Principal: Melissa Waggener Zorkin, president, CEO
Subsidiary agencies: Maloney & Fox
Offices: 16 wholly owned globally; 7 in the US
Revenues: Global: $105,642,000; US: $94,599,000
Headcount: 776 globally; 628 in the US
A number of senior-level people left Waggener Edstrom last year. They included Kazumi Mechling, EVP of consumer; Frank Shaw, president of the Microsoft account worldwide; Matt Reid, EVP of corporate and public affairs and social innovation; and Corey duBrowa, president of account services.
Yet the firm emerged with a renewed focus. Cofounder Pam Edstrom will now also serve as president of the Microsoft business. Claire Lematta, president of global strategies for the agency, will take on a permanent leadership role in North America after being named interim leader when duBrowa left to join Starbucks in December. SVPs Bud Grebey and John Bentz took over the consumer practice after Mechling's departure, and Bay Area GM Michelle Herman was named lead of the firm's global tech practice last year.
Changes at the top
"Though we had some key leadership changes, there were more people that we brought in," says CEO Melissa Waggener Zorkin, referring in particular to the additions in the firm's Studio D digital group, which included David Patton, VP and editor-in-chief. "We made a conscious decision to ramp up our leadership hires."
Global revenue fell 13% last year, 14% in the US, due to the economy – but also because clients are taking a harder look at ROI, Zorkin says. "We've seen it since the middle of 2008," she adds. "So there was a bit of a reset in terms of where dollars on the client side are being spent." Tech clients have been the first among those looking more closely at ROI. Key client wins were Microsoft Mobility, Toshiba, and Tupperware. Losses included Chevron.
The agency's most notable strides were surrounding digital and social media trends. It launched Twitter monitoring tools, Twendz and Twendz Pro. Zorkin says IT products can "absolutely turn into strong revenue streams" for PR firms, but right now Waggener Edstrom is focusing on using the tools to help clients determine the ROI of their social media efforts.
While the firm's Studio D is recognized as a leading example of PR agencies taking an active role in content creation, Zorkin points out that other agencies are now catching up. "Others with large resources are getting into this," she says, "so we have to continue to work to stay ahead."