Mike Doyle replaces Barri Rafferty as Ketchum CEO

Rafferty is leaving to lead communications for Wells Fargo.

Mike Doyle replaces Barri Rafferty as Ketchum CEO

NEW YORK: Mike Doyle is replacing Barri Rafferty as Ketchum’s president and CEO, effective immediately.

Rafferty, who was named Ketchum’s global CEO at the start of 2018, is leaving to lead communications for Wells Fargo. She will remain at the Omnicom Group agency through the early part of July to help with the transition, according to an agency spokesperson.

Doyle is reporting to John Doolittle, interim CEO of Omnicom Public Relations Group. Doolittle has been leading OPRG since Karen van Bergen left the role to become dean of Omnicom University, the holding company’s executive training program, at the start of this year. Omnicom is searching for an external replacement for van Bergen. 

Rob Flaherty is continuing in his role as Ketchum’s chairman, a role he assumed when Rafferty succeeded him as CEO at the start of 2018.

Rafferty said that she is replacing Oscar Suris at Wells Fargo. Suris left the bank in July 2018 and joined Zeno Group last April. Rafferty's title will be EVP and head of corporate communications. 

A Wells Fargo representative could not be reached for additional comment. 

Rafferty will report to the bank’s vice chairman of public affairs, Bill Daley, who was hired last year after the president and CEO Charles Scharf took the helm in October, Rafferty said. 

“To be honest, I really love change management and a transformation project,” she said. “To me, this is a great transformation project helping an iconic American brand redefine their culture and reputation.”

The bank has spent years trying to rebound from an unauthorized account-creation scandal that reportedly took place from 2002 to 2016. The controversy forced former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf to step down in 2016. 

Doyle said that he is excited to become CEO at a time when Ketchum’s “resilience is being tested.” 

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the agency to reduce salaries and cut and furlough staff. The firm was facing challenges before the pandemic struck. Revenue dropped 1% globally to $512 million last year, according to PRWeek’s Agency Business Report. Ketchum had not seen year-over-year revenue growth since 2016. 

“There wasn’t a moment of hesitation when I was offered the role,” Doyle said. “But to say that this has always been the path, well it was never anything I would have presumed.”

Flaherty said Doyle’s work as North American president had been helping the agency rebound before the pandemic. Doyle had served as president of North America since April 2017. 

“We had a growth quarter in the first quarter before the pandemic hit,” Flaherty said. “[Doyle] led the transformation of the agency in its largest region and as that transformation has spread around the world, it got us to solid growth.” 

Flaherty said that with Doyle’s help, the agency “relies on industries and specialties organized under a strategic model and being a consultancy rather than a PR agency relying on geographic P&Ls.” Ketchum said it was moving to a single P&L in April of 2018.

Although he declined to disclose specifics about agency performance, Doyle said he is confident about Ketchum’s client roster and prospects.

“We are working with a couple of businesses in the retail sector that are critical and vital and we’re seeing tremendous need in employee engagement,” Doyle said. “We are looking at what kind of comms and tools we can arm corporations with to help them return to work safely and recruit talent in these trying times. I am also really encouraged by the new business opportunities and pipelines. There are some exceptional irons in the fire there.”

Before he was promoted to president of North America in 2017, Doyle was director of Ketchum’s New York office. He started working at the agency in 1995 but left to take the position of VP of communications, digital and international at NBC Universal. Doyle returned to Ketchum in 2005 and helped to launch the Emanate subsidiary. Emanate was rebranded as Access Brand Communications in 2017 after it was merged with Access Communications at the start of 2016. Doyle was a member of PRWeek’s 40 Under 40 class in 2007. 

Rafferty started at Ketchum in 1994. Before she was appointed as CEO, Rafferty was global president and CEO of North America. She was also a member of PRWeek’s inaugural Hall of Femme list.

Wells Fargo reported Q1 revenue of $17.7 billion, down 18.1% from $21.6 billion year-over-year. The bank saw Q1 net income of $653 million. PR revenue for Omnicom grew 0.2% organically in Q1 to $331.6 million. 

This story was updated on June 22 with Rafferty's title at Wells Fargo. 

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