The London-based agency, called Eterna, has been launched with Fairbrass and Baker as partners, alongside Serra Balls, former Lehman Brothers corporate comms chief and most recently group head of communications at financial tech company ICAP (since renamed NEX Group).
Discussing the ethos of the new venture, Fairbrass said: "We will be putting the human into corporate communications, recognising that people are making decisions at a more emotional level and social networks have an in-built bias towards content that has an emotional resonance."
Fairbrass suggested there would be a particular focus on helping brands connect to people via social media, and to avoid the type of language he said is "almost designed to create distance between them and their audiences".
"Trust and confidence in businesses and organisations is now distributed among ordinary people rather than conferred by the great and the good," he said. "In this more personal space, where brand influence is no longer bought but negotiated, organisations need to engage more directly and they can no longer rely on the traditional means of mediation between themselves and those people critical to their success."
Fairbrass, former SVP of global comms at brewer SABMiller, who also has agency experience at Brunswick and Tulchan - said current clients at Eterna were not "signed, sealed and delivered" but that the agency is "in discussions" with several parties.
The agency is "sector agnostic", Fairbrass said, although he said he’d like to work for companies in "highly regulated industries", especially those with a public service role, as well as drinks companies.
Balls was previously director of corporate comms at Lehman Brothers before the bank’s collapse in 2008. Her other roles have included head of communications, financial markets, EMEA, at Bank of New York Mellon.
Baker formerly held comms roles at the Association of Chief Police Officers and the College of Policing.
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