NEW YORK: Ketchum’s senior partner and North America CEO Barri Rafferty has taken on a wider global remit as worldwide president, effective immediately.
Current president and CEO Rob Flaherty becomes chairman and CEO of the Omnicom firm. Former CEO Ray Kotcher transitioned from chairman to non-executive chairman in January this year.
Rafferty will continue to oversee Ketchum’s North America offices, which comprise about 60% of the agency’s overall revenues, as well as Ketchum Digital, Ketchum Sports & Entertainment, Access Emanate Communications, Capstrat, and Harrison & Shriftman. She oversaw the launch of Ketchum VR in June, formalizing the firm’s virtual reality offer.
"It’s a broadening of her purview to be worldwide president, starting the same way as my tenure in that position," said Flaherty. "Over time, she’ll take on more and will join me more in taking on responsibility for driving things worldwide."
He added that it will provide him with more help, but there is no immediate plan for Rafferty to follow his path and step up to CEO in the same way he took over from Kotcher.
"We haven’t made that decision yet but we will do down the road," said Flaherty. "Obviously, she’s well-positioned and we try to do things in a plan-ful way here. Putting her in this role gives her the opportunity to gain the experience needed for that. But I’m not announcing that or signaling that at this point."
Last month, Ketchum restructured its senior leadership team, replacing its executive committee with a 20-member global leadership council made up of top executives from around the world, including Rafferty, reporting to Flaherty.
Flaherty said the planning for Rafferty’s elevation was always set for July and Rafferty said the council announcement was more about the whole team than any one individual.
Rafferty added: "I will have the same purview but will be able to sit at the top table with Rob and build the firm, working closely with him on strategy for 2017 and how we continue to innovate and be more client-centric around the world."
Omnicom Group's PR agencies reported flat organic revenue growth in its Q2 2016 financial results, up just 0.1% to nearly $350 million in the period, though Flaherty claimed Ketchum is "having a very good year and we’re happy with the business we’ve won and the growth of our clients."
This follows year-over-year organic growth of just 0.3% in Q2 2015 compared to the 12 months prior. As well as Ketchum, the group’s PR firms include FleishmanHillard, Porter Novelli, and Marina Maher Communications.
"We’re working very closely with Karen and looking at talent through that lens and collaborating on that," said Flaherty. He added that Rafferty’s new role was "entirely driven by Ketchum" and not Omnicom PR Group.
Rafferty joined Ketchum in 1994 and has led the agency’s North America business since 2012. She is a member of the governing body of parent company Omnicom’s OmniWomen network and sits on the board of empowerment organization StepUp, which helps girls from underprivileged communities to achieve.
In April, she was named to PRWeek’s inaugural Hall of Femme list.
"I’m proud of the Ketchum GLC being a 50/50 gender mix," said Rafferty. "We continue to make sure that diversity is at the top of our agenda.