMS and presentation graphics to providing video production and broadcast services."

The Brand Marketing practice employs around 150 people under the leadership of Linda Recupero. The practice offers a wide range of services toward the end of increasing market share for clients’ brands.

The Corporate/Financial practice handles all aspects of "perception management" of a company – "to help top management understand, enhance and manage the perceptions of their corporation held by key audiences, including shareholders and the investing community, the media and, by extension, the general public, employees and opinion makers." [6]

The extraordinary growth and sophistication of the healthcare industry has prompted B-M to set up a separate practice just for healthcare companies. The Healthcare practice offers the complete range of PR services to healthcare companies from product marketing, to crisis management to long term issues management around complex and controversial subjects like biotechnology. B-M boasts that it can manage and even create "scientific and political consensus around issues" in the healthcare sector [7].

The Media practice is B-M's pool of expertise in exploiting the media to deliver chosen messages, what they call 'media relations', an essential part of any effective PR strategy. As well as 'media relations' the media practice also deals with internet-based PR, and communications training. Specialists with backgrounds in a wide range of different media are employed to ensure access to as many media sources as possible.

Public Affairs/Government Relations work in the USA and Europe is carried out by B-M's wholly owned subsidiary, BKSH, whilst in the rest of the world it is undertaken by B-M’s own offices.

In the States BKSH's head office is naturally in Washington DC, B-M boasts of "strong working relationships with decision makers and opinion leaders at the centres of power. In Washington, these range from Congress to the White House, from the State Department to the Pentagon, from national associations to the National Press Club. We understand the Washington D.C. community's own unique rhythm and set of unspoken rules, and we are skilled at negotiating for our clients to maximum effect."

BKSH's European HQ is in Brussels with a network of offices in the major European capitals each staffed with experts in the local political systems.

Technology was the first of the 'practices', formed in 1994. Concentrating mostly on electronic technologies. Like the healthcare practice, the technology practice provides a broad range of services, which might otherwise be provided by other practices, specifically to companies that need specialist knowledge of technology issues.


  • Black Manafort, Stone & Kelly – a lobbying firm with offices in Washington D.C. and Alexandria, Virginia [8]. The company keeps a low profile. It maintains no web site and is not even mentioned on Burson-Marsteller’s site. It is known to have worked for Phillip Morris [9], and to have conducted lobbying on behalf of the brutal Angolan rebel leader, Savimbi. [10]
  • BKSH – B-M's public affairs/lobbying subsidiary handles most lobbying for B-M in the USA and Europe (see Practice Structure above)


Executive Board


  • Harold Burson Founding Chairman of Burson-Marsteller, Harold Burson has been in PR for more than fifty years. He was once described by PR Week as "the century’s most influential PR figure" due to the market share of B-M and his innovative work. Now in his 80s, Burson stepped down as CEO in 1988, the company he co-founded in 1953. He still works at B-M for many long-term clients, including Philip Morris, Merrill Lynch and Coca-Cola. He has no retirement plans [12].
  • Ken Rietz Chief Operating Officer and Chair of the global public affairs practice.
  • John Maltese Chief Financial Officer Worldwide, John Maltese joined Burson-Marsteller in 1986. He began as an Assistant Controller for the Eastern Region, was promoted to Controller of the Americas in 1988, Director of Finance, worldwide, in 1991. In mid-1993 he took the opportunity to manage Young & Rubicam Inc.'s financial accounting subsidiary, Shared Financial Services Company, and was recently promoted to his current position. Before B-M, Mr. Maltese spent eight years as controller of New York based advertising agency, N.W. Ayer. Before the communications industry, he worked at manufacturing company Gulf & Western, and for five years at Citibank.
  • Fred Hawrysh Director of Global Client Service, Fred Hawrysh is based in B-M's New York headquarters, where he moved in 1997. He has worked with Burson-Marsteller since 1983, in the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific.
  • Per Heggenes Chief Knowledge & Insights Officer Worldwide, Heggenes is oversees proprietary knowledge development, the knowledge and research centres, knowledge sharing systems such as the company intranet and website development and the creative director staff. Previously, he was chairman of the Corporate Practice in Europe from April 1998. Before that, he was Chief Operating Officer of B-M Europe when he was instrumental in rolling out the new client practice structure throughout Europe. Per joined Burson-Marsteller Oslo as an account executive in 1982.
  • Chet Burchett President & CEO USA, Chet Burchett joined B-M in 1998. He has had numerous roles including president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller Midwest and U.S. Practice Chair for the Brand Marketing practice. Chet has 20 years of news media and public relations experience. He is a specialist in reputation management. He has developed and executed programs in the areas of corporate communications, public affairs, consumer marketing, sports marketing and business-to-business.
  • Santiago Hinojosa President & CEO Latin America, Hinojosa joined Burson-Marsteller in July, 1998. From 1996 until 1998 Mr. Hinojosa was Regional Managing Director for DMB&B Americas (1996-1998), based in Mexico city. He was previously Managing Director of DMB&B's Mexican operations, Noble DMB&B, a large advertising agency in Mexico. Before DMB&B, Hinojosa was Bozell Worldwide's Managing Director for Latin America, and before that he spent 17 years with McCann-Erickson, throughout South America. He began his advertising career as an account executive at Benton & Bowles.
  • Bill Rylance President & CEO of the Asia/Pacific region, Bill Rylance joined Burson-Marsteller in 1982, working in London and the Middle East. In 1986 he was assigned to Korea to manage B-M's worldwide public relations programme for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. In 1989, Bill established Merit Communications, Korea's first international public relations consultancy. In a decade, Merit became the largest PR firm in Korea. Bill personally provided communications and media relations counsel for the Government of Korea, working directly with the Office of the President. B-M bought Merit Communications in 1999 and Bill became President and CEO of Burson-Marsteller Asia Pacific, responsible for all operations in Asia Pacific.
  • Carlos Lareau As Managing Director, Southern Europe, Carlos Lareau has led B-M/Iberia since 1996 before which he held several positions in B-M and was also Vice President of Communications and EU Affairs in a major pharmaceutical company. He has a 14 year experience in Communications, preceded by a career in economic and political journalism in Spain, the US and Latin America.
  • Celia Berk Appointed Managing Director of Human Resources for Burson-Marsteller Worldwide in November 1998. Ms. Berk joined Burson-Marsteller in January 1997 in the then newly created position of Managing Director, Human Resources for the United States. Prior to joining Burson-Marsteller, Ms. Berk was at Reuters America (1988-1998) in roles encompassing human resources, organizational planning, training, quality and internal communications. Before that, Ms. Berk was Administrator of the Harkness Fellowships of The Commonwealth Fund.
  • Thomas Blach Now the Managing Director for the Nordic Region, Central, and Northern Europe, Thomas Blach joined Burson-Marsteller in 1989, and became country manager of Burson-Marsteller, Denmark in 1992. From January 1997 to June 1999 he Chaired the European Public Affairs Practice. In 1998 he was also Market Leader in Brussels. In July 1999 Thomas Blach became Chairman of the Nordic Region.

Key UK Personnel


Doorway of Burson Marsteller Offices, Central London

Burson-Marsteller has a history of employing environmentalists, especially in the UK. These have included:

  • Des Wilson In 1989 Wilson was awarded ITN's 'Environmentalist of the Year' prize. In his years of political work he ran the UK campaign for lead free petrol, was Chairman of Friends of the Earth UK, directed the Campaign for Freedom of Information and ran a general election campaign for the Liberal Democrats. In 1993 he took the position of Director of Public affairs and Crisis Management at B-M, with a salary rumoured to be one of the highest in the PR industry at that time [13]. He subsequently moved to BAA to highlight the 'environmental benefits' of a fifth terminal at Heathrow. [14] .
  • Richard Aylard B-M's Corporate Social Responsibility unit is headed by Richard Aylard. Aylard was previously head of the Soil Association, which certifies organic food and campaigns against GM crops and pesticides [15].
  • Gavin Grant Before joining B-M in November 1999, Grant was Director of Global Corporate and Public Affairs for The Body Shop International reporting directly to Anita and Gordon Roddick [16]. Whilst there he had responsibility for coordinating The Body Shop's Ogoni Campaign which caused tremendous embarrassment for B-M's client Shell.
  • Simon Bryceson - ex-board member of Friends of the Earth and former consultant to Greenpeace. [17]
  • Peter Melchett - Lord Peter Melchett move to B-M was announced in January 2002, immediately after stepping down as head of Greenpeace UK. Melchett maintains that his new job will give him more access to corporations in order to push his environmental agenda [18]. The move is part of a 'hiring spree' for B-M's Corporate Social Responsibility Unit. B-M expects Lord Melchett's extensive experience of the NGO community, government and business to "provide unique insight for Burson-Marsteller clients." [19]

Former staff

  • Allan Biggar, former CEO of B-M Europe. He gained political experience as a senior member of the Liberal Democrats campaign staff. He also worked in the UK Parliament on UK privatization legislation, and the flotation of British Telecom and other utilities. He is founder CEO of All About Brands, a group of PR, marketing and lobbying companies.

Governmental Links


Revolving Doors

  • Ken Rietz, B-M’s chief operating officer, had a political career serving as "chief legislative adviser to a senior member of Congress, as deputy chairman and political director of the Republican National Committee, and as the strategic and media adviser to more than a dozen members of the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. He also has served in senior positions in four Republican presidential campaigns."


Front groups

Repressive regimes

B-M has a history of working for repressive regimes.


In the 1960s B-M worked for the Nigerian government to spin the crushing of the Biafran revolt. A subsidiary of Burson-Marsteller, Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelley, also worked with the Nigerian military junta in the early nineties. During this time there were routine human rights abuses against protestors such as the Ogoni, who were non-violently campaigning against the oil-giant Shell. [24]

Spining torture in Argentina

In the seventies, after a military coup in Argentina, B-M was hired to improve the country's image. During this period, an estimated 35,000 people disappeared and thousands were tortured. Some of the torture techniques used during this period were el submarino (holding a person's head under water or excrement until near drowning), la picana (electric prod applied to the most sensitive parts of the body), rape, torture (tearing out toe nails) and putting live rats onto the body to feed on fresh wounds. [25] A book was written on the disappeared called Nunca Más ('Never More') [26].


B-M also worked with Indonesia when it was acused of genocide in East Timor.

Major polluters

B-M has a history of working with major polluters.

  • In the seventies B-M worked with Babcock and Wilcox after the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster. The following decade, it worked with Union Carbide after the Bhopal disaster in India, which caused death or injury to tens of thousands of people. Union Carbide orginally tried to blame the disaster on sabotage. [27] [28]
  • B-M has also worked for Monsanto and the biotech body Europabio in Europe. A leaked memo prepared by Burson-Masteller gives us an insight into its PR. It argued that the biotech industry had to "Stay off the killing fields". It said:
"Public issues of environmental and human health risk are communications killing fields for bioindustries in Europe. As a general rule, the industry voice cannot be expected to prevail in public opposition to adversarial voices on these issues. All the research evidence confirms that the perception of the profit motive fatally undermines industry's credibility on these questions. It said that instead the industry had to 'Fight fire with fire'.
"For EuropaBio to make the transition from effective policy interlocutor to effective public communicator, it is essential to shift from issues-based communications to stories-based communications. There are no issues-orientated media with any broad appeal, and the selling of complex issues coverage is a difficult task in any event because it contains little or no news value. Good stories, on the other hand, go around the world in minutes. That's the way adversaries play. That's the way industry must play". [31]

Other clients include the Iraqi National Congress and the Saudi Royal Family who were trying to avoid blame after the September 11th attacks on the US. [32]


Burson-Marsteller advertises a specialism on obesity on its website: [33]

Obesity and, in a broader sense, food/health/nutrition issues, arguably represent one of the biggest public health challenges in western societies today, with enormous repercussions for a variety of industries. Some see it as the modern-day equivalent to previous macro-issues like tobacco, chemical industry & environment, GMOs, etc. The WHO, the EU, national governments are all considering some regulations or recommendations to the general audience, the medical community or the business world. Indeed, companies increasingly have to carefully consider their positioning, strategy and messages on this issue.
Burson-Marsteller has the experience, track-record and credentials to help companies address the issue. We have a unique and comprehensive mix of capabilities and people, we have inroads into some of the key players and we understand how best to present the information to reporters.
Specifically, Burson-Marsteller can help with
  • Tracking Issues and Business/Political Intelligence - identify trends and flag key events and political decisions that influence and accelerate the development of the issue.
  • Constituency Relations - actions and on-going campaigns to shape the perceptions of key groups that are active in defining the media / public opinion and political agenda - trade and heath organizations, groups, etc.
  • Corporate Positioning - how to create a single differentiating communication platform
  • Public Affairs and Governmental Relations - how to engage in a dialogue with governmental organizations and prepare for forthcoming legislation
  • Media Relations - how to balance the debate in the media
  • Brand Building - how to strategically position a brand or product

UK Lobbying clients

Lobbying clients listed in 2008 include:[1]
Afton Chemicals | Alix Partners | Alstom | Anheuser Busch | BSEF | ConnectEd | Danone | Engineering & Technology Board | Peel Holdings | HSBC | Huawei | Neste Oil | Nickel Institure | Nutricia | Microsoft | RIM | Tate & Lyle


  • Head Office
230 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10003
Phone: +1 212 614 4000
Fax: + 1 212 598 6928
  • London Office
24-28 Bloomsbury Way
London WC1A 2PX
United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7831 6262
Fax: : +44 20 7430 1033

A complete list of the addresses of B-M offices worldwide can be obtained from B-M’s web site [34] and at O’Dwyers PR Daily web site [35]


B-M are members of many corporate lobby groups and other organisations. Among these are:

  • Council of Public Relations Firms The Council of Public Relations Firms is a leading industry body for the PR industry. Its membership comprises 122 PR companies including all of the top ten companies (of which B-M is one) and two-thirds of the top fifty. [36]

Spinprofiles Resources

Further reading



  • ^ Andrew Rowell, Green Backlash, Routledge, 1996, p114-121.
  • ^ Argentine National Commission on the Disappeared, Nunca Más, Never Again: A Report, Part I: The Repression, Faber & Faber, 1986
  • Ruiz C, Burson-Marsteller: PR for the New World Order
  • Stauber J and Rampton S, 1995, Toxic Sludge is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry
  • Stauber J and Rampton S, 2000, Trust Us, We’re Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future
  • Rowell A, 1996, Green Backlash: Global Subversion of the Environment Movement
the PR industry’s leading trade journal online
another good industry source
published by the Center for Media and Democracy this is the leading source of critical coverage of the PR industry


  1. ^ http://www.wpp.com, date viewed 3-5-2002
  2. ^ B-M’s web site, http://www.bm.com/overview/history.html, date viewed 3-5-2002
  3. ^ Holmes Report, http://www.holmesreport.com/holmestemp/story.cfm?edit_id=739&type_id=3, date viewed 20-6-2002
  4. ^ http://www.bm.com/overview/practice.html, date viewed 3-5-2002
  5. ^ Except where noted info is from B-M’s web site: http://www.bm.com/overview/ex_board.html, date viewed 3-5-2002
  6. ^ Klingbeil A, "He’s Mr Public Relations", Cincinnati Enquirer 15-4-2001, http://enquirer.com/editions/2001/04/15/fin_hes_mr_public.html, date viewed 3-5-2002
  7. ^ http://www.bm.com/overview/locales/, date viewed, 3-5-2002
  8. ^ http://www.odwyerpr.com/pr_firms_database/prdb21.htm, date viewed 20-6-2002
  9. ^ http://www.bm.com/overview/practice.html, date viewed, 3-5-2002
  10. ^ http://www.bm.com/overview/corp_pra.html, date viewed 3-5-2002
  11. ^ http://www.bm.com/overview/health_pra3.html, date viewed 3-5-2002
  12. ^ Multinational Monitor, http://multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/issues/1993/04/mm0493_13.html, date viewed 20-6-2002; Mother Jones Magazine, http://www.motherjones.com/mother_jones/MJ96/kaplan.jump.html, date viewed 20-6-2002
  13. ^ Mother Jones Magazine, http://www.motherjones.com/mother_jones/MJ96/kaplan.jump.html, date viewed 20-6-2002
  14. ^ Multinational Monitor, http://multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/issues/1993/04/mm0493_05.html, date viewed 20-6-2002
  15. ^ Guardian, 8 Jan 2002
  16. ^ B-M’s web site, http://www.bm.com/newsroom/releases/2002/press2002-01-08.html, date viewed 20-6-2002
  17. ^ Marketing, 20 May 1993
  18. ^ Guardian, 8 Jan 2002
  19. ^ B-M’s web site, http://www.bm.com/bios/g_grant_rep_bio.html, date viewed 20-6-2002
  20. ^ http://www.prfirms.org, date viewed 20-6-2002
  21. ^ B-M’s web site. http://www.bm.com/overview/ex_board.html, date viewed 20-6-2002