There are big name agencies out there, but not always enough people know about the people running these big name agencies.
Here’s some more background on some of the most powerful CEO’s in PR:
Andy Polansky of Weber Shandwick PR
Since 2012, Andy Polansky has served as the CEO of Weber Shandwick, a public relations firm with 73 offices around the world. Weber Shandwick was formed in 2001 from the merger of the Weber Group, Shandwick International, and BSMG. It has an extensive client base culled from the specialties of the three groups (at the time of the merger, BSMG’s high-profile accounts included Coca-Cola and Insurance Group Cigna) but is particularly focused on digital media.
Polansky got his start in journalism: graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from The College of New Jersey, he served as a reporter for Levittown, PA’s Bucks County Courier Times, wrote about business for The Princeton Packet in Princeton, NJ, and covered sports for The Trentonian in Trenton, NJ. Very active on social media, it was under his direction Weber Shandwick developed the social media PR crisis simulation tool “Firebell.”
Civic engagement is a priority for Polansky: he sits on the board of the Ad Council, a nonprofit organization that develops public service campaigns for nonprofits and governmental agencies that serve public health, community, and educational needs. With an active interest in the next generation of PR professionals, he received the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations’ Milestones in Mentoring Award in October 2014. He has been a recent speaker at PR events for millennial-era professionals and highlighting diversity and inclusion as cornerstones of good communications practice.
Rob Flaherty of Ketchum Public Relations
Rob Flaherty is CEO and President of Ketchum PR. Flaherty joined Ketchum in 1989, began serving as president in 2008 and was named CEO in 2012. Ketchum specializes in corporate and consumer product PR, a focus Flaherty prepared early for in his role as Director of Public Relations for the F.X. Matt Brewing Company in Utica, New York. A graduate of Syracuse’s Utica College, Flaherty’s career includes counseling large companies and brands such as IBM, Philips, and Pfizer.
Flaherty is one of the judges of the Silver Anvils Awards, a prestigious event for excellence across all fields of public relations. Dedicated to counseling corporate professionals, he specializes in corporate positioning and issues management often leading collaborative sessions on corporate “de-positioning” and message architecture. With expertise in handling some of the most high-profile ventures in communications, he was selected to provide crisis management and communications support for the 2008 G8 Summit.
Flaherty also prides himself on a global perspective: Ketchum, based in New York, has expanded its office base to 102 locations around the world under his guidance. He leads Ketchum’s relationship with the World Economic Forum and frequently facilitates their presence at its annual summit in Switzerland. He also led the team providing crisis support management for the 1996, 2004, and 2008 Olympic Torch Relay.
Don Baer of Burson Marsteller Communications
Don Baer is the CEO and global chair of Burson-Marsteller, a global communications firm with regional headquarters in New York, Miami, Hong Kong, and Brussels. Baer had a lengthy tenure in media advising supported by his extensive educational background. He holds a B.A. from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Phi Beta Kappa), a Master’s in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a J.D. from The University of Virginia School of Law. Associated with the Washington, DC branch of Burson-Marsteller, Baer has two sons and lives in Virginia with his wife.
Baer worked throughout the 1980s practicing media law before shifting his focus to journalism in the 1990s. As a writer, he was employed by US News and World Report and wrote for The New York Times and Politico among other major news outlets. Baer’s expertise in politics and communications led him to serve as senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, also, as Director of Strategic Planning and Communications at The White House and as Chief Speechwriter for the President. He worked as a leader and producer for Discovery Communications; it was under his supervision that The Discovery Channel produced the Emmy Award-winning documentary, Decisions That Shook the World and undertook a partnership with The New York Times. He also sits on the board of PBS and has led Burson-Marsteller to specialize in advising international media agencies.
Donna Imperato of Cohn and Wolfe PR
Donna Imperato serves as CEO of NYC-based communications firm Cohn and Wolfe, a subsidiary of WPP with offices in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Calling themselves the “Swiss Army Knife” of PR ventures, Cohn and Wolfe focus on helping clients by empowering them with cutting-edge digital media tools. Cohn and Wolfe specialize in branding. Major-name clients include Barclays, ExxonMobil, GlaxoSmithKline, Hennessy, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Mattel, Panasonic and Smucker’s. They are also uniquely focused on energy, taking on clients providing both carbon-based and alternative energy sources and participating in WPP’s initiative to reduce its carbon footprint. Imperato began as CEO in 2002 and has helped the company expand its focus to social media in the last 10 years.
A mother of two, Imperato notes she rises early enough to pack lunch for her daughters before calling Europe and Asia in the morning for herd business. Imperato has said she keeps more than a dozen pairs of stilettos in her office, and if she were not in PR, she’d be in performing arts.
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