KWT Global

Gabrielle Zucker, CEO

Gabrielle Zucker didn't set out to pursue a career in PR, and anyone that's heard of KWT Global would be surprised to learn that. We spoke with Gabrielle about the work that led her to co-found the agency over 15 years ago, and how her role has changed two years into her post as CEO (in her POV, she works for her 100-member team, not the other way around). Read on to learn about the ways the industry has changed since she got her start, how the agency has risen the ranks through PR's evolution, plus the quote that she considers her career's guiding light. 

How did you get your start in PR?

It certainly wasn’t a direct line. I moved to NYC right after I graduated with a degree in business marketing, hoping to tackle the big city. It took some time. I started in the marketing department of a law firm, but quickly had my fill of email marketing campaigns, so I moved on to a boutique investor relations firm, servicing small cap technology clients. That’s where I really cut my teeth and knew I wanted a long career in communications – without the investors!

My next move was the most critical as it eventually led me to my mentor, Aaron Kwittken, who became the most instrumental person in defining and supporting my career. Through a winding road of acronyms and acquisitions – Middleberg + Associates became Euro RSCG Middleberg which became Euro RSCG Magnet which then became just Euro RSCG and on and on and on – I spent the next five years learning everything I could from Aaron, which was a true masterclass in all things PR and business.

What led you to co-found KWT Global? How did you align with your co-founders?

Running divisions within big agencies moves you further and further away from the craft of PR. It happens slowly – you don’t even notice at first – but eventually you are spending less time with your clients, less time with your teams and all of your time on the P&L. There was no collaboration among the siloed practice groups, but plenty of infighting. To put it bluntly, it wasn’t fun anymore.

When Aaron proposed taking the leap to start our own agency, I didn’t even blink before I jumped. We were aligned on taking the best elements of big agency life and boutique firms without the downsides of either. We knew exactly what we wanted the agency to be, and more importantly, what we didn’t want it to be. Seventeen years later, our purpose-driven agency with the values of grit, empathy, collaboration, curiosity and optimism – the true pillars of the business – embodies exactly what we set out to create.

How did your role change from being president of the agency to CEO in December 2020?

My day-to-day responsibilities didn’t change that dramatically because I had already been running operations. I certainly had a bigger hand in defining the agency’s long-term vision, but for me, the most significant shift was the level of responsibility I felt for my staff and the business. As CEO, you are no longer a step removed. You no longer have a safety net. I was struck by a powerful instinct to maintain our success and grow the business in order to protect our staff – I have two biological kids, but now nearly 100 others. In my mind, as CEO, I work for all of them now, not the other way around.

How has the PR and media landscape changed since you launched the business over 15 years ago?

It’s unrecognizable in the best way possible. Traditional PR doesn’t exist anymore. The successful agencies in the market today saw around corners, evolved quickly and reestablished our position on the marketing communications spectrum. Blurring the lines between marketing, advertising and PR, integrating social media, defining the role of influencers, offering creative services – it was a new frontier and not for the faint of heart.

I live by the quote, “Comfort is the enemy of progress.” If you aren’t uncomfortable, you are stagnant. One of the many things I love about the communications industry is that it is very easy to stay uncomfortable and continuously evolve how we can best serve our clients. Launching new capabilities, specialties, products and services, even new revenue models – whatever makes you uncomfortable!

Tell us about the decision to merge with HL Group.

We are incredibly lucky to be part of a highly collaborative network, Stagwell, that encourages integration across agencies. We had worked with our colleagues at HL Group over the years and discovered so many synergies. While we were highly complementary agencies from a capabilities perspective, our areas of expertise were distinct. HL Group’s reputation in consumer lifestyle was unmatched, as was KWT Global’s in corporate. Clients wanted both.

One of our most significant areas of focus during the pandemic was organic growth as clients were looking to consolidate agencies across their organizations. The merger enabled us to provide clients with exactly that solution, allowing us to create bespoke teams for integrated work across consumer, corporate, B2B, social, influencer, creative and design.

How does KWT Global differentiate itself in the field today?

We are a dynamic, fully integrated agency working with clients across a wide range of industries. This range is purposeful, and it is the foundation of our multi-specialist approach. We know that the cultural, societal, and economic trends affecting one industry vertical never happen in a vacuum. Our teams are constantly sharing information and applying cross-category insights to keep our clients informed and inspired.

What are a few spots you love to visit in the cities where KWT Global has offices?

In New York, it’s all about the food and drinks! My first love in NYC (besides my husband of course) was Nobu – their grapefruit elderflower martini is life-altering.

London during the holidays is a dream – walking along the south bank of the Thames, shopping at the outdoor Christmas markets and hopping into a neighborhood pub.

When I’m in LA, the weather plays a key role! Vegan Mexican restaurant Gracias Madre has an incredible outdoor patio, and Craig’s is right across the street for dinner or drinks with the team.

If you find yourself in Chicago, head over to Girl & the Goat or Duck Duck Goat, led by Stephanie Izard, an amazing female chef local to the city.

What are some current or upcoming projects you’re excited about?

We are excited to continue leaning into some of our more nascent capabilities and have plans to significantly grow our ESG specialty as well as entertainment marketing. Our mission of bringing clients’ brand purpose to life will continue to drive all of our growth and expansion efforts. That said, we will always stay true to our multi-specialist positioning, which allows us to tailor highly integrated teams to our clients to develop meaningful, impactful and award-winning work.


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