SAN FRANCISCO: Edelman has hired Dave Samson, former head of public affairs at Chevron, for the newly created role of global vice chair of corporate affairs.
Samson is set to start on May 1, based in San Francisco and reporting to Katie Burke, chief strategy officer and global head of practices and sectors. He will advise Edelman’s corporate and crisis clients and large accounts outside the practice. Samson will also work on the Edelman Trust Barometer and have a remit including “all the things that matter to the CEO,” according to agency CEO Richard Edelman.
Samson said he began talking to Edelman about the move midway through last year.
“From my standpoint, the timing was exceptionally good for me. I had been in my role at Chevron for 16 years, and by all accounts it had been an extraordinary experience,” he said. “But when Richard came up with the idea of joining him in this capacity, it was like the stars lining up in the sky. It was an easy choice.”
Edelman said he and Samson walked around Boston Harbor for two hours last September during the Page annual convention.
“We kept walking and talking, and I said, ‘Dave I really need someone to be the most senior adviser to CCOs and, if they ask for it, CEOs. You’re uniquely qualified to do this. You have so much experience in energy, consumer products and tech, and you’re a global person and the most respected among global communicators and I think you would have a ball,’” he recalled.
Samson is a 16-year veteran of Chevron. He was succeeded by Kent Robertson, former manager of global external affairs, at the start of this year. Samson managed the energy company’s corporate and digital communications, corporate marketing and branding, research and analytics and social media. His role included overseeing the company’s reaction to activist investors, who have hounded Chevron to reduce carbon emissions.
Discussing the firm’s 2019 earnings this month, Edelman bemoaned the public affairs practice’s flat revenue and said the promotion of Megan Van Someren to global chair of brand and the hire of Pfizer’s Kirsty Graham were meant to address the results. Graham joined the agency last month to create what Edelman described as a “stand-alone firm.”
Edelman’s other public-affairs-related hires over the past year include Jim O’Leary, global chair of corporate affairs, and Jim Prosser, U.S. West Coast corporate lead. This month, it also promoted Lisa Osborne Ross to U.S. COO, a role that had been empty since December 2018, while retaining her responsibilities as president of Edelman in Washington, DC.
The firm also brought on Michele Anderson, former Ogilvy U.S. head of PR and influence.
“As a general point, we’re doubling down when many of the holding company PR firms are being forced to cut back because their numbers are soft,” Edelman said. “We’re taking this moment to say ‘OK, we believe so much that we are hiring the best senior talent possible so we can move up to the advisory level in the corporate sector and into creative execution in the marketing sector. We are moving up and across and I think that puts us in a different league.”
Edelman’s revenue rose by 2.1% to $892 million last year, without taking into account the impact of currency fluctuations. When considering their effect, Edelman’s global revenue was up 0.4%.