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Within 5 minutes of meeting recently installed AT&T Corp. President John Walter, Marilyn Laurie and he were discussing the importance of the AT&T brand to the future success of the company.

Now Ms. Laurie, former exec VP-public relations, holds the new-and more powerful-position of exec VP-brand strategy and marketing communications at the telecommunications giant, which spends an estimated $1 billion a year on advertising.


An English major from Barnard College, Ms. Laurie, 57, has been involved in some sort of PR since joining the company in 1971, including positions as a speech writer, VP-public relations of Bell Laboratories and senior VP-global communications.

"The PR side of the business is really only a hop, skip and a jump across into the balance of marketing communications," said Ms. Laurie. "I've always been a very loud voice on the need to systematically grow our brand. And now I have the incredible opportunity to actually put my energy where my mouth was."

Because AT&T includes corporate advertising efforts within its PR functions, Ms. Laurie has worked intimately on various efforts, including the development of AT&T's "You will" campaign.

Now her task is to implement a unified strategy across all AT&T's units to resurrect the company's brand, which has been suffering lately.

"We're moving from a product-facing organization to one that's customer-facing," she said.

"As far as I'm concerned, we have one brand, one brand strategy and will speak with only one voice to our customers."

Some agency executives are expecting AT&T to further trim its already-lean roster of three agencies: McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Young & Rubicam and Foote, Cone & Belding, all New York. But Ms. Laurie maintains current agencies are part of a team that has rallied behind a single AT&T voice.

Direct marketing agencies and promotional shops that handle special projects for individual AT&T units, however, may be in danger of losing some business.

Wunderman Cato Johnson, a division of Y&R, handles much of AT&T's direct business.


"Currently, each product has its own direct mail and own advertising supporting it. Those efforts will soon be consolidated," Ms. Laurie said. "This year it's our hope to spend less money on advertising for the same or greater impact as last year."

"I'll know we're doing our jobs well when we see an actual connection between our brand and our revenue growth," she said.

Her biggest challenge in moving from PR to a marketing position is the need to shift from a defensive role to one that's a lot more offensive in nature, she said.

"I'll no longer be so concerned with how AT&T's actions are interpreted by the media," Ms. Laurie said. "Now I'm simply focused on leading this category: leading it now, leading it in the future and resurrecting one of the great

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