AgenciesBrandsD&IPeopleOnward founder to lead transformation and culture at BerlinRosen

Thaly Germain takes on vital role in diversity as her firm merges with PR giant.
Byonce TyusJuly 18, 20227 min
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BerlinRosen, a public relations/marketing firm, announced this month that it was acquiring the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) firm Onward. Its founder, Thaly Germain, was named as the first managing director for transformation and culture for Berlin Rosen.

Founded in 2016, Onward has provided customized plans, learning experiences and coaching to its partners. BerlinRosen and Onward started a partnership in which the PR firm was looking to raise its DEI programming – a move that has laid the grounds for BerlenRosen’s recent and first acquisition.

BerlinRosen said Onward had previously partnered with many other organizations, including Nike, One Design, the New Commonwealth Fund, Only One and the Gates Foundation.

In a statement on its website, the firm said: “We’re thrilled to announce that Onward is now part of BerlinRosen! Onward designs and delivers innovative learning experiences that build personal and organizational capacity for change through DEI consulting focused on testing the most cutting-edge solutions to issues of equity. Since its founding in 2016, Onward has quickly become a go-to agency in the DEI space due to their strength in transforming organizational culture in a sustainable way.”

A former educator and charter school advocate, Germain received a master’s degree in education from Trinity University and a master’s degree in administration from Fordham University. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in cultural anthropology at Bryn Mawr College.

Germain responded to questions from Marcom Weekly about her new role as part of the deal.

“As managing director for transformation and culture, my role is multidimensional,” she said. “I work with the team on strategic efforts that create a strong culture focused on equity and inclusion, both the design and implementation of those strategies.”

Germain said she would “support individual team members and managers in building systems that uphold our values of equity and inclusion. Additionally, I lead a practice focused on building the capacity of clients to ensure we’re building more diverse, equitable, and inclusive spaces.”

Germain also said that part of her position is about taking on something new. “I think these decisions have to be deeply personal. For me, it was about taking on a different challenge, amplifying work we’d already done, and working with a team aligned on values.”

As for the merger, she said she learned a lot – both personally, and professionally.

“Some of those learnings are about myself and my goals and some of those learnings are about the process of bringing two companies together through a critically important partnership,” she said. “In terms of a partnership like this one, there’s a lot of work behind the scenes to move things forward, while continuing to do existing work. There were also lots of reminders about who we are as a team and who I am as an individual.”

BerlinRosen was founded in 2005 and has since been recognized for its accomplishments and success. The firm was named the top agency by Forbes’ Best PR List in 2020, the best large PR agency by PRNews in 2021, and the best PR agency by the Observer this year.

Germain founded Onward after the death of Sandra Bland, a Black woman who died in police custody in 2015.

“I wanted to push myself and to help others push themselves in order to create an anti-racist world,” she said.

In terms of success, Germain said believing in oneself and having a good support system is key.

“If you want to do something – do it,” she said. “There will be challenges – big ones – but remember the goal and keep going. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your goals and lean on them. Remind yourself that others have accomplished things that seemed insurmountable and so can you.”

Byonce Tyus

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