CLS News
November 12, 2018

New, specialized consultancy will focus on assessing and mitigating threats to brand reputation related to the transformational changes on the horizon caused by artificial intelligence (AI)

NEW YORK (November 12, 2018) – Omnicom Public Relations Group (OPRG) today announced the launch of the AI Impact Group, a specialized consultancy that helps clients assess and mitigate the risks to brand reputation arising from the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. The launch of the AI Impact Group coincides with the release of the first comprehensive AI Risk Index, which integrates several layers of research to identify and score the reputational risk of industries and companies adopting AI.

The AI Impact Group will offer strategic consulting engagements to assess the communications challenges, brand vulnerabilities and other internal and external risks associated with a company’s adoption of AI. The cross-agency team can apply robust research and advanced analytics to create proprietary reputation-focused risk assessments for any company deploying AI. Armed with research and a deep knowledge of AI across a variety of industry sectors, the Group’s consultants and communications experts can also craft a tailored AI Roadmap for any business.

Led by Andrew Koneschusky, partner at CLS Strategies, the AI Impact Group fuses the collective experience and subject matter expertise of several OPRG agencies: CLS Strategies, FleishmanHillard Ketchum, Maslansky + Partners, Porter Novelli and VOX Global.  The group is fuelled by a passion for technology, deep understanding of the perceptions of AI and world-class capabilities to meet any communications challenge.

“We are in the midst of the biggest technological change in recent history,” said Koneschusky. “Companies that plan for AI and communicate effectively around it will be well positioned to take advantage of the many benefits the technology brings, including cost savings, improved customer service, rich data insights and other efficiencies. On the other hand, there are serious consequences for those who blindly chase the benefits of AI without understanding the risks. We are already seeing examples of backlash against AI, and the technology is still in its infancy.”

“AI and machine learning present many exciting opportunities that organizations will want to consider and take advantage of – now and into the future. At the same time, these developments represent a new and relatively unexplored threat to brand reputation, and many companies and brands aren’t sure how to assess their risk,” said Karen van Bergen, chief executive officer, Omnicom Public Relations Group. “The AI Impact Group brings together top AI talent from across OPRG communications agencies, delivering a seamless, specialty solution to clients who need to equip themselves for AI’s future. We’re proud to bring this first-of-its-kind offering to market and look forward to helping our clients navigate this uncharted territory and set themselves up for success when it comes to AI.”

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), worldwide spending on AI will reach $57.6 billion by 2021 – more than quadruple the $12 billion spent in 2017. As businesses large and small make significant investments in AI and race to embrace its benefits, they need to assess and plan for the risks lurking in the shadows. Given the massive changes afoot, Forrester Research, in a November 2017 report on AI-enabled automation, recommended that companies invest in change management internally and PR externally.

To coincide with the launch, the AI Impact Group has released topline findings from its first comprehensive AI Risk Index. This initial index is focused on the retail, manufacturing and transportation industries; future studies will examine other industries. The inaugural study quantifies a brand’s risk based on the company’s positioning related to AI and the perceptions of various stakeholders – consumers, industry employees, policymakers, activists and industry analysts. It also provides guidance to help business leaders understand where top companies are performing best and where those at risk of falling behind are failing. Scores range from 0 to 100, where 0 indicates less risk preparedness and 100 indicates higher risk preparedness.

Overall, the study data revealed that while some industries and companies have less reputational risk than others, no industry or company is fully prepared for the transformational changes on the horizon. AI poses serious risks for all three industries studied—and even the most forward-thinking technology companies still have work to do.

The retail industry is the least prepared for the impacts from AI, earning the lowest overall industry score of 44.0, followed by the manufacturing industry at 49.3 and transportation industry at 55.3. Within each industry there is considerable variation amongst companies:

  • Retail: the company least prepared for the risk earned a 27.9, the most prepared for the risk a 52.6
  • Manufacturing: the company least prepared for the risk earned a 33.3, the most prepared for the risk a 62.0
  • Transportation: the company least prepared for the risk earned a 37.7, the most prepared for the risk a 68.8

For more information or an in-depth briefing on the work of the AI Impact Group and the AI Risk Index results, please contact Tricia Whittemore or Allison Haley.

About AI Impact Group

The AI Impact Group, comprised of specialists from CLS Strategies, FleishmanHillard, Maslansky + Partners, Ketchum, Porter Novelli and VOX Global, is a specialized consultancy with the capabilities and experience to meet any AI communications challenge. In a world where AI is everywhere around us, the human impact of this technology continues to take shape. We help companies begin or continue their AI journey, armed with proprietary data and risk analysis, so they can identify, plan for and mitigate challenges to brand reputation that may occur along the way. To learn more, please visit:

About Omnicom Public Relations Group

Omnicom Public Relations Group is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and specialist agencies in areas including public affairs, marketing to women, global health strategy and corporate social responsibility. It encompasses more than 6,300 public relations professionals in more than 370 offices worldwide who provide their expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and nonprofits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group delivers for clients through a relentless focus on talent, continuous pursuit of innovation and a culture steeped in collaboration. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) that includes more than 200 companies in a wide range of marketing disciplines including advertising, public relations, healthcare, customer relationship management, events, promotional marketing, branding and research.

Elizabeth Barnett is a sophomore at Georgetown University studying Healthcare Management and Policy. Outside the classroom, she is involved with Georgetown University Women in Leadership as a member of the organization’s financial operations board. Elizabeth is passionate about the organization’s mission to empower women driven to succeed in the professional world. Outside of school and work, Elizabeth enjoys spending time with friends, trying new restaurants in the D.C. area, and occasionally traveling home to enjoy the Delaware beaches.

Who/what has had the most impact on your academic or professional interests?

Most recently, Donna Paulson. She is a character in my favorite show, Suits, and although Donna is fictional, her ambition has been a great source of motivation for my own professional interests. A respected and influential leader at her firm, Donna is simultaneously the picture of loyalty and compassion. Her dedication to success is what ultimately shapes her career. Donna is smart and assertive, she makes her voice heard, and I feel as though her character has been an enormous inspiration for me in pursuing a career in the field of business.

What do you look for in an internship experience, and how has this shaped your career goals?

The most valuable component of an internship experience is the opportunity to absorb completely new information – the kind you can’t find in a textbook – and then take it one step further and apply it. Having the chance to work on a team of associates and partners who have ‘been there, done that’ is a unique opportunity that has positively shaped my experience thus far with CLS. In the brief time I have spent researching, reading, and discussing accounts, this internship has steered my career interests in the direction of corporate law and policy, two areas I had never previously considered.

What are your long-term career goals?

I don’t have any specific careers in mind yet, but I’d say my greatest career goals are: driving social-innovation and change through my future work and always feeling stimulated or compelled to continually learn about my field.

What has surprised you so far about your journey towards your career goals? 

Perhaps cliché, but certainly what has surprised me the most thus far on my journey towards my career goals is how significantly they have changed. One year ago, I thought I wanted to be a physician, and now that possibility is nowhere on my radar. I have learned though, that surprising myself is what makes the journey more interesting and will hopefully help build a future career based on my own skills and interests.

Can you expand on your interest in public relations?

My interest in public relations stems from my desire to learn more about how the media shapes the direction in which health care policy moves. Scrolling through the news on my phone each day, I wonder who drives home the impact these stories will have – how and why are the words arranged in such a way that they relay a very specific message? I have grown increasingly interested in how the media shapes public policy by driving public perceptions. With my time with CLS, I have also become more interested in the role public relations plays in litigation as well.

What comes easiest to you as an intern at CLS Strategies?

Multitasking. I enjoy the variety of assignments I’m given and feel as though my sense of organization enables me to tackle more than one project at once. In addition, the constant stream of new information from accounts I am on stimulates my ever-inquisitive self. When there is never a dull moment, I perform my best.

What has been your biggest challenge as an intern at CLS Strategies? How do you address that?

Working part-time can be a great challenge when it means playing a bit of catch-up in the mornings after the days I am not here. It can be overwhelming to open my email and see how much there is to read but prioritizing and making lists to stay on top of things has been helpful.

What is your favorite thing about living in Washington, D.C.?

It seems like everyone is always on the move – D.C. is an active city. I frequent the waterfront path from Georgetown to the monuments and love to see everyone out and about, especially when the weather is nice.

On our website we ask all of our staff to share three things about themselves. What are three things about yourself that we might not know?

  1. I spent this past summer in Italy, studying the intersection of neuroscience and art, specifically Romantic-era portraiture.
  2. I take pride in my knack for organization. People frequently comment about the color coordination of my closet.
  3. I enjoy watercolor painting, and while I was in Italy I painted Tuscan landscapes and sculptures.

CLS News
July 31, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. - CLS Strategies has been named a finalist for the PR News Platinum Awards in the Public Affairs category for its successful work with Insulet Corp. – a top ten Forbes Innovative Growth Company – to secure Medicare coverage of its revolutionary Type 1 diabetes (T1D) wireless insulin pump, the “Omnipod.” Prior to securing Medicare coverage in January 2018, the Omnipod was the only FDA-cleared insulin pump not reimbursed by Medicare. This caused many T1D patients using Omnipod to lose access once they aged into the Medicare program unless they could pay out of pocket for the pump.

Insulet turned to CLS Strategies to design and execute a multi-pronged media relations, grassroots and digital campaign aimed at securing Medicare coverage for Omnipod. The work was complementary to Insulet’s ongoing work with the diabetes community, healthcare providers and government relations.  After years of work by Insulet to obtain Medicare coverage for Omnipod, CLS helped bring greater public attention to the consequences of the lack of coverage and the need for it.  Ultimately, this campaign helped to persuade federal health officials to cover this innovative device. Medicare coverage of Omnipod will now provide tens of thousands of T1D patients who age into Medicare freedom of choice in their diabetes treatment therapy.

The PR News’ Platinum PR and Agency Elite Awards Luncheon will take place on September 21 at the Grand Hyatt New York, where the winners will be announced. Sport journalist and producer Hannah Storm will be featured as the keynote speaker of the event.

July 22, 2018

Federal News Radio | July 20, 2018

Undoubtedly, senior leaders across the federal government and in the private sector will at some point in their career face a crisis. To be sure, a crisis can vary dramatically in terms of size, level of severity and duration, and some may never even become public.

Sometimes, such as what we experienced at Office of Personnel Management, a crisis can touch every facet of your organization. However, while no two crises are the same, from a communications perspective there are common approaches and rules of the road that can be applied.

Gone are the days when a reporter’s deadline would be centered around the evening newscast or morning paper. In the digital age, the deadline is now. Given the range of digital platforms that exist and the speed at which information travels, any individual can start the public conversation instantly. In this reality, failing to communicate effectively and accurately in the early moments of a crisis can undermine an organization’s entire response.

Peace time preparation

Once a crisis happens, you will have little time to think through the people and processes you need to effectively operate. Ask yourself the basic questions now while you have the time and space to answer them. Determine who will be on the initial response team. How will you communicate with each other? Who will speak to the press and other stakeholders? Who are the stakeholders that must be notified and kept in the loop as events unfold? What is your response plan?

This team should include the agency or organization’s senior leadership as well as senior representation from legal, legislative affairs, and communications departments and any related technical experts. All of this will vary based on the nature and seriousness of the incident, but plan for multiple levels of severity. You can always scale down. Answer these questions beforehand and you will be free to focus on the actual challenge in the moment.


Do not be defensive and walled off. At the outset of a public crisis, you won’t have all the answers. But you should say something. Acknowledge that an event has occurred, that the organization is taking steps to respond and that more information will be provided soon.

If an event becomes public, staying silent while you figure out all the details may give the impression that you are not aware of or effectively responding to the situation. It also leaves you out of the conversation and gives the appearance of a lack of sympathy for individuals who may have been affected. In this endeavor, be cautious, and take the time to ensure every piece of information is factual, but do not hide from the conversations.

Beyond the initial moments, as a crisis evolves and moves forward, the stress and strain can force an organization inward. Resist this urge and communicate regularly. In addition, recognize that communicating is a two way street. Establish avenues, both digital and otherwise, to collect feedback and respond to legitimate questions and concerns. For example, at OPM we consistently used the feedback we received via email, phone calls, and social media platforms to regularly update the question and answer section on our website. We also integrated this feedback into a range of other public statements and materials, such as blogs and speeches.


Your customers and/or the public you serve deserve to know what happened and how they may be impacted. Dig into the details of what happened, how it happened, who was impacted and how  to find the ground truth. And then, to the maximum extent possible, release the details and focus on your solutions.

The sooner the details of the crisis are released, the sooner you can focus on the path ahead. A slow trickle of new information regarding the size, scope or impact of the crisis will undercut your ability to talk about your solutions and progress.

For example, months after the breach at OPM, new information was released detailing an additional affected population. While this information was released as soon as it was discovered, it significantly hindered the ability of the agency to focus on the positive work it was doing. The conversation OPM had been building around protecting its systems and providing services to people was dramatically altered, and the agency was forced to spend the next month publicly relitigating the breach and its impact instead of discussing its solutions and progress.

While OPM could not control the timing of the release of this information, per se, the event demonstrates the impact of introducing new details about the incident long after it takes place.

Also, be conscious that as information begins to enter the public domain, false narratives and rumors will start to crop up. Be vigilant in confronting and stopping them before they have a chance to take hold and cause confusion.

Define the narrative, be the change

A crisis has happened. Your job now is to restore faith and confidence in your organization by defining the narrative before it defines you, not to make excuses for why you are where you are. Chart a clear path forward that addresses your shortcomings and, to the extent possible, repairs the damage done to your customers and the public’s trust. Focus on your progress and be forthcoming about your solutions.

Be a visionary for your organization and a thought leader in your industry. Don’t be a defender of the old guard, be the agent of change that uses a crisis to lead your organization through a necessary transformation.

In addition to managing the response to the breach, and improving the technical capabilities at OPM, our Director Beth Cobert became an ambassador for the work we were doing. She would tell anyone who would listen about OPM’s transformation, what we had learned, and the vision we had for the agency moving forward. That paid real dividends, both as we worked to restore the agency’s image, and as we solicited support from our partners across the government.

Digital forward

The conversation will take place on digital and mobile platforms and it will move quickly. This is a fact of life, not a strategic choice. As an organization responds initially and over time, it must focus and rely on digital and mobile platforms. Understanding this fact and embracing this reality offers both opportunities and challenges. From a customer service and transparency perspective, these platforms provide an easy and robust way to collect and disseminate information. The range of digital tools at an organization’s disposal vary greatly in terms of reach, precision, and efficiency. From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn and beyond, each platform reaches different audiences in different ways and with different speeds and precision.

The effectiveness of these platforms can only be realized if you have the right people in place to harness their capabilities. Digital staff should no longer be considered a “nice to have.” They are a crucial element of any communications team, and organizations should invest in high-quality talent and elevate their importance and standing both on the communications team and across the organization. This is a reality during normal day-to-day operations that becomes increasingly important during a crisis.

Responding to a crisis is stressful, chaotic, and fast-paced, leaving little time to align the people, processes, and strategies necessary to be successful. There is also no set playbook nor silver bullet. But planning ahead and understanding the context of the environment in which you will be functioning will increase your organization’s ability to succeed in what will be a deeply challenging time.

Client News
July 10, 2018

Forbes | Jill Barth

There is a global movement to ensure that a wine's birthplace is clearly labeled on the bottle. According to Wine Origins, "when it comes to wine, location matters." This approach is officially supported by producer organizations around the world including Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy and 20 other distinct growing regions, all members of Wine Origins.

It's not only important to the producer, but also to the consumer. Based on a 2018 report conducted by GBA Strategies, Wine Origins revealed that "79% percent of consumers consider the region where a wine comes from an important factor when buying wine."

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