WPP's Burson-Marsteller to help brands connect with Cuba

Latin America President Ramiro Prudencio is leading the Burson-Marsteller Cuba Specialty Team

NEW YORK — Burson-Marsteller has launched a service for clients who are planning to enter the Cuban market as the country and the US restore diplomatic ties after a freeze of more than five decades.

Ramiro Prudencio, president and CEO of the WPP firm’s Latin America branch, is leading the US-based service, which is called the Burson-Marsteller Cuba Specialty Team. It will comprise staffers from across Burson’s offices and employees from WPP sister firms such as Direct Impact and Penn Schoen Berland, the firm said on Thursday. The team has 12 members.

The Cuba Specialty Team will help clients with strategic counsel on the political and economic environments in both the US and Cuba. It will also provide clients with real-time analysis of US government policy developments and strategic communications planning and execution, including digital and social media outreach.

Prudencio explained that US businesses looking to enter the Cuban market will face a number of challenges. First, the embargo is still in place, and there are limited spaces in which US companies can begin to build businesses in Cuba.

Many services a PR firm would normally offer are not applicable in Cuba.

"The media is state-run and controlled, and there is limited access to the Internet," Prudencio said. "So a lot of things a PR agency would do would be difficult to do when we look at traditional marketing and comms services."

Burson parent WPP said Thursday it will set up a shop in Cuba, in an unprecedented move amid improving relations between the island nation and the US. Under a contract with the Cuban state-owned Palco Group, the world’s biggest advertising network now has a permanent executive based in Havana who will be backed by a local support team.

Industry experts told PRWeek last month that Cuba is an untapped landscape for PR pros, and it may remain that way for years to come, even with the end of the US trade embargo in sight. Just because the two longtime rivals are taking steps to normalize relations, experts said Cuban government policies and the basic rules of business in the country may not immediately change.

However, US companies such as Airbnb and Netflix have been moving to establish a presence in the country.

Burson is focusing on corporate positioning, CSR, and the overall benefit a company can bring to Cuban communities.

"As regulation evolves, companies have to figure out how to communicate to stakeholders, such as the Cuban government or the Cuban people, about what the company is, what it does, and how it is going to help Cuba monetize, move forward, and improve the quality of life," said Prudencio.

He added that companies that move quickly will have a "real first-mover advantage."

The firm did not disclose with what clients the Cuba Specialty Team is working. 

This article first appeared on prweek.com.

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