BA swaps Grayling for H+K/Ogilvy for consumer PR brief; announces in-house departures

British Airways has ended its seven-year relationship with Grayling, moving its international consumer PR account to WPP agencies Hill+Knowlton and Ogilvy - while also seeing more senior in-house comms departures, including head of global PR Kathryn Williamson.

In addition, the airline has appointed London-based agency Pagefield to a new corporate brief.

The consumer PR account, thought to be worth seven figures, will be overseen by a combined team from Ogilvy and H+K Strategies. They will join WPP’s existing "Team Horizon" - its dedicated offer for BA owner International Airlines Group – that comprises advertising, media, customer loyalty, design, production, and digital transformation.

The brief is global, excluding Africa, where consumer PR will continue to be handled by Meropa, which has worked on the account for several years. Action PR previously handled the account in the Middle East but this region will now be overseen by the WPP agencies.

The account will be run out of London with hubs in New York and Asia. It’s understood that BA was looking for an agency with a strong global footprint, and it helped that the airline already worked with WPP. They will report to the global PR team.

RFP

BA contacted a number of agencies about the brief last year, with the initial RFP asking agencies to specify which region or regions they might cover.

Ogilvy UK chief executive Michael Frohlich said: "We’re thrilled to extend on our relationship with British Airways and IAG Cargo, allowing us to service the brands in a truly integrated way. Customers want to hear one voice from the brands they engage with and we are now able to provide this in a truly seamless way."

Grayling UK & Ireland CEO Sarah Scholefield said: "Since our appointment in 2011, it has been an absolute privilege to work with British Airways across both Europe and APAC. We have enjoyed every stage of our long relationship and want to thank British Airways for the last seven years of partnership.

"It is understandable that this global agency review comes at a time of change within British Airways and we wish them great success both now and in the future."

In 2016, BA retained the three incumbent on its international roster: Grayling, Meropa, and Action.

Separately, BA has appointed Pagefield to a new corporate comms brief. It will focus on supporting and shaping communications around the airline’s corporate strategy and its ‘change’ programme. It will also work on activities around BA’s centenary next year.

Oliver Foster, Pagefield CEO, said: "British Airways is one of the UK’s best-known global brands and, as the company rolls out a significant £4.5bn investment programme and looks forward to celebrating its centenary year, it’s a very exciting time for Pagefield to start working with the team led by chief executive Alex Cruz – and we’re delighted to be doing so, helping the airline to continue to be seen in the UK, and around the world, as one of the most potent symbols of a Britain that is open and connected to the world."

The agency appointments were made by Louise Evans, formerly director of corporate affairs at Sainsbury's, who was named director of external communications at BA in February this year. Head of global PR Kathryn Williamson was also heavily involved in the process.

In-house changes

Meanwhile, three long-standing senior in-house comms figures are set to leave BA following another restructure: Williamson; head of global news Sophie Greenyer; and comms manager Richard Goodfellow. Williamson had been at the company for seven years, while Greenyer and Goodfellow have clocked up 17 years apiece.

Williamson’s role will be replaced, while the other two will not directly.

The global news team will be split into two divisions: media relations, which will manage reactive comms; and corporate PR. Pagefield will report in to the latter team.

Greenyer’s role will effectively be split into two: head of media relations and head of corporate PR.

Two roles will be added in the media relations team: media relations manager and media relations executive. Two will also be added to the corporate PR arm: corporate PR manager and corporate PR executive. The former team will be five-strong, and the latter three-strong.

There will also be a VP, public relations role created in New York.

The circa 15-strong global PR team is unaffected by the changes.

The airline restructured its comms operation in January, prior to Evans’ arrival, with two long-standing PR staff - communications director, Paul Marston and head of internal communications, Amanda Poole - leaving the company.

'Successful future ahead'

Evans said: "British Airways has an exciting and successful future ahead as Britain’s airline of choice – a quality airline for everyone, everywhere. I’m confident our new internal structure, alongside our agency framework, will provide us with the support we need to tell our story across the globe as we head into our centenary year and beyond.

"I would like to thank Kathryn, Sophie and Richard for their huge contribution to British Airways during their time with the airline. They have much to be proud of and they leave with all our thanks and best wishes for the future."

Greenyer said: "British Airways has a media profile which means there is never a dull moment, but thankfully with a fantastic team, leading the charge has been incredibly rewarding. I’m hugely proud of the team I’ll leave behind and excited by the new opportunities which are ahead of me."

Williamson said: "I have loved working with a fantastically talented and creative team to deliver many award-winning campaigns. I know the team will continue to shine and it’s now time for me to do something new and I’m excited to be embarking on a new challenge in the Autumn."

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