Exclusive: Ex-Weber UK boss Rachel Friend joins W Communications as CEO

W Communications, the 10-year-old consumer PR shop founded by Warren Johnson, has hired former Weber Shandwick boss Rachel Friend as its new CEO.

Johnson told PRWeek that Friend (pictured), who joins W on 1 July, would help manage his “ambitious plans for growth and expansion in the UK and internationally”.

“As we approach the £10m revenue mark we’re already looking to the next milestones. Rachel’s vast agency and in-house leadership experience will be integral to those plans. Having led Weber Shandwick to PRWeek’s Large Agency of the Year in 2019, we will be aiming to repeat that accolade at W as swiftly as possible.”

Friend departed Weber Shandwick at the beginning of this year, having spent nine years at the firm, the last two as UK and Ireland CEO. In that time she helped to raise Weber Shandwick to second in the PRWeek UK league tables in 2018 and 2019. Prior to that, Friend was Head of Consumer PR at Sainsbury’s and forged her earlier career with a decade at Hill + Knowlton Strategies.

“I’ve watched and admired W over the last 10 years as Warren’s natural entrepreneurial approach has combined with his team’s uncompromising focus high on quality work to create one of the UK’s very best independent agencies,” said Friend.

"Today, as all clients and agencies experience change at a pace and scale previously unseen, inevitably new opportunities will emerge."

Johnson will now focus on strategic expansion of the business through mergers and acquisitions and international expansion.

In 2019, W opened an office in Kuala Lumpur, the second in Asia following the success of W Singapore and has evolved its corporate division this year with a number of senior hires and major client wins.

“Anyone who thinks I will be slowing down is sadly mistaken,” he told PRWeek. “I will assume a founder role with a focus on mergers and acquisitions, business expansion in other markets and talent development. At a time when a lot of people in the industry are worried about what the future holds, we see Rachel’s arrival as a real statement of intent for where we want to take the business.”

PRWeek understands that Richard Tompkins, MD at W for the past eight years, has decided to move on at the end of July. In an internal memo, Johnson told staff: "Richard has been integral to [W's growth over the past decade]; the calm head in a crisis, always equipped with a dad joke pun to lift the mood.

"I owe him huge personal gratitude for what he has contributed to the business and myself and the board wish him all the best for the future."

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