Dutko Grayling looks for fresh start as 'lobbying firm-plus'

One of K Street's top-earning lobby shops is looking for a fresh start as a “lobbying firm-plus.”

Dutko Worldwide will now be known as Dutko Grayling, a name change that coincides with an aggressive expansion into public relations.

Lord Peter Chadlington, chief executive of Huntsworth, the parent company of both Dutko and the global PR firm Grayling, said the time had come to merge the two organizations.

“We’re huge believers in running our company on the basis of what our clients want,” Chadlington said. “By bringing Dutko and Grayling together, we can give our clients the very high-quality service we already give them in this area and we can supplement it by giving them the global access they need.”

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Andy Wright, a longtime veteran of Dutko Worldwide, said the old K Street model of access to and relationships with lawmakers is no longer enough for clients.

“You can’t just do traditional lobbying anymore,” Wright said. “Everything now is a campaign.”

Chadlington said he wants clients to think of Dutko Grayling as not just a traditional lobbying firm, but as “a lobbying firm-plus.”

“This is an absolutely unique offer,” he said.

The rebranding of Dutko comes at a time when the firm has struggled to keep pace on K Street.

It has seen its lobbying revenue decline over the years. The firm earned $6.2 million in lobbying fees in the first half of 2011, a significant drop from its $8.8 million take in the first half of 2010.

The firm also lost one of its marquee lobbyists, Gary Andres, who departed last year to become the staff director at the House Energy and Commerce Committee under Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

Chadlington said Dutko will reverse the perception of a decline by becoming more relevant to the needs of customers. He predicted a board meeting scheduled for Thursday would show the firm is moving forward.

“You will feel a very different kind of atmosphere from the one a year ago, where everybody’s clear on the vision, everybody knows their numbers, everybody knows what they have to do, and it’s a much more focused business than it has been, in my judgment, for the last year,” Chadlington said.

Dutko executives said they are actively recruiting more people to come to the firm. Chadlington said the firm wants “very experienced people” who can move from lobbying to PR and back again.

“It takes time for the culture to meld and to became conducive to making change. So there was very little that happened in the first year. It really has been 2011 that has been the year for our focus for change,” said Sally Withey, Huntsworth’s chief operating officer.

Chadlington is a veteran of the PR business. He founded Shandwick in 1974, which is now part of PR giant Weber Shandwick, and has served as chairman of Huntsworth since 2005.

Huntsworth bought Dutko in December 2009 and began a slow process of integrating it with the more global Grayling, which has 70 offices in 31 countries.

Dutko Grayling will offer three main advocacy components to its clients.

Mark Irion, the former CEO of Dutko Worldwide, is leading the firm’s public affairs and public relations. David Beightol will handle state and local government lobbying for the firm. Wright and Kim Koontz Bayliss will head the firm’s federal lobbying group.

Dutko executives said they have already picked up a number of clients this year — such as shipping company DHL and French rail company SNCF — for which they lobby and provide PR services.

Chadlington said he wants Dutko Grayling to match the lobbying heights of Dutko Worldwide in about five years’ time.

“I think in five years, I would like us to be able to show that we have built a revenue stream in lobbying, which is as good as it has ever been in Dutko,” he said.