LONDON — Ketchum has appointed Alicia Solanki as chief client and innovation officer for the UK, as chief client officer James Coyle returns in-house to lead external communications at professional services giant EY.

Solanki, who has been with the firm since she was a graduate trainee 17 years ago, has been promoted into the newly-created role after being managing director of client experience since March 2021.

Ketchum president of global markets Jo-ann Robertson – who was promoted into the global role in May this year and will continue as UK CEO until her successor is confirmed – told PRovoke Media: “Alicia is now one of the most senior women of colour in our industry in the UK. She is a special breed of consultant, who manages to balance being a true leader of people and one of the most generous, nurturing senior people I’ve ever worked with, with being an absolute client whisperer and being incredibly commercially savvy. I’m grateful every day she stays with Ketchum; she’s a rockstar.”

Solanki takes up her new role in January, when Coyle, who joined Ketchum in 2019 from client Samsung, starts at EY as UK external communications director.

Of Coyle’s move, Robertson said: “I’m really excited for James, it’s a big, meaty, exciting role. Alicia’s new role is testament to him, we’re always thinking about succession and making sure it’s a smooth process. We’ve really shaped this role so it is fit for purpose for 2023 and beyond.”

Speaking about his move, Coyle said: “Ketchum is an extraordinary agency; with world-class talent and world-leading clients. It has been an honour to be part of the UK leadership team for the last three-and-a-half years. I've had the chance to work with some of the best in the business and I'm proud of the work we've delivered together. The challenge and opportunity at EY is one I can't wait to get stuck into in 2023.”

Of her new role, Solanki told PRovoke Media: “Joining Ketchum was such an incredible moment at the start of my career. PR wasn’t a career I even knew about growing up in my family of first-generation Indian parents, but I thought it was at the killer sweet spot of media, communications and journalism. It’s a cliché but you can’t be what you can’t see – we’re removing so many walls in this industry and I hope this move is an inspiration to young people.”

Regarding her priorities in the new combined client experience and innovation role, Solanki said: “We know clients are facing huge headwinds right now and are looking for their partners in agency to guide them through, if cutting budgets where need to invest. The role also links into talent, and the kind of people we need to be bringing in that maybe we don’t have in the business today, and having seat at the table to shape and influence that is so exciting.

“The minute we put innovation at the heart of the role, we’re going to turbocharge our consultancy mindset. DE&I, for instance, is a no-brainer: taking everything we’ve learnt and giving clients access to it, also areas like helping clients on the web3 journey and how we look at partnerships. Innovation can be massive but it can also be small, something we develop with our research, social influence or design specialists; it’s now a central function to help the innovations bubbling up in these teams into the market and we’re going to be really intentional about our focus.”

Robertson added: “We’re never short of innovation as an agency but the frustration I’ve had over the past few years is that it tends to start in one place, such as research and analytics, and stays there. Alicia is a completer-finisher and will make sure when we have innovations we take them as far as we can, across the agency, to clients and across the industry.”