LONDON — Ketchum has appointed a new UK CEO, hiring former WE Communications EMEA managing director Ruth Allchurch to lead its second-largest global office.

Allchurch joined WE as UK managing director in 2018 and was promoted to regional managing director for EMEA last year. She was previously managing director of Cirkle for more than three years, consumer MD at Cohn & Wolfe, and head of brand PR for Diageo Western Europe for eight years.

Ketchum’s London operation has been led by Jo-ann Robertson since the end of 2017, when she was promoted to UK CEO. In 2022, Robertson added global markets – all Ketchum offices outside the US, including Europe, Brazil and Canada – to her leadership remit and has since been looking for a successor in London.

Robertson (pictured, left) told PRovoke Media: “The UK is the jewel in the crown of my portfolio – it’s been a trailblazer in creativity, innovation and DE&I, and it’s been really hard to find someone I can trust who sees the whole picture. After a thorough recruitment process, Ruth stood out head and shoulders above the other amazing candidates.”

She said Allchurch would have “full autonomy” over the UK business when she joined the firm in April, including setting strategy and leading the team: “The buck stops with her now in the UK. I know it’s hard to come into a role when the person who did it before is still in the operation, but I really want to focus on global integration and building similar strengths across my other big markets, Germany and Brazil, as well as expanding clients from the US and UK to make them truly global.”

Robertson said the UK CEO was “critical” in the Ketchum ecosystem: “London is a global hub and the ability to collaborate, integrate and partner with clients, other country leaders and our speciality leaders is key. We’ve achieved what we wanted to achieve over the past five years in terms of reputation, creative, the work, innovation and – critically – DEI, and we can give ourselves a good report card, but it’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of the capability and ambition of Ketchum UK.

“We needed someone with a vision for where to take it next – Ruth has that vision, as well as a track record on delivery. It will be a brilliant new era for Ketchum.”

Allchurch (pictured, right) told PRovoke Media: “It’s a huge attraction that Jo-ann is here. We’ve had honest conversations throughout the process and we share a lot of the same values around leadership. It will be a strong partnership from the off, so I can do my best work with Jo-ann as sounding board and mentor as well as boss.

"When I was at Diageo a decade ago, Ketchum was my agency at Baileys and I’ve never heard a bad word said about them. The size and scale of the opportunity is a huge appeal, and I also recognise the huge responsibility of continuing to grow, nurture and evolve the culture Ketchum is known for. I’m really excited about getting to know the business, the team and the clients.”

Of her time at WE, during which the UK operation grew from 40 to 88 and the agency expanded its offer to include corporate communications, medical education and scientific engagement, Allchurch said: “I’m immensely proud of what I achieved at WE – it was little known in the UK when I joined and seen as very US tech focused, and I believe the strength of the leadership bench, work and clients – and the acquisition of Hopscotch in 2022 – has really put the UK operation on the map.

“There’s never a right time to leave, but WE is in exceptionally good hands and I have total faith in the team.”

WE Communications said in a statement: “We are thankful for Ruth’s leadership in the UK over the past five-plus years. Her contributions to WE’s growth and success have been significant and we wish her the best for her future endeavors.

With Allchurch’s departure, WE has promoted deputy MD Laura Gillen to UK managing director. International CEO Kass Sells will continue to oversee the growth and development of WE’s EMEA region, working with EMEA market leads including Gillen, Bianca Eichner in Germany and Sarah Gooding in South Africa.

Ketchum’s deputy UK CEO Heather Blundell left the firm last October to take on the UK CEO role at Grayling.