LONDON – Jo-ann Robertson, Ketchum’s UK and global client solutions chief, has hired a deputy CEO to support her in leading the agency’s team in London, PRovoke Media can reveal.

Sera Holland joins Ketchum on November 1 from The Fawnbrake Collective, the brand strategy and innovation consultancy that she co-founded with Amelia Torode in 2017, with clients including DAZN, Google, Carlsberg Group, Nestle, One&Only Resorts and Google for Start Ups. Fawnbrake, which brings together a community of more than 380 independent consultants, will continue under Torode’s leadership.

Before founding Fawnbrake, Holland had been CEO of creative marketing agency Material Group, which specialises in social intelligence, design and brand experiences, for more than 14 years, working with clients including Lloyds Banking Group, the Scottish FA, Ryder Cup, Formula 1, Stella Artois and Becks. She is also a mentor for various organisations including the Creative Mentor Network, professional women’s network Bloom and Brixton Finishing School for Digital Talent.

In her new role, Holland will take on leadership of Ketchum’s three client-facing communities, which make up the bulk of the firm’s revenue in the UK – corporate, healthcare and brand – with MD of corporate reputation Jamie Robertson, consumer brands MD Sophie Raine and health MD Con Franklin reporting into her. She will also take the lead on developing and enhancing the agency’s evolving strategy and consulting model and ensuring it is embedded at all levels of the business.

Jo-ann Robertson, who was elevated from UK CEO into her global role in January, told PRovoke Media: “When I was promoted I took on significant additional responsibility and I really wanted to ensure that the UK, as Ketchum’s jewel in the crown, wasn't neglected, so I started the search for a deputy CEO who would add something new and different to a diverse and high-performing senior leadership team. I met so many amazing people during the search, this industry is so full of talent and I also talked to people from outside our PR ecosystem who were interested in the role, from people in advertising, digital and creative shops to management consultants, which really shows how valued PR is now.

“It was a really fulfilling search. But Sera stood out head and shoulders above the rest, for three reasons: first, as we’re going through a transformation from a traditional service agency to a consultancy, and I really wanted to bring someone in who embraced that. I was lucky to find someone who has been practicing real-life strategic consultancy for the past few years, and Sera’s experience will be invaluable.

“Second, I loved the way Sera talked about Ketchum, valuing the progress we’ve made over the past few years and bringing fresh thinking on where we can go next, things I hadn’t even thought about yet. Finally, and most importantly, there is Sera’s commitment to DE&I: she’s a proven leader in this space already in gender and neurodiversity and that’s critical, as this is agency-defining for us in the UK and we only intend to go faster and deeper. I was looking for a unicorn and I actually found one.”

Robertson said the appointment would ensure that Ketchum’s senior leadership team in the UK would be supported, and she would be able to spend more time on her global role: “I’ve certainly felt a leader’s guilt that I haven’t got a much time to spend with individuals to nurture them, and Sera will be able to focus on some of our key players. It will also enable me to think more about the global client solutions role, which we will be extending to all global clients rather than just one or two.”

Holland told PRovoke Media: “Over the past 18 months we’ve all stopped and taken a look at what’s next and what we value. To be honest, I wasn’t looking for anything specific but I knew I wanted a leadership role where I could make a difference and aligns to what’s important to me. Within five minutes of speaking to Jo-ann about her vision and the hard work, investment and action that’s happened so far, I saw the opportunity to come and work in partnership with someone to move that forward. This feels like a real moment for me and for Ketchum, and every time I have another conversation with someone in the business I get more excited. I didn’t think I was going to find something that ticked all my boxes, and I definitely have.”

Of her experience at Fawnbrake, Holland added: “Amelia and I built something amazing at Fawnbrake but I feel I’ve gone as far with that as I can. At Ketchum, I can take all the lessons and learnings from being in the C-suite, with investors, shareholders, finance and fundraising – in the bricks and bones of business – and everything I’ve learned about strategy and consultancy in that environment, and put it together with the creative communications mindset of Jo-ann and her leadership team. Where we can be in 12 months is going to be amazing.”