NEW YORK — Porter Novelli CEO Karen van Bergen has been tapped to lead a newly-formed public relations unit that houses Omnicom's key PR agencies, the Holmes Report can reveal.

Read our analysis of van Bergen's challenges in her new role here.

Omnicom Public Relations Group is made up of 10 primary PR agency brands — including FleishmanHillard, Ketchum and Porter Novelli — covering more than 6,000 employees.

All of these Omnicom PR CEOs will now report into Van Bergen. The firms will continue to operate as independent brands and businesses within Omnicom Public Relations Group, which will be part of Omnicom's DAS Group.
Van Bergen will report into Dale Adams, chairman and CEO of DAS.

According to a source 
familiar with the move, the new group will focus on talent, integrated teams, technology and business growth, while also helping to realize efficiencies. It is also understood that it will oversee acquisitions, where Omnicom has been fairly quiet recently.

The move comes after Omnicom reported disappointing 2015 PR results, an overall decline of 1.4% after a Q4 drop of 6.9%. The group's PR division has reported a relatively low rate of growth in recent years — peaking at 4.1% in 2014.

Van Bergen takes on the role after leading Porter Novelli as CEO since late 2012. She is succeeded as Porter-Novelli CEO by agency veteran Brad MacAfee, who has held a variety of senior roles at the firm, most recently serving as senior partner and president of the agency’s North America region.

Van Bergen told the Holmes Report that plans for the new unit had been underway for a considerable period of time. She noted that it reflected client needs, using Omnicom's multi-agency OneVoice Philips team — which she previously led — as an example.

"We see more and more of our clients asking for integrated teams within the PR world as well," said van Bergen. "Not even the biggest global agencies can offer deep talent in every discipline, in every nook and cranny in the world."

However, van Bergen reiterated that the 10 PR agency brands — FleishmanHillard, Ketchum, Porter Novelli, Marina Maher, Portland, CLS Strategies, Cone, Gplus, Mercury and Paul Wilmot Communication — will continue as independent entities and said she would manage them in a "collaborative" manner.

"I know where I want to go, but I do want to do that in collaboration with the CEOs," said van Bergen. "I want to make the Omnicom PR Group the most attractive place for talent to go. And offering clients really seamless integrated teams that serve their needs best. And looking at strategic acquisitions as well."

Steve Dnistrian, who previously served as DAS COO in charge of PR, has moved to another role within the broader DAS group. Van Bergen's ascension also follows the departure of Dave Senay, the CEO of Omnicom's largest PR firm FleishmanHillard, last year.

In an internal memo seen by the Holmes Report, Ketchum CEO Rob Flaherty emphasized that "while this is a change in organizational structure, it’s business as usual for us and our clients, who will not see any changes in their teams or how they work with us."

"Omnicom Public Relations Group expands our integrated service offerings with an increased focus on acquisitions and recruiting top talent, in response to changing client needs and new technologies that are transforming our industry,” said John Wren, president and CEO, Omnicom Group. "Together and as strong independent brands, this group provides the best of the best in the business—from talent and ideas to innovation and creativity—for the benefit of our employees, clients, shareholders and partners."

Prior to her role as CEO, van Bergen led the New York office as managing director from 2011-2012. She joined Porter Novelli from FleishmanHillard, where she was senior partner and senior vice president, and the global lead for OneVoice. Before FleishmanHillard, van Bergen served two stints with McDonald’s totaling more than 13 years. She was chief of staff, vice president of corporate affairs for McDonald’s Europe, and director of marketing, communications and government relations McDonald’s Central Europe/Central Asia division.

"Omnicom has been a model of successful cross-agency collaboration, and Karen has been a champion for this strategic focus area throughout her nine years at Omnicom agencies," said Adams. "Omnicom Public Relations Group will build on the success we’ve seen here, and Karen is the right leader to take this forward."

Read our analysis of van Bergen's challenges in her new role here.

Additional reporting by Arun Sudhaman