Eight years ago, Dave Senay took the helm of what was arguably the world’s most respected public relations firm, one led for more than 30 years by John Graham—one of the first recipients of our Individual Achievement SABRE Awards, and one whose shoes were always going to be difficult to fill. And Senay faced additional challenges, ranging from the global economic crisis to a changing media landscape that created even greater competition for PR agencies.
Senay has been responsible for overseeing a brand transformation, urging the firm’s employees to “Go Beyond” the traditional boundaries of public relations by investing in new capabilities to reach any audience, with any message through any paid, earned, shared or owned media channel.
He has overseen multiple initiatives that accomplish this, from the launch of the firm’s global China practice to its Majlis team (specialists in communicating to the Muslim population) to a global capital markets group. He has also presided over the launch of proprietary global products like Black Box, a monitoring tool that helps create real-time content and the Authenticity Gap research that provides insights into the gap between an organization’s brand and its reputation.
"To meet changing client demands, highly effective CEOs must fearlessly lead organizational transformation, drive successful integration of varied expertise and skill sets, and anticipate consumer response and market trends,” says Janet Robinson, former CEO of The New York Times. “Masterfully, Dave Senay has lead FleishmanHillard in these critical disciplines and has truly differentiated the firm from the competition.”
Adds Selim Bingol, senior VP of global communications at GM: “I have met very few people who combine Dave’s ability to see the future clearly, and to react powerfully to realize that vision, both for FleishmanHillard, its clients and our industry.”
Remarkably, he also found time to serve as chair of the Council of PR Firms, in which role he pursued a platform that included championing diversity and PR’s social media leadership; driving measurement standards; giving agencies tools and techniques to help navigate procurement; and forging an Ethics as Culture program, developed with the Josephson Institute and designed to provide agencies the framework and resources to adopt ethical decision-making best practices.
“Many agencies talk about ethical behavior, but FleishmanHillard, under Dave Senay's personal leadership, actually did something about it,” says Tom Martin, Arthur Page Hall of Fame member; corporate communications expert, who calls the program “a great example of putting resources where your beliefs are.”
Adds Elise Mitchell, CEO of Mitchell Communications: “Ethics as Culture is extremely valuable and enables agencies to equip and empower their employees to lead with integrity. Dave's leadership has raised needed awareness for this issue and given us a proven program to set even higher standards of industry excellence.”
Senay joined FleishmanHillard as an account executive in 1984. He served as GM of the St. Louis headquarters and as regional president of the US Midwest, Canada, and EMEA and led global account teams for major clients in industries including telecommunications, biotechnology, IT, food, healthcare and automotive, providing counsel on corporate, crisis and environmental communications, consumer marketing, and public affairs. In 2006, he was named the firm’s third CEO since its inception in 1946.