Joachim Klewes, the new managing director and CEO of Edelman
Europe, has always been an entrepreneur: he set up his first company
straight after university.
’I have been in PR all my professional life - even before I earned a
single pfennig. I was campaigning for a political party (a regional
branch of the Social Democrats) at university and I thought ’hey, let’s
make a profession out of this’,’ he says.
It was his entrepreneurial flair that attracted Edelman Worldwide
president and chief executive Richard Edelman. ’He ran a large company
for a number of years which gives him a huge advantage over someone who
has just run an office,’ Edelman says.
Klewes’ ’large company’ was Kohtes and Klewes, Germany’s largest PR
agency, which was created by the first management buy out from Hill and
His early years with H&K were happy. He gained valuable management
experience and learned a lot about international PR, he says. His first
really big job was sorting out its Frankfurt office, a process he
politely calls ’turning red figures into black’.
However, when Hill and Knowlton was bought by WPP, he found himself at
odds with its management style. ’A lot of people were not happy and I
terminated my contract on the same day as several other managers,’ he
Yet he has pleasant memories of sitting in a basement bar negotiating
with WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell to buy the German operation. The
agency started with 20 people and went on to become Germany’s biggest PR
Klewes sold up at the end of last year for ’a couple of very personal
reasons’ and because his personal philosophy dictates that one should
really not do something for more than ten or 12 years.
’I had done it for ten years and my ’baby’ had grown up,’ he says. ’I am
very much a developer, not someone who continues to do the same
Hence this year’s birth of k.brain, a specialist business consultancy,
which concentrated on international strategy and, unusually for the PR
industry, executive head-hunting. (Richard) Edelman approached him in
June and ’sort of seduced me’ with the offer of a substantial minority
stake among other things. ’I really like the management style, which is
a rare combination of listenin, talking and doing. There are companies
that have meetings and nothing happens, others go bulldozing in without
enough thought. Edelman achieves the right balance,’ he says.
Klewes sees his immediate task as moulding Edelman’s European offices
into a cohesive network. ’The group was built through a large number of
acquisitions during the last decade. Now I want to form it into one
group to improve our service and broaden our offer in every major
market,’ he says. ’We need to add to our competence in areas such as
corporate and financial PR and gain intellectual leadership. Then we can
develop international consultancy products,’ he says.
Observers confirm that Edelman needs to improve its profile. ’You don’t
get the sense that they are making much noise in the big international
pitches,’ says an industry observer. ’If you asked me to name the big
international groups I’d say Shandwick, Hill and Knowlton,
Burson-Marsteller and Porter Novelli. I wouldn’t really think of
He goes on to add that Klewes should first create a clearer position for
the agency, work hard at raising its profile and general awareness, then
appoint some high profile names.
A friend and former colleague of Klewes’ attests to his
Porter Novelli International chairman Peter Hehir says: ’He is very
goal-oriented. He has amazing drive and commitment to doing what he says
he will do, which is different from many people in this business.’
Director, Hill and Knowlton
Founder, Kohtes and Klewes
Managing director/CEO, Edelman Europe