Interview with New Weber Shandwick CEO Andy Polansky

Last week the Interpublic Group announced the promotion of PR firm Weber Shandwick’s former president, Andy Polansky, to the position of CEO. Polanksy had served as president of Weber Shandwick since 2004; he replaced outgoing CEO Harris Diamond (who in turn became chairman and CEO of “ad agency network” McCann Worldgroup).

Polansky has worked for Shandwick and its predecessor firms in various capacities for approximately 30 years; he is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society who currently sits on the Board of Trustees for the Institute for Public Relations, and he has also served as chairman of the Council of PR Firms for the past two years.

On Friday we had the opportunity to get Polanksy’s thoughts on a changing PR industry; we’ve reprinted our exchange below.

Could you briefly describe the changes you’ve seen affecting Weber Shandwick and the PR industry at large during your time with the firm?

I’ve been with Weber Shandwick and its predecessor firms for nearly 30 years, so of course the change has been quite dramatic! Over the past few years we’ve seen significant shifts in how people consume and share information. We’ve also seen a heightened focus on the changing context of go-to-market approaches, with public policy and reputation considerations now playing a larger role in how organizations shape strategies. Public relations firms increasingly play a lead role in the fast-changing environment. It’s an exciting time to be in this business.

There seems to be a consensus around social media and the data/analytics explosion exerting a great influence on the PR industry of the future. What is your take on this subject?

Social media’s rise has transformed our industry, as companies focus on new ways to engage with their customers.  Whether you’re a B2B company, dealing with a reputational issue or crisis or launching a new consumer product, social media is front and center – a nexus for everything we consider now for any type of communications program. There has been an explosion of data available to formulate insights, to inform strategy, and to create pathways to breakthrough creative thinking.

How do you see the relationship between PR, marketing and advertising changing?

The inter-relationships here have dramatically changed in the past few years. I’ve been saying for some time now that today’s market is dynamic for marketing services. It’s a “jump ball” environment, and public relations firms, ad agencies, marketing, branding and digital shops, among others, are all seeing opportunities to compete but also to collaborate in new ways. Most importantly, clients and prospects clearly seem less concerned about which discipline to work with. It’s all about who brings the best thinking to the table. This isn’t about one discipline winning, but how individual firms can best integrate and work across disciplines to successfully tell and share the client’s story.

How can the PR business itself improve its standing in the public eye? Is this something that firms even need to worry about or is it a non-issue?

Reputation is something any business/industry must worry about. As we advocate for our clients, we need to always be authentic with our communications and give back to communities in which we operate.