Edelman brings on Helga Ying to lead purpose

She’ll have both U.S. and international duties when she joins the firm next month.

SAN FRANCISCO: Edelman has hired Helga Ying as global and U.S. chair of purpose.

Ying is set to start in the role on January 4, based in San Francisco. For her U.S. duties, she will report to U.S. president and CEO Russell Dubner. Ying will report to chief strategy officer and global head of practices and sectors Katie Burke for her global responsibilities. 

Ying will replace Marion Darrieutort, founder and former CEO of Paris-based Edelman Elan, who also managed purpose work at the agency. Darrieutort left the firm in October to found another agency. 

Ying’s direct reports will include EVPs Alex Heath and Jackie Murphy in the U.S.; Montreal GM Eve Laurier; Latin America EVP Natalia Martinez; executive director for Asia-Pacific Youngjin Kim; head of corporate reputation in APAC Antoine Calendrier and executive director in EMEA Mark McGinn.

Ying said that one of her primary goals will be to ensure the authenticity of purpose efforts Edelman is delivering on behalf of clients. 

“[We] already have a strong bench and incredible team on purpose,” she said. “My work is to come in and be the strategist and do this in a thoughtful and authentic way and really incorporate the walking of the talk, as [CEO] Richard [Edelman] said, through action-based comms as opposed to imagery.” 

However, walking the talk on purpose has become more difficult in an era when PR and marketing agencies are critiqued for their clients and work by not only activist groups but also employees.

Last year, Edelman was forced to drop private prison company client the Geo Group, after staffers complained about working on the account. More recently, the firm was a top target of an activist campaign asking PR staffers and clients to pressure agencies to cut ties with carbon-based energy businesses and groups.

“The important thing is brands need to really make sure this is part of their DNA, it’s a long-term commitment and [they] are authentic in [their] work on purpose,” Ying said. “As long as they are committed to making systemic, meaningful change and want to work in an authentic and meaningful way, we need to work with them to move the needle.”

“We’re proud to work for these clients and deeply transparent in how we do what we do,” CEO Richard Edelman said about the agency’s work for energy companies. “That hasn’t been a standard for some of our competitors. So I feel that [Ying] can absolutely [manage] on purpose as part of this company partly because it’s my family business and I take all of this stuff incredibly seriously.” 

Before joining Edelman, Ying was International AIDS Society’s head of local office, managing the group’s footprint in San Francisco and Oakland, for the 23rd International AIDS Conference. 

A representative from the organization could not be immediately reached for comment on Ying’s departure. 

She has also served as American Eagle Outfitters’ VP of external engagement and social responsibility and Levi Strauss & Co.’s senior director of worldwide government affairs and public policy.

This article first appeared on PR Week US.

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