Maja Pawinska Sims 12 May 2020 // 8:24PM GMT
NEW YORK — Weber Shandwick, Golin and MSL are the latest PR agencies to confirm layoffs, as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continues.
The layoffs, which were announced this week, follow Omnicom, which made redundancies across its agencies in April, including Ketchum, Porter Novelli and FleishmanHillard. Edelman has also made 15 employees redundant in Australia.
On Monday, Weber Shandwick president and CEO Gail Heimann (pictured) issued an internal memo saying: “Today is a sad day for Weber Shandwick. We have to part ways with a number of colleagues from around the network, people who have made good things happen for our firm and clients. People who are friends. It is something I hoped I would not have to do; it is a wrenchingly hard decision to make. And I know it is indescribably hard for those to whom we are saying good-bye.”
Heimann said the agency was also furloughing some staff and asking others to move to a reduced schedule until the business environment improves. She said: “Today, a little over four months since we first heard about COVID-19 and eight weeks since the majority of our population began working from home, we continue to experience client pull-back across various sectors.
“That pull-back is mirrored on the new business front as many companies are putting plans for new assignments and agency searches on hold. Together, these forces are conspiring to inflict additional downward pressure on our business. We took early actions to help protect our business and our people. Our senior pay cuts and other cost reductions – limited hiring, salary freeze, expense reductions – allowed us to delay and diminish the actions we are taking this week, but, unfortunately, not eliminate them.”
Heimann continued: “It is my job – and that of our leaders around the network – to protect our business – to do everything we can to ensure stability this year and put our firm in a position to thrive and grow in years to come. The core of our business remains strong as does our commitment to work tirelessly to protect as many jobs as possible as we navigate towards and through the many phases of recovery. I hope that minimal further steps are required.”
She also said the agency was supporting those who had been laid off, including extending health insurance benefits and offering professional career assistance.
The total number of global redundancies at Weber Shandwick is not yet known. A spokesperson told PRovoke that the agency had “implemented a range of cost-containment measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis – all aimed at balancing our business and keeping it strong to protect the livelihood of our people and deliver for our clients. These measures include reduced spending, salary cuts for the executive team and senior leaders, placing a hold on salary increases and promotions and limiting new hires.
“Unfortunately, given the increasingly challenging environment, we have had to make additional difficult decisions, including position eliminations, furloughs and taking some employees to a reduced schedule.”
Weber Shandwick’s fellow IPG agency Golin has also confirmed it has made redundancies this week. In a statement, the firm told PRovoke: “Given the diversification of our portfolio, we have seen different impacts across our offices. Some services like crisis communications, employee engagement and healthcare are in great demand. However, as you would expect, other parts of the business are being negatively impacted.
“Over the past weeks, we have taken a number of actions, including executive salary reductions. In some markets, we have worked with local governments to furlough staff, while we closely watch the economic situation.
“This week, we have unfortunately had to remove some full-time positions. The total number of job losses at Golin is under 25 staff worldwide. We waited as long as we could to take this very difficult decision and in the US we have extended the healthcare benefits to those affected and hired consultants to help our people find new employment.”
MSL has also made 11 redundancies, as well as implementing pay cuts for senior team members, although the company has not yet furloughed any staff or shortened work weeks.
An agency spokesperson told PRovoke: “We took this time to act on a restructure plan that continues to align the agency to the needs of our clients and the marketplace. As part of that, we enacted a small reduction in staff last week. Our senior most leaders also volunteered to take a pay reduction to maintain the strength of our team across the agency.”