Barri Rafferty | Influence 100

Barri Rafferty

Head of Communications & Brand Management
Wells Fargo



It has been a long time since anyone in quite such a high-profile agency role as CEO of Ketchum (the world’s fifth largest public relations firm) left to take on a client-side challenge; Kirk Stewart’s move from MSL to Nike is the closest analogue, more than 20 years ago. And what a challenge Barri Rafferty took on, leading communications for a bank that has been mired in an accounting fraud scandal for four long, unrelenting years.
To make the move even more dramatic, Rafferty had joined Ketchum in 1995—rising through the ranks in various leadership roles for 25 years before being named as one of the first women to lead a global PR firm in 2017. Her relatively brief tenure in the top role saw the agency restructure its model around industry sectors and virtual teams, while also parting ways with a number of senior executives and making several rounds of layoffs, most recently in response to the pandemic.
She quickly established herself as a key part of a new management team put in place by CEO Charles Scharf, who joined late in 2019 to lead a turnaround that includes restoring the company’s reputation, with her role expanding beyond corporate comms to include marketing a couple of months after her initial appointment. 

Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR's direct impact on business performance
Gillette's shift to a new positioning.

What are the communications industry's biggest challenges and opportunities in the year ahead?
DE&I, return to office and engaging customers and prospects across diverse, targeted channels with strong ROI.

What have you most admired about this industry over the past year?
Its resilience and talent, day in and day out, fighting the societal issues that impact on corporate America.

What has most disappointed you about this industry over the past year?
We are still have many of the same discussions about diversity without enough change.

How have you switched off from work and maintained wellness in lockdown?
Start my day with yoga and exercise and try to journal or meditate when I can. A hot bath also helps, and time with friends.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through this year or provided inspiration?
‘For All Mankind’ was a favorite series.

If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
An interior designer.

Sum up 2021 in one word.