CEO Richard Edelman called the decision, nearly three months after he promised not to lay off employees, “gut-wrenching” as the firm reduced its workforce by 390 staffers and asked for salary reductions of 5% to 20%, scaled by compensation level. Other DJE Holdings firms were also affected.
Before COVID-19 struck the U.S. in earnest in March, Weber Shandwick let five senior executives go in what it described as a “small staff reduction” that affected senior staffers at the EVP and SVP level. President and CEO Gail Heimann said making the reductions was “a very difficult decision and made with a great deal of deliberation and care.”
The entire PR sector mourned in January after the passing of industry pioneer Harold Burson at age 98. Burson’s career stretched back to World War II, when he reported on the Nuremberg war crimes trials that followed the conflict. He founded Burson-Marsteller in 1953 via a partnership with ad executive Bill Marsteller, then built the firm into an industry powerhouse with $4.4 million in revenue by 1969 and then $64 million, with 2,500 employees in 50 offices, a decade and a half later.
In the spring, the operator of Boots in the U.K. and Walgreens in the U.S. started a search for a marketing and communications agency partner network. Five months later, WPP beat Publicis Groupe to retain the nine-figure account. The firms working on the business include Ogilvy, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, BCW, GCI and Finsbury.
If there was a silver lining in Edelman’s layoffs early this summer, it was that droves of former staffers offered to lend a hand through references, letters of recommendation and other types of support. "The outpouring has been extraordinary," said Matthew Harrington, global president and COO. "It increases my sense of responsibility and commitment to ensure we warrant their continued encouragement and loyalty."