Hardly a day passed without senior UK industry appointment and/or departure news in 2021. The sector's recovery saw agency bosses and in-house leaders grow their teams, while restructures led to expanded roles and the 'great resignation' accelerated movement. Unfortunately, a small number were also forced out following crises.
Below we list some of the most significant.
1. Stratton resigns amid Downing Street party furore
We start with last week's dramatic resignation of Allegra Stratton, who quit as an advisor to Boris Johnson after a leaked video emerged showing her joking with Downing Street staff about a Christmas party during lockdown last year. The video of her resignation speech received widespread publicity.
It marks a sad end to Stratton's career at the heart of government comms. She joined No. 10 last autumn as political press secretary after six months at the Treasury. Her remit was to lead No. 10's daily televised briefings, although these never got off the ground – the former BBC, ITV and Guardian journalist later took a role heading publicity for the COP26 climate conference.
There were other major changes in government comms last year, which failed to make the front pages. Jack Doyle was promoted to No. 10 director of comms after incumbent James Slack moved back to journalism as deputy editor-in-chief of The Sun. Unlike Slack, Doyle – who was formerly Slack's deputy – holds the job as a special adviser, with a political element to the role, rather than as a civil servant. In addition, Max Blain, formerly of the Department of Health and Social Care, was appointed as Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson.
Shortly before publication, Doyle was implicated in the Christmas parties row with reports that he handed out awards at a festive staff gathering of up to 50 people on 18 December 2020. For now, Doyle is staying in his role.
2, Brunswick names new London bosses
The UK's top two agencies by revenue both underwent UK leadership changes in 2021. At Brunswick, Tom Burns and Meaghan Ramsey were promoted to managing partners and co-leads of its London office. The agency's incumbent London head, Simon Sporborg, who was UK managing partner for seven years, took a new role as senior partner focused on client advisory.
It came in the year that Brunswick leapfrogged Edelman to top the PRWeek UK Top 150 Consultancies table by revenue for 2020. In an eventful year for Brunswick, it also secured outside investment for the first time in its 34-year history after selling a minority stake.
3. Edelman elevates Warder and Taggart
Edelman also promoted two trusted lieutenants to jointly lead the UK business in 2021. Ruth Warder and Hugh Taggart (pictured below), general managers for brand and corporate affairs respectively, took the title of co-chief executives of the UK.
The duo retained their other roles with remits beyond these shores: Warder as EMEA brand chair and Taggart as global head of crisis. Meanwhile, chief operating officer Justin Westcott, who is also head of tech for Europe, took an expanded position growing the tech business across EMEA.
They were among a swathe of Edelman hires and promotions in the UK during 2021. Others included Julian Payne, former comms secretary to The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, who joined as chair of corporate affairs, EMEA; Iain Dey, who was promoted to managing director of Edelman Smithfield; and former Open Health managing director Vicky Bramham, who returned to oversee client services in UK health. One surprise departure was Chuka Umunna – the former MP and Edelman ESG chief left the agency after nine months to join JP Morgan.
4. Simon Baugh swaps the Home Office for GCS
It was all change at the top of the Government Communications Service, with former Home Office comms chief Simon Baugh named as its new chief executive.
His new role was created as part of a major restructure under the Reshaping GCS programme, which aims to strengthen and unify government communications. GCS veteran Alex Aiken's position as executive director for government comms was abolished under the restructure, although he is staying on in the GCS leadership team to focus on the Union, security and international issues. Later, the GCS appointed Lisa Hunter as deputy chief executive and Gemmaine Walsh as chief operating officer.
Back at the Home Office, Baugh's former deputy Robert Hall was named interim comms director.
5. FGH names top team
There was significant leadership news too at the newly merged Finsbury Glover Hering, where Finsbury managing partner Faeth Birch was named chief executive for the UK, Middle East and Asia region, and Finsbury colleague James Murgatroyd was appointed regional chairman.
FGH's other big appointments this year included two political heavy hitters from Teneo: former Home Secretary Amber Rudd and ex-No. 10 comms chief Sir Craig Oliver. With the corporate comms powerhouse set to complete its merger with Sard Verbinnen imminently, it's one to keep an eye on.
6. Michael Frohlich joins Weber
Former Ogilvy UK chief executive Michael Frohlich joined Weber Shandwick in 2021 as its EMEA chief executive, a year after Tim Sutton vacated the role. Frohlich’s role includes helping the agency grow in the region and overseeing the development of communications and marketing offers for its clients. The experienced and widely respected Frohlich served as Ogilvy chief executive as the agency restructured its business from a collection of individual agencies into the Ogivly One integrated model, in which the business operates as a single entity under a single P&L.
7. Ogilvy PR ups senior team
Talking of Ogilvy, there were major changes in the agency's PR division's top team this year. Matt Buchanan, who previously led Ogilvy PR in the UK, was appointed to the new post of global head of consumer PR. Later, in August, managing partner Nicola Dodd (pictured below) was named UK managing director.
Senior appointments announced in subsequent months included Charlie Coney, formerly of Golin, as creative strategy officer UK and EMEA; and Jane Fearnley and Toby Conlon, who were promoted to head of consumer PR and head of corporate PR, respectively – all were also new positions.
8. Poli Stuart-Lacey joins the Met
Poli Stuart-Lacey, director of comms at HM Revenue & Customs, moved to the role of director of media and comms at the Metropolitan Police in November, replacing James Helm, who left in July after three years in the post.
Stuart-Lacey took on the biggest job in policing comms, for the country’s biggest force, at a difficult time in its history. Earlier this year the Met was heavily criticised for its response to a vigil held for Sarah Everard, the marketing executive murdered by a serving Met police officer, where police clashed with some female protesters. More recently, the force has been slated for its decision not to investigate Christmas parties at Downing Street during last December's lockdown.
9. New Tory comms director
The Conservative Party appointed Alex Wild, the former research director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, as its director of comms, PRWeek revealed in October. Wild replaced former Conservative Party director of comms Caroline Preston, who was promoted to deputy chief executive of the party earlier this year. The new man at the helm is highly regarded among his political comms peers; former No. 10 comms chief Lee Cain told PRWeek: "He will bring a lot of energy and a lot of drive. He's a natural creative story-driver and is well-liked by the Lobby. He's been linked with that role for a while and I know Jack Doyle [director of comms at Downing Street] was very keen on him doing it.”
10. Instinctif names new chief executive
In March Ed Amory was promoted to chief executive of Instinctif Partners, six months after joining the consultancy from Freuds, with Tim Linacre taking on a group role. Instinctif's recruitment drive has seen, among others, the arrival of Tom Nutt from Grayling in the new role of head of UK corporate and campaigns, and former Conservative minister David Gauke as senior public policy adviser.
11. Daily Mail head of PR departs
As we wrote at the time, during Wynne-Jones’ tenure the Daily Mail built a relationship with one of its fiercest critics, campaign group Stop Funding Hate, which resulted in the latter removing front-page stories it had previously posted on its social media account. He also promoted the Daily Mail’s campaigns to supply frontline health workers with PPE and the Mail Force campaign to get laptops to children who were learning from home at the height of the pandemic. But Wynne-Jones’ job was closely tied with Greig’s, and he was made redundant when Ted Verity was appointed editor.
PRWeek understands the Daily Mail does not intend to appoint a new head of PR. DMG Media’s head of internal comms, Cindy Yau, and Mail Online head of comms Katie Byrne remain in post.
12. Channel 4 comms shake-up
Staying with the media, but this time broadcast: in July Channel 4 announced it had hired Sao Bui-Van (pictured below), former director of communications at King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, as its new comms director.
His appointment followed news in January that former director of comms and corporate affairs James MacLeod is to step down after nine years, amid a major reorganisation of comms and other functions. Bui-Van's new role does not include internal comms, public affairs and public policy, which were overseen by MacLeod. The former now leads Channel 4’s corporate PR, and content and programme PR teams. He also oversees the corporate brand and events teams in London and Channel 4’s new national HQ in Leeds.
13. Lansons enters new stage
The end of 2021 marks the end of an era at Lansons, with co-founder Tony Langham stepping down as chief executive after nearly three decades at the agency’s helm, to be replaced by former Teneo UK boss Gordon Tempest-Hay, who will become a “significant” shareholder. Langham moved to executive chairman and fellow co-founder Clare Parsons became executive director of the agency.
Langham and Parsons were inducted into the PRWeek UK Hall of Fame in October for their sterling work building Lansons into a successful business, and maintaining that success over many years, while being true industry innovators. Cheers to them!
14. Jo-ann Robertson promoted at Ketchum
Ketchum was another big agency to make changes to its senior team this year. UK chief executive Jo-ann Robertson moved to an expanded role of UK chief executive, global client solutions, joining the global executive leadership team. Other significant appointments at the Omnicom agency included Sera Holland, founder of The Fawnbrake Collective, who joined on 1 November as deputy chief executive, and Indy Selvarajah, who moved from Edelman to become executive creative director.
15. David Gallagher bows out
Staying with Omnicom, and David Gallagher (pictured below), a veteran of the holding company and of Ketchum, announced in August that he is leaving the business for "a leap into the great unknown". "No idea what’s on the other side, but I can no longer ignore the call to explore," Gallagher tweeted. "This time, with an entire global community of friends, colleagues and mentors around me."
16. Primark hires Alice Macandrew
When the going gets tough, hire Alice Macandrew. PRWeek reported in January that the former Thomas Cook Group corporate affairs and communications lead was tapped up by Primark to take up the new position of corporate affairs director, amid a hugely challenging pandemic period for high street clothing retailers.
Before Thomas Cook, Macandrew was a group director for corporate comms at Sky, has also led corporate comms at News Corporation, and was formerly a partner at financial PR agency Finsbury. At Primark she has been tasked with building a global corporate affairs team as the retailer expands overseas, including growing its US footprint.
17. Mastercard's Beaumont clicks 'like' on Facebook
Facebook welcomed a new senior comms figure this year when Mastercard’s global head of marketing and communications, Rose Beaumont, joined the social media group (prior to its rebranding as Meta). She took the role of head of communications across EMEA, nearly a year after former EMEA lead Chris Norton was promoted to vice-president of international comms. Beaumont was senior vice-president of global marketing and comms at Mastercard for four years, and served as its Europe group head of comms for nine years. Beaumont previously led EMEA comms for The Walt Disney Company and was a comms director at Yahoo.
18. Netflix hires Ruth Settle from Freuds
Netflix has restructured its UK comms operation, with the appointment of former Freuds partner Ruth Settle to a new, expanded role, PRWeek reported last month. She has taken up the role of vice-president, PR, for the UK. It's a significant position at the streaming giant, leading its UK film and series publicity teams as well as the UK communications team.
Settle oversees UK PR campaigns and global export of UK-produced series such as The Crown, Sex Education and The Witcher. Her team also oversees UK PR campaigns for all Netflix's global films, series, documentaries, unscripted shows and kids and family titles. Alongside the publicity work, she leads UK comms more broadly, overseeing areas such as corporate affairs and executive comms. Settle's appointment came alongside the departure of UK PR director Jon Bennett and UK publicity director Tamsyn Zietsman.
19. Soho House recruits Samsung's Ruane
Anouska Ruane moved from tech and digital to hospitality this year, joining private members' club group Soho House as global director of group communications. In the new role, based in London, Ruane (pictured below) is responsible for all external and internal comms for what is now considered one of the world’s leading luxury hospitality brands.
Ruane, who replaced Peter Chipchase in the top comms role, was previously director of communications and events for Europe at Samsung Electronics, and before that held senior comms positions at Tesla and Facebook. Her appointment came ahead of Soho House's stock market flotation in New York
20. Beattie founder leaves after social media post
In March, the chair of Beattie Communications, Gordon Beattie, resigned from the agency he founded 40 years ago.
His departure followed widespread criticism of a poorly-worded LinkedIn post by Beattie, which was the subject of a backlash from Black Lives Matter activist Barrington Reeves and others both within and outside the PR industry. In the post, Beattie said he won't hire “blacks, gays and Catholics”, adding: "We sign talented people and we don't care about the colour of their skin, sexual orientation or religion."
21. Iceland corporate affairs chief departs in controversy
Sadly, Beattie wasn't the only senior industry figure to leave his post this year following criticism over online comments. In February, Iceland Foods director of corporate affairs Keith Hann was fired by the supermarket chain over statements he made about the Welsh language, which Hann described as "gibberish" in a personal blog post that was later made private. Hann also said Welsh sounded "like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat" and, in a now-deleted tweet, that “inhabitants of the UK’s Celtic fringe loathe all visitors”, according to a WalesOnline report. Iceland, which has its headquarters in Deeside, Wales, apologised on Twitter and stressed that Hann's statements do not reflect the company’s views.