Ketchum global food and beverage lead Linda Eatherton leaves to start consultancy

Eatherton was a 20-year Ketchum veteran.

CHICAGO: Linda Eatherton, a Ketchum partner and director of its global food and nutrition practice, has left the firm to start her own consultancy.

Eatherton said she departed the Omnicom Group agency this month to launch Eatherton Consulting. In an emailed announcement, she said her firm will focus on companies, organizations and projects that affect society’s food supply and value chain.

"About a year ago, with support and permission from [Ketchum president and CEO] Barri Rafferty, I started to take on a little bit of my own work and began exploring what was next," Eatherton said. "That has proven to be very valuable and enlightening and gave me some perspective on what I can do to make this industry better. At the first of the year, I made it official, and then we announced it on January 17."

She added that "to be part of an agency or any firm for 20 years, I’m a bit of a unicorn and a blessed one at that."

Eatherton said she will work on issues related to stakeholder trust, awareness of food tech, thought leadership on food access, sustainability and soil preservation issues and corporate narratives.

"My focus will be to identify the organizations, brands, businesses and even agencies that are in a position to revolutionize and advance the food industry or the way it’s supported," she said. "I have such deep passion for the industry, and I will be very choice-full with what I do next and with whom I do it. I want to focus in on where I can make the most impact."

She declined to name clients but said she expects to make announcements about assignments within the next quarter. 

Eatherton added that she will work with Ketchum to support "select clients and projects on an as-needed basis." She is not planning to open an office or hire employees. 

"Under [Eatherton’s] leadership of our global food and beverage practice, we saw tremendous growth in the food space and the addition of marquee clients to our roster who wanted to work with a firm that truly understood their business from the inside out," Rafferty said. "In that role and her most recent role, she drove innovation, insights and thought leadership that elevated our firm and inspired clients on a global scale. We look forward to a continued partnership with Linda on client assignments in the future, and we wish her great success as she pursues these new passion projects." 

A Ketchum spokesperson said the agency is not planning to fill Eatherton’s former role. 

Eatherton’s new role marks the second time she has worked as a consultant. Before joining Ketchum in 2001, she worked independently for a year, running Eatherton Consulting and was VP of public and industry relations for the American Dairy Association for five years.

In December, the market leader for Ketchum’s Washington, DC, office KayAnn Schoeneman, left to become SVP and director of corporate and public affairs at boutique communications firm Curley Company.

Ketchum’s revenue was down 1% in 2019 to $512 million, according to PRWeek’s Agency Business Report. Omnicom Group’s PR firms posted a Q3 2019 organic revenue decrease of 3.8% to $337.2 million. The holding company also owns FleishmanHillard, Marina Maher Communications and Porter Novelli, among others. 

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