Differing challenges await upwardly mobile Diamond
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Differing challenges await upwardly mobile Diamond

Arun Sudhaman

Harris Diamond’s elevation to CEO of McCann Worldgroup brings with it the usual commentary of his prospects for success or failure, in a role that has become something of a poisoned chalice for its recent occupants. I will make no predictions, except to note that Diamond has a pretty good track record. 11 years after Weber Shandwick emerged from a multi-agency consolidation, the firm is today seen as one of the few examples of a merger that ‘worked’. Granted, that is not exactly saying much, but the firm’s consistent growth over the past decade demonstrates Diamond’s skill in turning a group of disparate parts into a cohesive whole that, today, can credibly claim to be at the very top of the global network agency tree. That will stand him in good stead at the advertising group, even if he might appear a little ill at ease on the Cannes Croisette. What interests me most about his new position is how Diamond intends to deploy the resources under his command at McCann Worldgroup. Interpublic Group’s communications regarding Diamond’s promotion have emphasised the multi-agency nature of the group, but this has not always been the case. I can recall that McCann Worldgroup once made much of the different firms under its umbrella, which include non-McCann branded businesses such as Weber Shandwick and FutureBrand. In some respects, it seemed slightly ahead of its time, touting an integrated offer at a time when many clients were still getting used to the idea. Unsurprisingly, it also often seemed that some of McCann Worldgroup’s member firms, particularly those that had less in common with advertising, found the prospect of working together similarly difficult to achieve. Today, though, that should not be so. While integrated, holding group-level accounts have perhaps not grown at the rate Martin Sorrell would like, there is no disputing that they are here to stay. I can think of several such reviews that have taken place this year, including Pfizer, Statoil, HSBC and Sabic. With that in mind, Diamond’s credentials are hardly unwelcome, even if the CMG unit he ran was more a collection of high-performing agencies, rather than a collective that regularly combined resources. Asking a PR person to drive integration also makes plenty of sense, given the discipline-neutral nature of the business, and the multiple stakeholder groups that public relations has to deal with, both areas that Diamond understood better than most. So, in theory at least, Diamond’s elevation appears well-judged, even if he will face plenty of challenges in practice. And if he gets it right, the reward, in the shape of the top job at IPG, looks well within reach. For new Weber Shandwick CEO Andy Polansky, the task is considerably different. The firm does not need a turnaround, perhaps just a tune-up, and no one is likely to appreciate that better than Polansky himself. He has been Diamond’s second-in-command since 2004 and an orderly succession is something that should be applauded. A combination of two strong leaders is always prone to some complexity but, in practice, the Diamond-Polansky regime has functioned smoothly. The credit for that must go to both men. Polansky, a popular figure within the firm and the wider industry, often played the ‘good cop’ to Diamond’s more assertive manner. That will probably need to change to some extent, but observers expect a continuation of the relaxed leadership style that has served him well. Weber Shandwick is as well placed as any to become the first billion-dollar PR firm; Polansky, no doubt, will be hoping it happens under his watch.
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