NEW YORK — Citizen Relations has hired Jim Joseph away from Cohn & Wolfe to become its new global CEO, the Holmes Report can reveal.

Joseph, who joined Cohn & Wolfe in 2012, will depart the WPP firm in late summer, just months after taking on a new role as worldwide president under global CEO Donna Imperato. 

"Jim is, and will always be, a good friend of mine personally and professionally," said Imperato, noting that talks regarding Joseph's future at the firm had been underway for several months.

"He is a great partner and collaborator who helped us transform our business into a fully integrated communications agency," added Imperato. The firm may not replace Joseph's role, said Imperato, given its existing leadership team — along with plans to significantly step up investment in branding, creative, content and technology talent.

"My time at Cohn & Wolfe working with Donna Imperato and an extraordinary leadership team has been an experience of a lifetime," added Joseph. "While I am excited about the future, I will definitely miss my colleagues at Cohn & Wolfe."

At Citizen Relations, Joseph will report to Brett Marchand, the president and CEO of parent company Vision7, which was acquired by Chinese holding group BlueFocus in late 2014. He joins following a lengthy search by Vision7 to identify a new CEO to follow Daryl McCullough, who has led Citizen Relations (and its predecessor firm PainePR) for the past 23 years.

McCullough will retain his chairman role and adds a new role as chairman of the Vision7 International PR Group, focusing on agency acquisitions. "There is now a pretty big emphasis on growing the PR group," Marchand told the Holmes Report. "Not just Citizen but also beyond Citizen, internationally."

Joseph, added Marchand, brings a particularly appealing blend of experience, having worked client-side at J&J before launching and selling a promotional agency to Publicis Groupe and working at Saatchi Health prior to his PR career at Lippe Taylor and Cohn & Wolfe.

"He’s one of the few people at his level who has that breadth of experience," said Marchand. "I really feel like with what’s going on in PR, someone with a broader scope is going to be critical. Most of the candidates I met with had spent most of their career in PR."

Since selling to BlueFocus, Citizen Relations consolidated its critical P&G relationship by being named to the FMCG giant's global PR roster. It has added a Singapore office to its global network and, said Marchand, is eyeing acquisition-led growth after a couple of quiet years on that front from BlueFocus. Citizen Relations' global fee income clocked in at over $30m in 2016.

Acquisitions, explained Marchand, would focus on "growing the footprint of Citizen geographically, in particular, but also the businesses we are in." With BlueFocus exiting from Huntsworth earlier this year, noted Marchand, Citizen is the "flagship brand" for the group's international PR operations.  

"We’re very ambitious and BlueFocus is very ambitious," said Marchand. "We’re trying to make sure that we find the right assets, partners and entrepreneurs."