NEW YORK — Ketchum has unveiled a broad agency restructuring that shifts its resources towards 14 industry sectors, dispensing with the practice area offering that is common among PR firms.

The sweeping initiative from CEO Barri Rafferty comes less than six months after she took charge of the agency, and includes a new agency look and feel along with a vision statement defined as 'no boundaries'. The new North American structure comes into place on June 1, and will be adopted globally over the next 18 months.

New managing directors have been appointed for each of the 14 industries as follows, under the regional leadership of Hilary McKean and Mike Doyle:
• CPG – Hilary Hanson McKean (interim)
• Energy & Industry – Paul Cohen
• Financial & Professional Services – Tamara Norman
• Food – Bill Zucker
• Food Agriculture & Ingredient – Kim Essex
• Health – Tom Jones
• Home – Corinne Gudovic
• Public Sector & Government – Chris Handler
• Retail – Jamey Peters
• Snacks & Beverages – Courtney Perry
• Technology – Melissa Kinch (MD) and Lisa Sullivan (director)
• Transportation – Kevin Oates
• Travel & Economic Development – Sara Garibaldi
• Wellness – Christy Salcido

In addition there are two segments within industries. Health Services, led by director Kelly Calabria, is aligned with Health, while Cultivate, led by director Alison Borgmeyer and focused on natural and organic foods, aligns with Food.

The industry sector approach is bolstered by specialist talent across media, content, digital, influencer, analytics and change consulting. Some practice areas will also persist as specialties, including sports, entertainment, purpose, public affairs, financial communications, and issues and crisis management.

Partner Denise Kaufmann, who recently returned to the US as North America director of client development, will continue to work with the Ketchum's largest regional clients to ensure their needs are being met. The firm is also aiming to hire a chief innovation officer to help invent, incubate and scale new ideas, products and technology more quickly in North America.

Rafferty said the new model aims to place the client at the centre of the agency ecosystem, combining deep industry expertise with specialist capabilities. "Client business needs are evolving and their communications needs are evolving," she said, using the management consultancy offering as an example. "They need a partner that truly understands their business and that can pull in deep expertise, which you see with the management consulting firms. What we have that’s different is the marriage of strategy and creativity."

The North America business also shifts to a single P&L, although Rafferty noted that each industry "will have goals".

"If you look at a lot of the way agencies have been built in the past, most of us have grown through geographic acquisition and then we’ve added specialities," she said. "The idea is to break that down so we don’t create internal hurdles to tap that talent seamlessly."

Each Ketchum client will now align with an industry, calling in specialist talent as required.  "What makes us unique is we have this deep collaborative culture," said Rafferty. "We’ve developed deep expertise in many areas, whether it’s food or CPG, technology or health. This allows us to go deeper and create more distinct areas. What our clients think of as a core team today is different from a core team two years ago."

Many of the industry leaders will retain a dual role leading a marketplace as well, as Rafferty attempts to address geographic demands of Ketchum's business. "We want our people to have a sense of community locally," she said. "Our talent is taken care of at a local level and also that we are a key part of that community where our offices are in."

Rafferty believes the new model will unlock more career paths for Ketchum's talent, instead of the traditional route to geographic or practice area leadership. She also hopes it will give a network agency like Ketchum some of the agility and innovation that has characterised the rise of midsize firms.

"Before you had fewer geographic leaders that were more generalist," she said. "We want to make sure our talent can deeply major in an industry, but also there’s more and more career paths for specialists within our industries.

"It gives us the ability to be more entrepreneurial and enables us to pivot and give our industry leaders the ability to be entrepreneurial, to be CEOs of those industries, while tapping the deep specialities that we have," she added. "What we’re looking at is the pivot between being a small or midsize to being a global agency."

The development comes after Ketchum put Esty Pujadas in charge of Asia-Pacific, Middle East/Africa and LatAm. Over the past 12 months, meanwhile, Ketchum has laid off a number of staffers, many of whom were senior-level generalists.