Burson-Marsteller Adds CSR Expert

Corporate social responsibility is public relations’ hot-button category, and the top U.S. PR shops are racing to boost their credentials in the area. Last week, WPP Group’s Burson-Marsteller added an expert in the field, Diana Shayon, co-founder and CEO of HRN, a Philadelphia CSR consultancy.

Shayon joined B-M New York as managing director, U.S. corporate/ financial practice, a new post. She reports to practice chairman Judi Mackey and is joined by two HRN staffers: Kevin Bennett, director, and Kristin Rogers, manager. HRN has been dissolved.

Shayon got to know B-M a year ago when she addressed its international board of directors about the impact on marketing agencies of corporate scandals and the 9/11 attacks. “I was very impressed—they were appreciative and thoughtful,” she said of that first meeting. “[And] I wanted to [work] in a different arena.”

Shayon, a self-described entrepreneur, co-founded HRN in 1971 as a nonprofit public affairs firm focused on the then-emerging CSR area. During its run, the shop counted among its clients DuPont, Ford, Keyspan and Procter & Gamble. Talks are under way with several undisclosed clients about shifting to B-M, she said. HRN’s other accounts have included Rio Tinto and Kennecott Energy.

B-M’s U.S. corporate/financial practice has 75 staffers. Its clients include Coca-Cola, the U.S. Postal Service and Washington Mutual.

In May, B-M added Bennett Freeman as CSR managing director in its Washington office. The shop has plenty of company in the race to acquire CSR expertise and clients: In the past two months, independent Edelman and WPP’s Hill & Knowlton both launched CSR units.

“Clients are recognizing more than ever that there’s an important role for CSR, particularly in the context of the cynicism out there,” said Los Angeles-based PR management and search consultant Jerry Swerling.