Porter Novelli promotes Ayanna Robinson to chief client officer

The global position had been vacant for more than two years.

Photo credit: Porter Novelli
Photo credit: Porter Novelli

ATLANTA: Porter Novelli has named Ayanna Robinson as its chief client officer. 

Robinson started in the global role on August 1, reporting to Porter CEO David Bentley

Robinson was the lead on the Bayer account in her prior role as EVP in Atlanta and corporate and reputation management leader. She said that she will continue to act as a counselor on the account, though others will take over day-to-day responsibilities. 

“I will always be connected with Bayer,” she said. “I have worked with them since 2012, and I have a very strong relationship there and will continue to work with that team.”

Katherine Wetzel, former EVP and global director of client relations, had handled chief client officer responsibilities before she left the Omnicom Group agency last May to become head of comms for Aetna. 

The last person to hold the chief client officer role was Nick Propper, who transitioned its duties to Wetzel in June 2018, according to a person familiar with the matter. 

Propper, who was also COO, left Porter last June. He now works at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute as a performance coach and senior manager. Porter eliminated the COO position after his departure. 

"[Robinson] has proven her ability to counsel and support clients, nurture talent and grow our business," Bentley said via email. "Her determination and unwavering commitment to success is what makes her the ideal person to help forge a new path for the chief client officer role.”

Robinson said she started discussing the position with agency leaders last year, but talks paused when former Porter CEO Brad MacAfee left the firm last December

“Obviously, we had to take time to be sure, when we were coming in with the new leadership...that the role would still make sense and the new leadership would agree with the need for the role and identify the person who made the most sense for the role,” she said.

Resurrecting the chief client officer position, Robinson said, is an “opportunity to bring best practices and thought leadership across Porter that may not have been as strong as it could be without the role in place.”

“We want to strengthen how we provide counsel and engage with clients,” she added.

Robinson’s shortlist of tasks for this year includes imagining what client engagements will look like next year, and helping clients end 2020 in a good position to prepare..

“Just look at the myriad circumstances companies are dealing with currently,” she said. “There is COVID-19, reputational challenges and social unrest happening and the pressure that puts on businesses beyond just offering core services.”

Porter’s revenue declined 4% last year to $145 million, according to PRWeek’s Agency Business Report 2020

Omnicom’s PR firms posted a 13.9% revenue drop in Q2 to $295.8 million largely due to the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

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