Dave Senay looks Irish, but his surname sounds French. He claims to be descended from the O’Connor and O’Sullivan clans who were among the 11 million or so folk to leave Ireland for America during the Great Famine years. Senay’s kin sailed to New York, but finding no work, they moved to Iowa, bought 2,000 acres of farmland, settled and sowed their seed.

Today, two-thirds of FH’s top 200 clients ask them to work in more than one region of the world, which is over double what it was when he took charge in 2006. Senay, 56, first joined head office in St Louis, Missouri, in 1984 as an account executive on FMCG. He rose up the ranks to become president and CEO, the third in the company’s 65 years in business.

Senay says most of FH’s top 200 clients do not emanate from North America, rather they come out of Asia-Pacific, central and eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. Over one-fifth of revenue in Ireland comes from network clients. Senay describes himself as an “internationalist”. When he was 14, his family moved to South Africa for a year. Like most teenagers, he got into sports, meeting girls and developing social circles. As the third of seven siblings, his world was “rocked” and he developed an entirely new perspective on life.

It was an eye-opener which honed Senay’s attitude to business. He joined Fleishman-Hillard at “the bottom of the heap”. Fast forward to 2004. Senay moved to Europe to reorganise the company after a period of acquisition. His task was to unite the corporate brands and appoint European leadership; he says understanding local customs and culture is critical in PR.

Senay got rid of lingo which made it sound like Dublin was an international office. “Well, to Dublin, St Louis is an international office, if you see what I mean,” he remarks. “Wasn’t like, it was that group and then everyone else; we were all part of the global network and that was important.” In 2008, he moved HQ to Europe for a time, then to Asia for 30 days, and so on.

It was more symbolic than anything, he says in a relaxed, even at times droll accent. While not quite as prolific a globe-trotter as WPP boss Martin Sorrell, he spends 140 days on the road (or rather in airports and in the sky) every year, as he connects with the FH network, meets and pitches to potential clients, liaises with staff and media and delivers speeches.

FH, along with Drury, Irish International, OMD, PHD and CPM field marketing, is part of the Omnicom worldwide group. Fee reports by PR Week and O’Dwyers in the US place FH in the top three and possibly even in the top two global PR networks, somewhere in between Edelman and Weber Shandwick, the latter being part of Interpublic, along with McCann.

Global clients include Procter & Gamble (P&G), Visa, AT&T and Phillips. FH works for all of the top 20 healthcare groups worldwide, including Bayer, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline. In China, the agency handles Huawei, which has been engaged in legal rows with arch-rival Cisco. They helped establish Lenovo worldwide, after its start-up in China as Legend.

“We used to make a big deal out of being global,” Senay says. “When I first joined in the Eighties, we kept talking about globalisation… then in the early Nineties, late Nineties. But apart from Ford, GM and IBM, there were few truly global brands. But when the tech boom hit and bust in 2001, there was suddenly a lot of inter-regional global business.”

In 2011, Senay presided over the judging of PR entries at the Cannes Lions festival as 16 judges from 14 countries reviewed 819 worldwide entries. That same year he was inducted into in the PR News Hall of Fame. This year, FH Dublin won a bronze Lion for its input into the P&G’s Proud Sponsor of Mums PR campaign at last summer’s London Olympics.

The agency led the field in this year’s PRCA Awards for Excellence in PR presented by An T

Share with friends:

Privacy Policy | Cookies Policy