CHICAGO: Burson-Marsteller EVP Erica Swerdlow has been hired as the first CEO of Wye Communications, a new PR firm jointly owned by Stagwell Group and Finn Partners.
Reporting to Stagwell partner Jay Leveton, Swerdlow is based in Chicago. Her first day at Wye Communications was January 8. She oversees six staffers in the role.
Stagwell Group, the investment advisory firm founded by former Burson-Marsteller CEO Mark Penn in 2015, took an investment in Finn Partners last September. At that time, the two organizations told PRWeek they were planning to roll out Wye Communications, which Stagwell has a controlling interest in. Wye officially launches this week.
The new agency is structured around "data intelligence, scalable talent, and operational excellence," a news release explained. The firm's focus is on consumer, b-to-b, and "technology organizations in transformation." It is based in Chicago and will scale nationally during 2017.
As Wye’s CEO, Swerdlow is responsible for serving clients, acquiring talent, and building U.S. operations.
"I do not think agencies are always solving the right problems. And on the client side, there is the propensity to put PR into a box and just ask agencies to do work that may not really serve the bigger business challenge," said Swerdlow. "We think we have developed a formula for new partnerships that allows us to work as PR AOR, but also scale up for projects and scale down when we need to."
She added integration and operational excellence – the best tools to operate a more lean and effective operation – are major focus areas for Wye.
"We are not going to have any separate P&Ls," continued Swerdlow. "We are going to reward collaborations."
Most recently, Swerdlow was EVP and Midwest market leader for Burson-Marsteller. In that role, she led U.S. business development and growth, the Chicago office, and key client work. She joined Burson in 2010 and exited in December.
Swerdlow started high-tech PR firm EBS Public Relations in 1993, during the first technology boom. She sold the agency to Omnicom in January 2000, where she merged into Porter Novelli’s Chicago office and led the agency’s technology practice. Swerdlow worked at Porter for nearly 11 years before joining Burson.
The Stagwell Group portfolio includes Harris Insights and Analytics, performance marketing firm PMX Agency, creative digital firm Code and Theory, entertainment research agency National Research Group (NRG), and SKDKnickerbocker, a strategic communications firm acquired by Stagwell in October 2015.