About Barri Rafferty

Based in New York, Barri is CEO of North America for Ketchum, where she leads nine offices and oversees Ketchum Sports and Entertainment, Access Communications, and Harrison & Shriftman. She brings more than 20 years of public relations experience leading integrated communications, branding, and corporate reputation campaigns for some of the world’s most recognized brands. Barri is a member of the World Economic Forum’s sustainability taskforce and the Board of the California Women’s Conference; she is also a founding member of OmniWomen. Barri is a graduate of Boston University (M.A) and Tulane University and enjoys watching soccer, volleyball, and dance - especially when her son and daughter are involved! Follow her @barrirafferty.

Author Archive | Barri Rafferty

I Am Woman, Hear Me Board

Is your name William, Robert or James? According to Gerri Elliot (Director, Whirlpool, Bed Bath & Beyond, Charlotte Russe) men with these three names hold more board positions in total than all women combined, but they were not invited to the Fortune Most Powerful Women’s Conference.

When you put 400 powerful women in the same place for two days, what happens? I labeled it the Triple “H” Threat – honesty, hugs and humanity. The sharing of best practices and lessons learned in business were honest and overt; women supported one another professionally and had conversations that blended easily from how I manage in the office to how I manage life at home.

Relationships born in one day ended with hugs at the elevator and the promise of paths crossing again.

I observed many women who had both confidence and swagger. Women confident enough to admit the pace of business change is challenging in one breath, and in the next show genuine concern for women’s rights worldwide.

Here are four key takeaways from the conference…

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Judging Our Leaders Should Be Unbiased

As I was preparing to head to Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Conference, I happened to read Maureen Dowd’s column entitled, “Too Many Secrets, Not Enough Service.” It reminded me that, as businesswomen, we have made progress on one hand and, on the other, we are still moving slowly.

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The Magic Bean To Integrated Marketing

Today clients are in search of a magic bean they can plant to ensure their agencies work seamlessly to create results-driven, award-winning integrated programs. If only it was that easy. The question I seem to be asked most frequently lately is, “Who do you see that does integrated marketing well and what can we learn from them?”

I see many brands that do it well with different structures. It’s not the model that makes it work – it’s the talent. Team leaders on the agency side must have an appreciation for diverse disciplines, and the client must insist multiple disciplines present together. Those are the two most common threads to success.

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6 Steps Corporate America Must Take To Achieve Gender Parity

As seen in Forbes…

Thousands of articles, research papers, leaders, and experts have attempted to tackle the issue of corporate America’s serious lack of equal or near-equal representation of women at senior leadership levels. Yet effective solutions remain untapped for many thousands of organizations here in the U.S.

I remember sitting on the phone earlier this year with three HR heads (each in a different country) of a large, multinational information services organization, as they were exploring hiring me to offer leadership training to their female workforce.  Before we went any further, I asked, “Where in the pipeline are your emerging female leaders falling out, and why is it happening?” and there was dead silence on the phone.

No one, even at these top levels, knew the answer, and the organization had no plans to find out.  Discouraging to say the least. Leadership coaches and trainers like myself know that throwing a leadership training program “over the fence” to women isn’t going to move any needle if the organization isn’t seriously and continuously engaged in and committed to business and HR strategies that support more women to leadership.

There are certainly no simple answers or quick fixes for this challenge. It is complex and multi-faceted, touching on cultural, neurobiological, societal and gender role factors.  Easy or not, we need to continue our search for manageable, measurable and executable approaches that will open the pathway for equal representation of women at the top of both political and business affairs in our country (and world).

To explore this issue from a fresh perspective, I was excited to catch up with Ms. Barri Rafferty, North American CEO of Ketchum Inc. – one of the largest and most geographically diverse PR agencies in the world.  A member of the sustainability taskforce of the World Economic Forum, Barri is the first female North American CEO in Ketchum’s 90-year history, and one of the highest ranking female executives within the holding company Omnicom (NYSC: OMC), which netted revenues upwards of $14.6 billion in 2013. In her current role, Barri leads Ketchum’s nine offices in North America as well as Ketchum Digital and Ketchum Sports and Entertainment.

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Women and the Future of Global Leadership

Women and the Future of Global Leadership

I had the privilege of participating in a panel at the United Nations last week to talk about “Women and the Future of Global Leadership.” The event was hosted by IMPACT Leadership 21, a movement committed to transforming women’s global leadership at the highest level of influence in the 21st century.

Joining me in the discussion were a distinguished group of ladies, including Denise Evans, VP, Market Development of IBM Corporation; Michaela Walsh, Founder of Women’s World Banking and author of Founding a Movement; Liz Lyman, Managing Director of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ; and Michelle Patterson, President and CEO of Women Network/California Women’s Conference.

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Are You a Spouse? No, I’m a CEO

Are you a spouse? (Click to tweet)

Yes, I was asked that question more than once during the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. In fact, the number of female spouses attending the event makes the 15 percent number of official female attendees seem much larger than it is. (Click to tweet)

While bias still exists, being there as a female CEO does allow you to participate and shape the agenda — an experience I cherish.

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Building the Case for Sustainability with Millennials

Everyone agrees now that sustainability is key to growing business, but how can companies engage consumers to embrace sustainable behavior? This was the question examined at the World Economic Forum in 2012, which led to three pilot initiatives in 2013 and 2014 that focused on Milliennial consumers.

One of the initiatives with which I was involved is called “Building the Consumer Case.” At this year’s meeting in Davos, Ketchum and the other partners behind this program delved into research about sustainability framing and language that Millennials respond to or reject. We realized early on that if we could gain a better understanding of how to communicate with this group about sustainability, it could really make a difference.

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8 Key Topics from the World Economic Forum

I recently returned from the World Economic Forum’s annual summit in Davos, where I spent time among some of the world’s most influential people as they discussed the trends that will shape our future. With topics ranging from youth unemployment to sustainability to happiness, I thought it would be helpful to work with one of our Ketchum creatives to put together a visual depiction that at a glance summarizes the discussion. I look forward to sharing more in-depth insights in future blog posts and tracking where the trends go.

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TED Women: Love Stories

On the way home from TED Women I began to reflect on the wonderful stories I had heard, the motivation those around me had to give back more, and the camaraderie women found sharing an experience together. The meeting formula is quite magical and in many ways a live-theatre interpretation of short stories.  They were grouped by chapters in Socratic themes demonstrating his quote “to move the world, first move yourself.”

The autobiographies told were of people who were trying to decrease infant mortality, design a mobile space suit for Mars, create a unique voice for those who cannot speak or an affordable, prosthetic knee for those in poor areas that can no longer run. Their missions were around bringing about greater tolerance for those who are different to bringing greater attention to the different signs of disease in men vs. women.

We learned of “Ubuntu” a South African term meaning “I am; because of you” on the day Nelson Mandela died. We learned by one woman losing a child she saved  thousands of others, and that mothers and not hospitals are best suited to care for premies in third-world countries. It was brought to our consciousness that a more collective society acknowledges our well-being is tied to others.

We heard the question “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” For swimmer Diana Nyad it meant attempting a fifth swim from Cuba to Key West at 64, for Sheryl Sandberg it meant writing “Lean In” and for Esta Soler it meant a 30 year battle starting with Polariod photos making the invisible visible in her fight to end violence against women. It means telling the tough story that you are not proud of as well as those you want to brag about. It means admitting their is a man box and that both men and women need to contribute to bring about change for women.

And if that wasn’t enough, I took away that talent is universal but opportunity is not. For many we have to help create opportunity. Whether you are 13 or 75, the age range of the presenters, you can have an impact. Catalina Escobar told me, “if you save one life it is worth it.” Easy to say for someone who has reduced the infant mortality rate in her local hospital 79%, and also started a day program to support pregnant, teenage girls to change the face of  poverty in her town. However, what she instilled in me is don’t wait to tackle something large, start with something you think is small.

We were motivated by the spoken word, song and drums (the first Nairobi women’s drumming group). As innovators “wisdom may begin with wonder” said Socrates  but what I saw is love as a driver. Love for what these speakers were trying to achieve, love for the people they were driven to help, love for the sport they were trying to conquer, love for the wilderness they were trying to protect, love for the cause they were rallying behind and love for the way they were. So I realized what TED is really about is “love stories.”


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Tips from Women who have Broken the Glass Ceiling

It seems like it was just yesterday that we kicked off our “Real Women Fostering Women’s Leadership” series, but I’m happy to say we’ve made it to our fifth installment and have expanded the discussion by merging it with Omnicom’s Leading Women’s Network.

For the latest talk, “Women in Agencies Have Cracked the Glass Ceiling: Tips for Breaking Through,” I was joined by an amazing group of women including Rita Rodriguez, Executive Vice President at Omnicom Group; Diane Hessan, CEO of Communispace; Kathleen Brookbanks, President of OMD’s East region; Tracy Lovatt, CEO of Batten and Co.

The series has prompted a wide variety of discussions, and this one did not disappoint as we discussed tips from women who have broken the glass ceiling. Before you get to the video I’ll share a few highlights that you’ll want to listen out for in the video.

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