MWWPR hires Ogilvy vet Michelle Rios to lead DC office

Rios had been with Ogilvy for 19 years.

Michelle Rios
Michelle Rios

WASHINGTON: MWWPR has hired Michelle Rios as EVP of corporate affairs and MD of its Washington, DC, office.

Rios started the job on January 14. She reports to MWWPR CEO Michael Kempner and Careen Winters, chief strategy officer and chair of the firm’s reputation management practice. She oversees 20 people in the Washington, DC, office.

Rios replaced Amy Dacey, who left MWWPR last June to become a resident fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.

MWWPR lured Rios away from a 19-year career at Ogilvy. Most recently, she was an SVP at Ogilvy, managing reputational and crisis issues for corporate, government, and nonprofit clients.

"I had no plans to leave," Rios said, explaining what happened after MWWPR first approached her three months ago. "I was working on the corporate and public affairs practice on a global basis at Ogilvy and loving the work I did when I was approached. They found me, then started a conversation and it was a long conversation. Nothing happened overnight."

Two reasons motivated her to make the move.

"I’m very interested in what’s happening with the mid-sized agency sector," she said. "And MWWPR is really leading the pack as far as independent, mid-sized agencies go. I was really impressed with their capacity and depth."

Rios was also attracted to the scope of the position.

"They are permitting me to do reputation and crisis work across the organization," she said. "And the fact that it was not just going to be a GM role was very exciting to me."

Ogilvy would not disclose plans for Rios’ replacement.

"We want to thank [Rios] for her time at Ogilvy and wish her well in her next chapter," an Ogilvy representative told PRWeek via email. "As our business continues to evolve, we will be adding talent with integrated, modern marketing skills to best address the changing needs of our clients."

Rios said she is excited to be part of an firm that has an "entrepreneurial spirit," when asked if she’s noticed a difference between MWWPR, an independent agency, and Ogilvy, which is one of four PR agencies owned by holding company WPP.

"Good ideas are highly supported and encouraged and you have a lot of runway to do new things," she said. "I’m already starting to work on how we revamp our product offers to take advantage of the depth we have in corp comms."

MWWPR recently revealed that it is opening an Austin location and has hired former Edelman SVP Kristie Taylor to build out the office.

Rios is not the only senior leader Ogilvy is losing. Earlier this week, Ogilvy’s global PR leader Stuart Smith announced he is leaving the firm to join healthy foods company Vegolutionary Foods as chief marketing and growth officer.

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