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During 16 years at General Electric Company, including six as chief communications officer, Gary Sheffer played a key role in many of the company’s signature initiatives—including some that set the standard for corporate reputation management, like the Ecomagination commitment to balancing innovation and sustainability and the GE Works content platform that placed an emphasis on bringing company stories to life.
Sheffer joined GE in 1999, and served as executive director of communications and public affairs at GE Railcar Services and was also responsible employee communications before being elevated to vice president of communications and public affairs in 2003. In that role, he oversaw corporate, government, environmental, and labor Issues, managing and enhancing GE’s reputation through a period of major change, including the global financial crisis.
“Gary has developed one of the best communications teams in the world,” GE chief marketing officer Beth Comstock—a former winner of this award—noted when he announced his retirement earlier this year. “He has been an extremely respected and influential leader in our company for many years and has successfully helped shape and strengthen GE’s reputation during volatile times.”
He has also played a leadership role in the Arthur W Page Society, where he serves as chairman of the board of trustees. He is also a board member of the Institute for Public Relations, Columbia University’s master’s program in strategic communication, and the GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program.
Prior to joining GE in 1999, Sheffer spent nearly two decades in journalism and government communications, including serving as a press aide to two New York governors.
Few firms handle leadership transitions with the seamless smoothness that Ketchum has brought to the process, and one of the greatest complements one can pay Rob Flaherty—who took over as global chief executive at Ketchum in June of 2012—is that he has continued the tradition of excellence started by predecessors including Paul Alvarez, Dave Drobis and Ray Kotcher.
Under his leadership, Ketchum acquired Capstrat in the US and Brandzeichen in the US, took a majority position in its Brazil operation, expanded into Korea, and concluded the integration of the former Pleon into its European operations—establishing a global footprint to rival the firm’s largest competitors.
Flaherty is equally well-regarded as a client counselor—a role he has retained even in the global leadership—conducting strategy sessions with companies like IBM, Pfizer, H&R Block, Chase, and UNICEF.
But he is probably most proud of a reputation for credibility and integrity, which characterize not only his leadership of the agency but also his external positioning, informing his speech on “The End of Illusion,” delivered in February at the Houses of Parliament for a sold-out CIPR Maggie Nally Lecture.
He has also demonstrated a strong commitment to issues such as literacy and gender equality through Ketchum’s pro bono partnership with the Room to Read non-profit and Ketchum’s 90th anniversary “90-for-90” philanthropic initiatives, one raising $90,000 to help 90 girls enrolled in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program and the other donating 90 creative brainstorms to help local non-profits meet a specific communications need.
Salzman's flair for thought leadership (she is a high-profile trendwatcher who previously held senior planning roles at JWT and TBWA/Chiat/Day) has undoubtedly helped. But so has her aptitude for actual business results. Under her stewardship Havas PR has grown steadily in North America and, perhaps more importantly, became an impressively profitable operation, blending consumer marketing with healthcare communications, corporate positioning and non-profit advocacy prowess.
"Marian is the ally you want on your side when the idea of a project begins to bud," says UN Foundation chief marketing and communications officer Aaron Sherinian. "She is unafraid of big ideas and has helped us take things to scale without letting them get out of control. That is the PR pro we need at a time like this."
Salzman's campaign efforts also stand out, from some of the biggest events (French Will Never Forget to support the 10th anniversary of 9-11; the 70th anniversary of D-Day) to the most emotional (the aftermath of the Newtown murders).
"Marian Salzman is a true visionary, with ideas that lead to innovative results and impact," adds Anne-Marie Woodruff, executive director of the Bob Woodruff Foundation. "Marian's advice and input is invaluable from crisis communications to strategic planning. Her forward and outside of the box thinking has helped position the Bob Woodruff Foundation as a top tier national charity."
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