About Rob Flaherty

Rob Flaherty is Partner, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ketchum, one of the world’s top communications firms and PRWeek’s 2012 Agency of the Year. Flaherty leads Ketchum’s 20 member Global Leadership Council to guide the strategy, client service and performance of the agency. Since joining Ketchum, Rob has been involved in all aspects of the firm’s business, including having successfully led its largest office, one of its global practices and several of its largest client engagements. In addition to his position at Ketchum, Rob is very active in the industry, serving on the executive committee of the board of the Institute for Public Relations, on the Agency Management Committee of the Council of Public Relations Firms, and on the advisory board of directors for Room to Read, Ketchum’s global pro bono partner. Follow Rob on Twitter at @flahertyrob.

Author Archive | Rob Flaherty

As We Look Toward the Future, Recognizing Four Ketchum Leaders

Every day hundreds of clients rely on Ketchum to deliver for them: deliver great service, break through ideas and real results. As an established global agency, our clients expect Ketchum leaders to manage our agency effectively today and continue to develop the agency and its services for tomorrow.

It has been just over a month since Ray Kotcher became the Chairman of Ketchum and I assumed the role of CEO. Since then, in addition to extensive travel to meet with clients and teams, I have thought a lot about the leadership roles we need to manage the breadth and scope of the agency today and over the next few years of rapid change in our business.

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Mind the Gap

In the London Tube the signs are everywhere — Mind the Gap, don’t fall between the train and the platform.

Lately I’ve thought that should be a sign inside every corporate C-suite and brand manager’s office.

Almost every issue engulfing a company or serious complaint about a brand is as a result of a big gap between their stated promise and their actual delivery.

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Our Opportunity and Responsibility

Following the agency’s recent announcement about our leadership transition, Ray Kotcher and I had the opportunity to address our Ketchum colleagues via a virtual agency-wide staff meeting. As you can imagine, we were asked several interesting questions, including “What will be different at Ketchum in 15 years?” The answer I gave was, “Everything but our values and culture.”  This response prompted a great deal of positive feedback. As a result, I thought it was worth offering this expanded point of view.

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Shaping a New Communications Model – Silence is Golden

This post was first published on CNBC.com.

It might sound heretical for a leader of a communications firm to suggest it, but lately I’ve been thinking that a lot of big brands and companies should take a vow of silence.

Not forever, but at key moments in time.

In this era of radical transparency, rather than trying to explain what you’re doing to fix a problem or poor performance or disappointing service, put all of that energy into fixing it first. Let people see the difference, then call in the communicators to amplify the actions you’ve taken.

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Davos Dispatch IV: Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger

This week, Ketchum President Rob Flaherty is attending the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum — which brings together 2,500 CEOs and government leaders in Davos, Switzerland — and is reporting his observations. On Jan. 31, he will host a special webinar open to the public, “Davos 2011: An Insider’s Guide to Key Insights,” in which he will recap his experiences.I can report that “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger has made as smooth a landing into the role of leadership guru as he did on New York’s icy river two years ago.Sullenberger in person is as reserved and disciplined as you’ve seen in interviews, but even more calm and dignified. The sense you get is that he knows he has unintentionally been thrust into the role of hero and role model, and now he has to live up to all of our rather high expectations for wisdom and integrity.

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Dispatch from Davos III: Tackling Unemployment

This week, Ketchum President Rob Flaherty is attending the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum — which brings together 2,500 CEOs and government leaders in Davos, Switzerland — and is reporting his observations. On Jan. 31, he will host a special webinar open to the public, “Davos 2011: An Insider’s Guide to Key Insights,” in which he will recap his experiences. Unemployment is so pervasive that I’m sure you, like me, know several people who have been or are still out of work during this recession.Recognizing this, the World Economic Forum and CNBC convened a televised debate hosted by Maria Bartiromo to hear solutions to “The Future of Employment.”

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Dispatch from Davos II: Wide Open Leadership

Dispatch from Davos II: Wide Open Leadership

This week, Ketchum President Rob Flaherty is attending the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum — which brings together 2,500 CEOs and government leaders in Davos, Switzerland — and is reporting his observations. On Jan. 31, he will host a special webinar open to the public, “Davos 2011: An Insider’s Guide to Key Insights,” in which he will recap his experiences.Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet and hear from the CEO of a $5.5 billion IT company in India about his leadership philosophy. Vineet Nayar of HCL Technologies believes that value today is created in the “value zone,” where employees meet customers every day. It is value co-created with customers as they sort out what a rapidly changing marketplace really needs now. That’s an interesting thought for all of us at Ketchum as we work with our clients in our own rapidly changing environment. Taking it a step further, Nayar thinks that more value is created in the field than at the top of the company, by senior professionals and executives. Consequently, Nayar believes that “the job of management is to enthuse, enable and encourage employees in the value zone to create higher value than competitors.” He says that management is as accountable to employees as employees are to management. 

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Dispatch from Davos I: More Disruption Ahead

Dispatch from Davos I: More Disruption Ahead

This week, Ketchum President Rob Flaherty is attending the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum — which brings together 2,500 CEOs and government leaders in Davos, Switzerland — and is reporting his observations. On Jan. 31, he will host a special webinar open to the public, “Davos 2011: An Insider’s Guide to Key Insights,” in which he will recap his experiences.  The first full day of the World Economic Forum got off to a brisk start with a discussion and debate among mobile technology and social network experts.

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The Changing Crisis Management Landscape

Reputation is undoubtedly one of a corporation’s most valuable assets. Organizations invest millions of dollars and many years of effort to build their brands and develop trust among their stakeholders. But in today’s lightning-fast, hyper-connected world, a crisis can occur in a heartbeat and destroy a hard-earned reputation at Internet speed. With so much at stake, effective crisis communication and issues management require companies to gain a new understanding of who their audiences are and what they expect and share about a brand. In a new podcast I just recorded for an audio series by American Airlines called “The Executive Report,” I discuss how new demands for corporate transparency and new channels opened by social media are transformng the way companies must prepare for and respond to crises. I invite you to listen to this discussion below and let me know your thoughts on this topic.  http://newsroom.ketchum.com/multimedia-center/podcasts/changing-crisis-management-landscape

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Our Path to Unique Value

Our Path to Unique Value

This post originally appeared in the Council of Public Relations Firms blog, the Firm Voice. As strategy gurus have told us for years, any business will have difficulty thriving if it struggles to identify and deliver unique value to the marketplace. The same is true for entire business categories, such as public relations. For several decades the unique value PR brought to companies was media relations or, in today’s jargon, generating earned media coverage. Even long after agencies and internal departments expanded well beyond that important function, media relations was the one thing no one else did well or wanted to do.Fast forward to today. The PR discipline is defined much more broadly and integration with other marketing communications disciplines is required. So is it important to bring unique value? It’s more important than ever and here’s why: With the land grab going on around social media, PR runs the risk of getting lost in the mix as others attempt to influence “the conversation.” More importantly, brands run the risk of damaging their equity and reputation if they turn only to the paid media side of the house to engage with consumers. So what should be public relations’ unique value right now? A very compelling answer to that question came from Marc Pritchard, Global Marketing and Brand Building Officer of Procter & Gamble, last week at the Council’s Critical Issues Forum. P&G is the largest and one of the most influential marketers in the world, with a budget of $2.9 billion generating $80 billion in sales. Pritchard said that the PR function should “stake its claim” and own real-time marketing that targets communities while paid media continues to reach the masses. He called paid mass media “event-based marketing” (think the Super Bowl) and said the real action and traction for brands is at the more granular level reaching individuals and small communities in real time. 

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