Polansky: A category act who leaves massive footwear to fill

News Author


It’s a mark of the esteem wherein Andy Polansky is held within the PR business that I can’t consider anybody who’s ever had a nasty phrase to say about him.

Yesterday’s information about him stepping down in June prompted a deluge of tributes and heat responses, not solely from inside the halls of Weber Shandwick and Interpublic that he has walked for the previous 38 years, but additionally from the broader business.

And people tributes have been clearly real, not canned testimonials from the HR playbook.

“Andy can be missed,” stated Richard Edelman. “He is a extremely full class act, and his folks love him. He introduced distinction to the business and realized we needed to do much more than traditional PR. He is the last word consumer man and to me that is the last word praise. Andy is as humble because the day is lengthy, and I’ve nothing however the biggest respect for him.”

“That is the tip of an period,” stated BCW CEO Donna Imperato. “Andy is the best modern chief in our business — bar none. There are few leaders I’ve admired in my a few years in communications as a lot as Andy. He was at all times a fierce competitor but additionally a pal and an awesome human being. Right here’s to Andy’s persevering with success and happiness.”

And MSL US CEO Diana Littman stated: “It has at all times been clear, from my time within the business, that Andy is a really particular chief – one who believes in advancing the general public relations self-discipline and all of the expertise inside it.”

The chairman and CEO of IPG Dxtra and PRWeek Corridor of Famer’s impending departure marks the final within the “holy trinity” of males who helped construct what’s the fashionable Weber Shandwick and the second-largest PR agency on the earth from humble beginnings, in Polansky’s case as an AAE at Bozell & Jacobs PR in 1983.

Harris Diamond retired from his place as chairman and CEO of IPG’s McCann on the finish of 2020, having handed over the reins of CEO at Weber Shandwick to Polansky in 2012. Weber chairman Jack Leslie introduced his retirement final fall and leaves the agency in March.

Moreover, long-standing Interpublic Group CEO Michael Roth retired on the identical time as Diamond, having led the holding firm since 2005. He was succeeded by IPG’s COO Philippe Krakowsky.

As Edelman, who final yr expressed his intention to proceed for one more decade, added: “I really feel just like the final man standing.”

For these calling for the standard cadres of older white males who historically ran PR and promoting companies to step down and cross on the baton to a extra numerous cohort, nicely, I suppose you might be partly getting your want.

That can hopefully lead to a brand new era of management that higher displays the demographics of contemporary America. However, inside that course of, don’t ever underestimate the contribution Polansky’s era made to the institution of a agency base on which to construct a brand new numerous future.

Polansky’s enduring and defining enterprise relationship at Weber Shandwick was with Gail Heimann, who succeeded him as CEO when he moved upstairs in July 2019 into the Dxtra function (then referred to as Constituency Administration Group [CMG]).

“I’ve such excessive regard for Jack and Harris, who’ve been long-term enterprise companions of the identical era, so it is pure that you will see folks retiring across the identical time,” Polansky informed me yesterday. “However my closest partnership was at all times with Gail.”

In a memo to the corporate yesterday, Heimann stated: “Andy has spent greater than half his time on earth — that may be 38 years — at IPG; a lot of the years have been dedicated to constructing, supporting and main the group we all know as Weber Shandwick.

“Andy’s imaginative and prescient, unwavering devotion to colleagues and shoppers and his dedication to doing the proper factor – at all times, even when it is onerous – took us from humble beginnings to the powerhouse we’re at this time.”

He has left Interpublic’s PR corporations in fine condition, with Heimann establishing her imprint atop Weber and Matt Neale clarifying the management at Golin after a complicated few years with a trio of co-CEOs in cost that Polansky rapidly rectified when he took wider management at Dxtra. Different IPG PR corporations similar to Present are additionally thriving.

“We began the management transition [with Gail] at Weber Shandwick two and a half years in the past,” stated Polansky. “Golin is about to proceed to do nice issues within the market beneath Matt [Neale] and Gary [Rudnick]. We have by no means been in such a powerful place in our core PR companies.”

By way of Polansky’s Dxtra function, which entails overseeing IPG’s specialist advertising and marketing companies together with Octagon, FutureBrand and Jack Morton in addition to the PR division, he says he’ll be working with Krakowsky between now and the tip of June to “see what we do and land at one of the simplest ways to construction issues transferring ahead.”

There doesn’t look like any apparent successor to Polansky at Dxtra, however that hasn’t at all times been a particular function. Within the hole between Diamond transferring to McCann and Polansky taking on, CMG was overseen by CFO Frank Mergenthaler, who additionally retired on the finish of 2019, and Krakowsky might determine there’s no want for a direct alternative.

Amid all of the speak of Polansky being humble, dedicated to shoppers and colleagues, doing the proper factor and being an awesome human being – all true by the best way – don’t for one second suppose he couldn’t be powerful when obligatory and combat aggressively to realize enterprise goals and outcomes. You don’t get to realize what he has and rise to the highest of a $1.1 billion group with out demonstrating these qualities too.

Polansky (prime middle) with Weber Shandwick’s Indonesia crew in Jakarta.

As chief of PRWeek’s editorial operate I had quite a few testy exchanges with him if he thought we have been misrepresenting a narrative or some facet of protection of his beloved company and its folks. However, simply as together with his predecessor Harris Diamond, when you had thrashed out the difficulty and are available to an settlement no grudges have been held and cordial relations would resume instantly.

I did get one over him as soon as that I prefer to remind him of. PRWeek reported the lack of one in every of Weber’s accounts and included Weber within the headline of the article along with the successful company.

Polansky was instantly on the telephone demanding “since when do you set the shedding company within the headline.” I used to be relieved on doing a fast search that we had carried out precisely that a couple of years earlier when Weber initially gained the account and was in a position to level that out to him. “Oh, OK then,” he stated. And we moved on.

Whereas the pandemic has been a time of reflection for everybody, Polansky says he at all times deliberate to retire round this stage, presumably placing the date again somewhat to make sure the enterprise coped with the powerful circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.

He has actually loved the prospect to spend extra time together with his household, who have been staying with him for chunks of the lockdown, and having dinner collectively each night time.

“I’ve spent most of my working life touring the world and now I need to spend extra time with my spouse Maria and our household,” he stated. “I began 38 years in the past as an assistant account government at Bozell, a predecessor to Weber Shandwiick – it has been a tremendous journey.”

Heimann concluded her ideas on Polansky thus: “For now, I simply need to say to Andy — the-guy-down-the-hall-with-the-giraffe-in-his-office, my enterprise companion and pal — thanks for every little thing.”

I might echo that and reiterate that he has at all times been honest and a pleasure to cope with, a supporter of the complete occupation, in addition to PRWeek. He’s doubtless of 1 probably the most admired and inspirational folks within the PR business and he can be missed.

Imperato’s description of Polansky because the “biggest modern chief” within the business and this being the “finish of an period” are telling certainly. However he himself has at all times been one who focused on transferring ahead and taking the enterprise to the following stage. It will likely be as much as others to take this inspiration and construct that new period.

Polansky’s hobbies embrace boating.

He’s nonetheless a younger man and I want him nicely in his retirement when he’ll get to spend so much extra time on his boat and taking part in pickle ball, in addition to little doubt discovering many constructive methods to proceed to lend his experience and contribute to nonprofits, boards and no matter different challenges catch his eye down the road.  

These are certainly massive footwear to fill.