Head of PR Agency 2019: Gail Heimann, Weber Shandwick

Gail Heimann, president and chief executive officer of Weber Shandwick, is a game-changer, says executive chairman Andy Polansky. Other colleagues praised this PR powerhouse as being magical, passionate, remarkable and uber-creative.

In 2019, Heimann added CEO to her title at the global agency. She handily inspires a large, global team, while integrating emerging technologies and developing data-based solutions for clients. 

Not only is Heimann managing an agency transformation, but Weber Shandwick has added new assignments from such companies as Kellogg’s, Michelin, Buick, GMC, USAA and Sleep Number while maintaining strong relationships with existing clients. 

Last year, 80 percent of Weber Shandwick’s global growth came from existing clients. In a tough global climate, Weber Shandwick achieved mid-single digit organic growth as of late 2019. 

"Gail seems like a boss," summed up one of Campaign’s judges. 

To transform Weber Shandwick from a communications agency to a broader, business consultancy, Heimann was the driving force behind the creation of United Minds. This global consulting unit is designed to help organizations navigate change management, from crises to social movements.

United Minds draws on a trusted network of former consultants, as well as data scientists and communications experts, to help clients with everything from strategic insights to creative execution. United Minds expanded into 15 markets in 2019 and successfully won bids against well established C-suite consultancies. 

Heimann took this consultative approach inward in order to help Weber Shandwick navigate how big data was changing its own business. Heimann’s thinking was that the agency needed to leverage "the right data, the right way." She supervised the development of a global intelligence network to power the agency to produce better insights for bigger impact. 

The global intelligence network is comprised of more than 150 scientists and strategists, who include traditional data analysts as well as physicians, physicists, hedge-fund quants and a rocket scientist.  

Heimann’s solutions-oriented strategy has resulted in more than 40 percent of Weber Shandwick’s revenues coming from outside traditional PR/communications counsel, using activations such as data-driven analysis, digital and creative-led work.

Heimann sets values and culture for the more than 3,600 professionals in 79 markets around the world.

Heimann has also helped Weber Shandwick garner armloads of industry awards and recognition. 

In the past year, the agency was one of the top two most-awarded PR agencies at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, collecting 25 Lions across a broad range of categories. During Heimann’s tenure, Weber Shandwick has won nearly 100 Cannes Lions in partnership with leading global brands.

In 2019, Heimann also led Weber Shandwick to multiple wins at the PRWeek Global Awards and the Grand Clios. The Holmes Report’s 2019 Global SABRE Awards named Weber Shandwick global agency of the year.

Noted one judge on Heimann’s nomination: "An exceptional entry and impressive accomplishments. Growth, but also innovation and creativity at a large global agency are especially rare these days."