A Chief Comms Officer Explains His Company’s Decade-Long Relationship with Its PR Firm

Al Maag, chief comms officer for tech distribution company Avnet and the chairman of the Business Marketing Association (BMA), told us this morning during a visit to the Mediabistro office that Avnet has worked with its PR firm, Brodeur Partners, since 1999. That’s rare.

Maag credits the relationship’s longevity to a few things some of the standard qualities: they have a similar geographic footprint (Avnet is based in Phoenix where Brodeur has an office, for example), Brodeur’s tech capabilities, etc.

But one thing that stood out to Maag was the firm’s decision to hire a third-party to handle some of Avnet’s media training duties.

“They didn’t say they could do everything,” Maag said. “They have trainers on staff. But they made sure we had the best person versus their person.”

Avnet places a premium on PR, with Maag saying that they prefer it to advertising.

“What folks write is more compelling than us running an ad,” he said.

Avnet is in 100 countries with 17,000 employees and 40 divisions. The company has spokespeople across the globe and media training is an ongoing task that Brodeur helps with. (Moreover, Maag praises the “somebody who made the right decision not to charge us for extra services.”)

All that said, everyone in the company can speak with the media if they’re an expert, Maag said.

“I don’t care if the janitor speaks to the press. If you’re an expert, you’re an expert,” he told us.

To that end, C-level executives speak for the company as much as anyone else. This week CEO Rick Hamada would be among those conducting media interviews, speaking with Jim Cramer today at six, according to the Avnet website.

Brodeur also has access to the C-suite to discuss strategy and other matters, Maag said, meeting with the execs at least once per quarter.

“I know when you win,” he added. “It’s when the C-level wants you in the meeting.”

And Avnet thinks a continuous search for a firm is a waste of time.

“I don’t understand why people continually do the RFPs. The time wasted when you could’ve been doing PR makes no sense. You check out the credentials and after a while, you have to be comfortable with who you’re married to,” he says.

Of course, that comfort level is reached when you see results, which Maag said Avnet has gotten. According to the chief comms officer, among Avnet and its competitors, Avnet gets 50 percent of the media coverage.

As we mentioned previously, Avnet has a favorable attitude towards PR, which includes a willingness to try something new. The company is very active with video, opting to launch its own channel rather than going on YouTube. Not because they don’t like it, said Maag. But as a B2B company and with the volume of clips on YouTube, Avnet couldn’t be sure how much attention they would get on the site.

Rather, on its webpage, the company links to products, white papers, and other content for visitors. They’ll even post videos for other companies, like Texas Instruments, complete with the other company’s logo.

This open-mindedness goes for other platforms as well, including Facebook and Twitter. As long as it’s focused on the B2B space, it basically up for grabs.

Speaking of B2B, the BMA is focused on B2B organizations, and they’ve announced today that pre-registration is open for its 2012 international conference, taking place in Chicago May 30 through June 1. Speakers from Motorola, Dow Corning, and other companies are already confirmed. To learn more about the conference, click here.