Weber Shandwick: evolving to solve brand new PR problems

Weber Shandwick’s Gail Heiman and Andy Polansky

Weber Shandwick’s Gail Heiman and Andy Polansky

These days, there’s a lot more to public relations than disseminating stories and buffing up a company’s external image — which is why one of the world’s largest PR firms, IPG-owned Weber Shandwick, has unveiled a new positioning mantra, ‘We Solve’, that encapsulates the multi-dimensional nature of its business.

“It’s a rallying cry,” said president Gail Heimann. “We are proud of our story amplification work, but we’re actually positioned to help our clients navigate so many of the complicated issues they face. That’s why we continue to invest in diverse talent and data science so we can deliver holistic marketing solutions.”

Speaking at a Festival that is dominated by creative agencies and technology leviathans, CEO Andy Polansky added: “We are 60% marketing-oriented and 40% corporate and policy-oriented, which is our sweet spot. The fact that we understand the complexities of both those areas, and that we have expertise in ideas that earn attention and engagement, explains why we have won a lot of market share in recent years and have continued to grow so far in 2019.”

Aside from talent and data science, Polansky says key areas of investment have included consultancy, via new business transformation division United Minds, and risk mitigation. The latter chimes well with the growing tendency for brands like Nike to make brave, purposeful stands. With boldness comes risk, and Weber Shandwick has a team dedicated to assessing how that might manifest.

Heimann, who has participated in PR, Glass and Titanium juries in recent years, believes Cannes Lions has increasing currency for the firm as its activities across disciplines, geographies and sectors grow. This week she led an off-stage seminar talking about the risks of sub-par data collection. “There is so much emphasis on the use of data to craft strategy, insight and creativity now. So we need to be sure there is no bias in how that data is collected and analysed.”

Harriet Palmer