LONDON — Porter Novelli has promoted Sarah Shilling to EMEA chief executive officer, as EMEA managing director Fenella Grey has stepped down from the agency.

Shilling, who is based in Porter Novelli’s regional headquarters in London, was previously the agency’s EMEA executive vice president and head of strategic services, and has been pivotal in the agency’s recent growth and diversification into new services.

Before joining Porter Novelli in 2021, Shilling was chief marketing officer of the Unlimited group, which was last week acquired by Accenture, having previously held senior roles at Unlimited agencies Nelson Bostock and Fever. She has also worked in-house as head of corporate communications at Pernod Ricard UK, and global head of brand communications for Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG).

Porter Novelli global CEO Jillian Janaczek – who joined the firm last summer from BCW, where she was New York president – said: “Sarah’s leadership will bring a powerful blend of creative, client, and commercial acumen to Porter Novelli’s leadership team. We have an ambitious vision for the future of this company, and I am delighted to be partnering with her to embrace innovation in support of client and team success.”

Grey, who became EMEA MD in 2021 and has worked with Porter Novelli in various leadership positions since 2013, will continue as an advisor to support special projects over the next few months. She told PRovoke Media: “It has been a complete honour and privilege to lead such an iconic brand and business over this last decade of constant change.

“I am so thankful to have worked with such a formidable and inspiring leadership team and I leave with huge pride in what the agency has been able to achieve in driving growth and positive impact for ourselves, our clients, and the communities we serve.

“There comes a time when you know it’s right to pass on the reins, and there couldn’t be anyone better to pass them on to than Sarah. I’m so thankful for her partnership and know that the business will go from strength to strength.”

Shilling told PRovoke Media: “It’s a massive privilege and I’m overjoyed. Porter Novelli is a treasure trove of talent and amazing clients, and I can’t wait to get started. Since Jillian arrived, she has crystallised our ambition and has such a clear vision for us; she’s inspiring, a brilliant driver of change and has real empathy, and we’re already starting to show our global muscle.

“It feels like an exciting, critical point for us – there are headwinds out there that make it more challenging, but we are focused and really operating as one agency globally for the first time.”

As well as becoming more global, Shilling said her two other priorities were continuing to invest in talent with a focus on diversity and inclusion, and developing the agency's strategic services offer: “This is our hot house of innovation. It’s here where all our data, insights, digital, measurement, content and production sits and strategic services will be a key driver of growth. Within this, we are leaning into AI and helping our clients navigate it as an enabler for their businesses.

“Our heritage is purpose but clients don’t buy purpose, they buy a solution. It feels like all the right things are in place for the start of a new era for the agency.”

Porter Novelli is one of the finalists competing for PRovoke Media’s EMEA midsize agency of the year award; the winner will be announced at the EMEA SABRE Awards in London this week.