From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Fleishman-Hillard is one of the largest public relations companies in the world with a global network of offices as well as offices in 22 cities in the United States. It is owned by Omnicom.


In a listing on its website of PR companies with a crisis management capability, the American Meat Institute described F-H in the US as having "managed crises for the oil, railroad, airline, meat, poultry, produce and high-tech communications industries. Fleishman currently is on retainer for the Partnership for Food Safety Education." [3]

According to the F-H firm's website: "In 1946, in St. Louis, Missouri, Fleishman-Hillard founders Al Fleishman and Bob Hillard tapped out the beginnings of a business on the keyboards of their manual typewriters... For the next twenty-some years, the firm served a mainly regional client base, until 1974 when John Graham [John D. Graham] was named president. Under his leadership, Fleishman-Hillard has undergone the most dynamic period of domestic and international expansion. Fleishman-Hillard grew from two offices in St. Louis and Kansas City, to over 80 offices located throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, Australia, and South Africa."[4]

In May 2004, San Francisco Chronicle reporter David Lazarus questioned whether codes of conduct were broken when Marc Bien, who he interviewed with the understanding that Bien was Vice-President of Corporate Communications for the telecommunications giant SBC Communications, was actually found to be an employee of F-H.[5]

Lazarus wrote, in a follow-up article on a possible strike at SBC: "I quoted an SBC spokesman the other day defending the company's use of hundreds of outside contractors -- a contentious issue in the contract talks with union members. Turns out, according to internal SBC documents, that the spokesman, Marc Bien, himself is a 'nonemployee' who is actually on the payroll of public- relations powerhouse Fleishman-Hillard. He is, in other words, an outside contractor, as are dozens of other Fleishman employees who assist with SBC's corporate spin. What makes the case unusual, though, is that Bien, who has appeared in this column many times representing SBC's position on a variety of matters, bears the title of SBC vice president of corporate communications. His business cards say as much, and he works in the firm's San Francisco office. Internal documents show that about a half-dozen SBC vice presidents are in reality Fleishman employees. Yet they present themselves as SBC executives."[6]

U.S. government PR contracts

According to the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform Minority Office, Fleishman-Hillard received the following amounts per year, for federal PR contracts: [7]

  • $39,000 in 1998
  • $33,589,000 in 1999
  • $2,344,000 in 2000
  • $5,011,996 in 2001
  • $23,903,419 in 2002
  • $3,433,690 in 2003
  • $8,686,529 in 2004

The firm's federal work has included the Social Security Administration, on the “Ticket to Work” program for disabled and blind Social Security recipients; Library of Congress; Environmental Protection Agency; Department of Defense, to introduce “managed care” to 8.3 million current and former employees, at a time of “rising medical costs” and “decreasing resources”; and Office of National Drug Control Policy, to “debunk the misconception that marijuana was harmless."

Video news releases Fleishman-Hillard (and its subcontractors Gourvitz Communications and Harbour Media) produced for ONDCP were found to be in violation of the ban on covert government propaganda.

Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations

F-H's Government Relations practice "has offices in Washington, D.C., New York City, Albany, and Minneapolis," according to the Holmes Report ("Former Congressman Joins Fleishman Government Relations," March 19, 2007). The practice is "led by co-chairmen former Congressman Max Sandlin, former Bronx borough president and New York City Democratic mayoral nominee Fernando Ferrer, and Michael McKeon, former communications director to Governor George Pataki."

In March 2007, former Congressman Bill Luther joined the practice as a senior vice-president. Luther served on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, the International Relations Committee and the Science Committee, according to the Holmes Report ("Former Congressman Joins Fleishman Government Relations," March 19, 2007).

Also in March 2007, F-H Government Relations announced that former Missouri Senator Jim Talent had joined the firm as Co-Chairman. The firm cited Talent's bipartisan success in securing funding and construction bonds in the highway bill and in passing the "most comprehensive anti-meth bill ever enacted into law", as well his leadership role in efforts to add a renewable fuels standard to the energy bill as accomplishments which would enhance F-H's ability to "work on important issues like increasing access to healthcare, improving our transportation infrastructure, and strengthening our military". [8]

In June 2007, O'Dwyer's PR Daily reported that, in his new role as co-chair of Fleishman-Hillard's government relations practice, former U.S. Senator Jim Talent will be "spearheading the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers' bid to torpedo the effort to raise fuel mileage standards to 52 miles per gallon" by 2030. Instead, the automakers are supporting a compromise measure from Senators Carl Levin and Kit Bond. "Talent cannot lobby for the Levin-Bond bill because of Senate rules," explained O'Dwyer's. "He can do media outreach on behalf of the carmakers." [9]

FH Moms

In January 2009, Fleishman-Hillard announced it was establishing an "FH Moms" practice, "to provide strategic counsel on communicating with moms through an integrated range of touch points that includes both traditional and online media, as well as influencer and word-of-mouth marketing," according to the Holmes Report. The practice "will bring together specialists from the firm's diverse practice areas, including marketing communications, healthcare, technology, travel and tourism, FH Hispania, and financial communications. FH Moms will be co-chaired by Liz Hawks, Heidi Hovland and Kris Caputo Hurley from the firm's Kansas City, New York and Sacramento offices respectively." [1]

According to Fleishman-Hillard, mothers are responsible for 85 percent of household purchasing decisions. The firm partnered with the marketing firm the Harrison Group, "to develop a proprietary study, Women, Power and Money: A Shift to the New Female-Driven Economy, which found a clear vision of the mom as chief household officer and reported that in 'millions of American households, moms set the purchasing agenda for everything from traditional packaged goods to financial and home improvement services.'" [1]

Political action committee

According to the Center for Responsive Politics database, Fleishman-Hillard federal political action committee had raised more than $79,000 as of October for the 2004 election cycle, with 47% of the donations given at that point going to Democrats, and 53% to Republicans. In the 2002 election cycle, the PAC gave 48% of the $59,800 raised to Democrats, and 52% to Republicans. In 2000, 44% of the $40,900 raised went to Democrats, 56% to Republicans. In 1998, 45% of the $37,250 raised was given to Democrats, 55% to Republicans. [10]



According to O'Dwyer's PR Report, in mid-2004 F-H clients included:

  • the state of Illinois, "to handle PR and public affairs to prevent the closure of Scott Air Force Base in the southern part of the state" [11];
  • Novell, Sun Microsystems and J.D. Edwards, in a San Francisco-based "effort to use customer outreach programs to add their voice to clients' PR, sales and marketing efforts"[12];
  • Great Plains Airlines, a short-lived St. Louis-based service that declared bankruptcy after four months[13]; and
  • Circuit City, a $1 million account. [14]

Other clients include:

In August 2004, PR Week reported that the Chicago office of F-H were advising PepsiCo with a campaign to respond to concern about rising levels of obesity. The campaign will promote the company's "Smart Spot" on a range of products which it claims contribute to a healthy lifestyle.[26]

The Holmes Report writes: "Fleishman-Hillard has better national coverage than any of its competitors, with 34 domestic offices. With more than 400 employees, the St. Louis headquarters continues to rank among the largest concentrations of PR talent on the planet, and to handle a wide variety of consumer, business-to-business and corporate clients."

Holmes also notes: "Fleishman-Hillard has been getting more and more deeply involved in the biotechnology sector, helping the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Council of Biotechnology Information communicate the benefits of the technology to consumers and opinion leaders."[27]

In August 2006, one day after the Associated Press reported that the electronic voting machine company Election Systems & Software (ES&S) "agreed to a $750,000 settlement that resolves complaints filed after its software caused delays for some Indiana voters and election officials during the state's May primary," O'Dwyer's PR Daily reported that Fleishman-Hillard was representing ES&S. [28][29]

Fleishman-Hillard and UK politics

In April 2005 Kevin Maguire wrote of F-H distributing a glossy brochure to their clients sketching the likely changes that could be expected under a Labour government led by Gordon Brown. "Warning multinational bosses that the next Labour premier's philosophy is built on - wait for it - equity, the booklet predicts Brown will centralise power around himself," Maguire wrote. [2]

In June 2005, Kevin Bell from the UK arm of Fleishman-Hillard spoke at a one-day conference in London called ID Cards: Towards Procurement and Implementation. The title of his talk was "Achieving public acceptance". [3]

EU petition manipulation

As an effort to greater transparency and public input, the EU commission introduced a series of petitions as a means to obtain public input. These petitions became the target of two PR companies (Bell Pottinger and Fleishman-Hillard) who offered to manipulate the results to affect EU legislation.[4]

Case studies

Contact information

FH St. Louis
200 N. Broadway
St. Louis, MO 63102
Phone: 314-982-7725
Web: www.fleishman.com

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 "New Fleishman Practice Focuses on Marketing to Moms," Holmes Report (sub req'd), January 26, 2009.
  2. [1]
  3. [2]
  4. Kevin Rawlinson, Revealed: lobbyists' plans to hijack 'people's petitions', Independent, 10 April 2012.

External resources

External articles