Caroline Dettman exits Golin to launch Have Her Back consultancy

Golin parent Interpublic Group is backing the startup with a minority investment.

L-R: Consultancy cofounders Caroline Dettman, Pamela Culpepper and Erin Gallagher
L-R: Consultancy cofounders Caroline Dettman, Pamela Culpepper and Erin Gallagher

Golin chief creative officer Caroline Dettman is launching a consultancy with two former colleagues based on the Have Her Back initiative she launched at the agency last year.

Chicago-based Have Her Back Consulting will work with companies and brands to advance equity for women while driving business outcomes via consulting on internal cultural change and go-to-market strategy.

The firm’s founding partners are Dettman and two other Golin veterans: former executive director of marketing Erin Gallagher and chief people officer Pamela Culpepper. Golin parent Interpublic Group has taken a minority ownership stake in the shop.

Ellen Johnson, IPG SVP of finance and treasurer, will serve on the board of Have Her Back Consulting. Johnson is set to become IPG’s global CFO at the start of next year.

Culpepper said that the agency wants to attract clients that are interested in becoming "more authentic" in their work by examining who they are internally. The founders did not disclose the consultancy’s client roster.

"We want to make sure there is no gap between who companies or brands are inside and who they portray themselves to be externally," she said.

Golin co-CEO Matt Neale expressed support for the consultancy in a statement.

"Golin is where Have Her Back began, and we continue to share a commitment to its mission and look forward to working alongside the consultancy to achieve progress with the creative community and clients," he said in Have Her Back’s statement about the launch.

Neale declined to comment further.

Neale was one of three men named as co-chief executive officers of Golin alongside Jon Hughes and Gary Rudnick when Fred Cook stepped down as CEO in 2017. Dettman would not comment directly on Golin’s all-male co-CEO set-up, but said that its leadership was very supportive of her ideas to challenge the industry to do better for women.

"That could have been a risky proposition and could have been something that people were like, ‘That’s a great idea, but we have different priorities,’" she said. "But it was at that meeting with the entire board that they agreed. It was a proud moment for us and we were able to move ahead with Have Her Back."

Interpublic Group CEO Michael Roth said that he is supporting the startup because he knows the team well from its contributions at Golin.

"Their timing and positioning in the market is exactly right, and we see a great opportunity for them and IPG," he said, via email.

Dettman praised IPG’s record on D&I. "IPG has been on the forefront of diversity and inclusion, way before it was something to do," she said. "When we proposed this deal to [Roth], the conversation could have gone in a lot of different directions. IPG understood why it was important."

Gallagher noted that the world is very different than it was two years ago in terms of consumers demanding action from brands.

"Women drive culture and finally have a platform where they are being heard," she said. "Consumers are holding brands’ and companies’ feet to the fire on issues they don’t agree with and that is only going to continue, so it is important that companies look at this stuff and start to address those challenges they have."

The Business Roundtable’s declaration last month that companies should focus on more than just shareholder value is evidence that the public wants more from companies, said Gallagher.

"Companies and brands need to be tackling things like pay and equality and climate change and doing more to advance the world forward, and that’s a wonderful thing," she said. "Some of the commentary we saw is that these are important words, but where is the action?"

Golin’s 2018 revenue was up 5% to $218 million, according to PRWeek’s Agency Business Report. The agency is also part of IPG’s Constituency Management Group, which contains PR firms such as Weber Shandwick, as well as specialist marketing agencies such as Jack Morton and Octagon. The PR firms within CMG registered low-single-digit revenue growth on both an as-reported and organic basis in Q2 2019.

In July, Interpublic Group promoted former Weber Shandwick CEO Andy Polansky to CMG chairman and CEO. He was replaced at Weber by former agency president Gail Heimann.

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