• Edelman’s new US CEO Lisa Ross has shaken up the firm’s leadership.

  • She wants Edelman to become the top player in corporate and purpose-driven PR.
  • She also named a new US chief talent officer to reach new diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Two months after becoming Edelman’s US CEO, Lisa Ross is shaking up its leadership to make the firm more competitive when it comes to helping companies handle crises and social issues.

With America’s polarized society making purpose-driven PR and crisis management services nearly inextricable, Edelman is aligning two of its biggest divisions that work on those issues, brand and corporate.

The hope is to bring those disciplines together to stand out from firms like Sard Verbinnen & Co that are known for crisis help and firms like Porter Novelli that are known for purpose-related PR.

Edelman is also doubling down on its tech-related services to prove its campaigns can drive results for clients like improving sales and reputations.

The firm also created a new chief talent officer role to work on diversity goals.

Edelman promoted four execs to new positions

To reach those ambitions, Ross made the following promotions:

  • Jim O’Leary will be US COO. He will continue to lead US corporate and advisory services.
  • Smita Reddy, formerly a managing director in New York, will be chair of US brand, replacing Michele Anderson, who left the agency. Reddy continues as Edelman’s account lead for Unilever, one of its largest clients.
  • Yanick Wilson, who specialized in diversity, equity, and inclusion, will be US chief talent officer.
  • Courtney Bigelow, previously an EVP, will be US chair of client service, replacing Amanda Glasgow, who left the agency to work at longtime Edelman client HP. Bigelow is also the account lead for Adobe, another big client.

Edelman’s corporate unit — one of its largest and fastest-growing lines of business — includes services like crisis management, while its brand team works on areas like purpose-driven PR.

These teams overlap a lot as corporations seek help navigating social and political issues, and having the divisions collaborate under O’Leary and Reddy will help Edelman net more business, Ross said. 

“Clients don’t say, ‘I’m looking for a corporate campaign or a brand campaign,'” Ross said. “They say, ‘This is the problem I’m trying to solve or this is the opportunity I’d like to realize,’ and [for us], that’s the intersection of brand and corporate, which is why I wanted two people in those roles that were so strong and who could work together.”

Edelman wants to bring a ‘Moneyball’ approach to PR

PR has long struggled to measure its work effectively, leading it to fall behind advertising and marketing, which have more sophisticated measurement.

Edelman is trying to change that dynamic by investing in data analytics and promoting O’Leary, who is one of its biggest proponents for PR tech and who has either led or co-led several new tech offerings from Edelman, including its foray into b2b marketing and a tool that tracks disinformation.

Meanwhile, Edelman is looking for a new chair of US public affairs after Aaron McLear, the last person to hold that title, joined self-driving startup Cruise as director of communications.

Edelman named a new US chief talent officer to focus on diversity

Edelman pledged to hire, retain, and promote more Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) after George Floyd’s murder last year.

This year, Edelman has set a goal to have 30% of its US workforce and 20% of its leadership be BIPOC. Those figures currently stand at 27% and 15%, respectively. Ross has said Edelman also needs to focus on retention by offering people opportunities to grow their careers.

Ross said she promoted Wilson, the former managing director of talent management and diversity, equity, and inclusion, to US chief talent office, to work with Edelman’s business divisions and their HR heads to assess their employees.

Ross said Wilson judges employees by asking how are they performing, if they’re clear on their career goals, if they’re in the right job and if they’re in the right agency.

“DE&I is not for communities of color. It’s not for women. It’s for everybody, which is why DE&I and talent are inextricably linked for me,” Ross said.

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