Leadership Series: The Man Behind Weber Shandwick

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Posted At: November 20, 2013 8:04 a.m.
by Benjamin Ladrillono.

A “Typical” Day for a CEO in an always on world

CEO Andy Polansky Image provided by Weber Shandwick
CEO Andy Polansky
Image provided by Weber Shandwick

The sun rises on a typical New York day. Andy Polansky, chief executive officer of global public relations firm Weber Shandwick, wakes up and begins his regular morning routine. As his coffee brews, he starts the day catching up on world news, reading articles from The New York Times, scanning his Twitter feed and responding to emails from clients and staff. That’s where the typical day for Polansky ends. When he steps into the office of Weber Shandwick, his day is anything but predictable.

“I don’t know if there is such a thing as a typical day,” Polansky said. “There are always different challenges for different clients all around the world.”

His non-typical days are understandable. Polansky is CEO of one of the largest public relations agencies in the world, with offices in 81 countries and more than 2,500 employees, managing communications in partnership with some of the world’s leading brands and corporations. His firm has won countless awards for innovative client campaigns and for being a best place to work in every region of the world. 

So who is the man behind Weber Shandwick and its recent successes?

The Printed Past

Andy Polansky wasn’t always a PR practitioner. He began his passion for the communications industry in the field of journalism.

“I worked as a newspaper reporter,” Polansky said. “It was something I was very passionate about and had the aspiration for since I was very young.”

As a young man, he worked for the local paper and then became the editor for his high school and college newspapers. It was his passion for writing and storytelling that opened the door to his first opportunity in the public relations industry.

“I had a friend from college tell me about an opportunity to intern with Bozell & Jacobs,” Polansky said. “He told me that I could write for companies instead of newspapers. Plus, he said that I could travel the world and live in New York City.”

Polansky’s internship with Bozell & Jacobs began his journey to becoming one of the leading figures in public relations. To this day, Polansky still credits his journalism background as one of the reasons for his success.

“It helps you think fast,” Polansky said. “Plus, it teaches you how to arm yourself for any kind of situation.”

The Journey to CEO

Since his departure from journalism, Polansky has had a fruitful 30 years in the public relations industry, moving up the ladder from what was originally Bozell & Jacobs into what today is now Weber Shandwick. He has had possibly every job you can have at Weber Shandwick. In March 2004, Polansky was promoted to president of Weber Shandwick globally. It was during this time that Polansky believes he achieved one of his biggest successes in the industry.

Twelve years ago, Polansky and his executive team worked together in merging three successful public relations agencies into one. The merger combined The Weber Group,BSMG Worldwide and Shandwick International.

Polansky stated that many doubted the merger, claiming that it would be too big. Advertising Age wrote, “Not many agencies come out the other side of mergers with their health intact. Fewer still make the whole bigger than the sum of their parts.” Breaking that status quo, the merger was a success.

“Twelve years later, I’m proud of what we have accomplished as a team since the merger, and we’ve become a clear leader in the industry. It’s been an amazing ride,” Polansky said.

Then, in November 2012, Polansky entered the next chapter of his life. He became the chief executive officer for Weber Shandwick. From a newspaper reporter to CEO of one of the most successful PR agencies in the industry, Polansky has stayed humble.

“I never necessarily set out an aspiration to become CEO of a company,” Polansky said. “I’m the kind of person that takes on challenges day by day.”

The Man Behind Weber Shandwick

Today Polansky is one of the industry’s biggest advocates and leaders. When asked what was his favorite part of the industry, he answered with sincerity.

“To me, I love working with the people,” Polansky said. “It’s a very dynamic industry and brings great rewards for the intellectually curious.”

When asked about the negative aspect of public relations, Polansky responded simply, stating that there was no downside to the field.

“You always face certain challenges whether it is tackling a client challenge or your own company addressing a certain business situation,” Polansky said. “But I never find myself in a situation where I feel like I don’t want to work in this industry.”

He has some tenets he applies to his life in public relations as well.

“Always stay close to your clients and stay in tune with your people,” Polansky said. “I travel quite a bit and try to spend time with clients and their teams. I also stay in touch on social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook.”

In addition, Polansky believes that finding a work-life balance is important. He notes that you need to think about what is important and always prioritize.

“The life of a CEO is one of long hours and significant travel. I’m fortunate to have a great family, and spending time with them is a priority,” Polansky said.

At the end of our conversation, Polansky began chatting about college football and how he watched Oregon fall again to Stanford. He wished me the best of luck the weekend we played LSU at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

A Tip from Andy Polansky

What kind of tip does a CEO leave for soon-to-be college graduates? Polansky gave a simple tip that upcoming graduates should take to heart.

“You have to be proactive and take initiative,” Polansky said. “You have to recruit the firm. Don’t wait for it to recruit you.”

2 Comments

  1. Kim L. Hunter

    Andy is an extraordinarily leader! I have a high regard for his leadership, his thoughtfulness, his inclusiveness and his overall kindness. There are not many CEOs within the industry, I would ever say this about, but Andy is one of them. If I were to ever work for a big agency, Weber Shandwick is at the top of my list!

    Reply

    • Benjamin Ladrillono

      Kim,

      Thank you for taking time to read this article! I had a blast getting to know Andy. He was quite inspirational, and I love how he is down-to-Earth. Thank you for introducing the two of us!

      Reply

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