Gail Heimann: PRWeek Hall of Femme 2016

President, Weber Shandwick

What would you do if you were not in PR?
The only other role that could be as intoxicating and consistently inspiring as my job in comms would be editor-in-chief of Vogue. But that spot’s taken. And I’m not sure I could live up to the movie persona. 

Talk about the last time you experienced a truly fist-pumping victory moment.
Our firm’s partnership with Mattel on Barbie has yielded lots of fist-pumping moments. Barbie is an icon, but a controversial one. The most recent launch of three new Barbie body types marked a huge inflection point for the brand and ignited a meaningful conversation on how we see beauty, the importance of empowering girls, and stimulating imagination.

I am fist-pumpingly proud of our work and our role in elevating a discussion that’s critical to the next generation of women and men, to our profession — which runs on imagination — and to my daughters (who often left Barbie’s tiny little stilettos in a place where you’d least expect to step on them). 

When was the last time you endured a real "agony of defeat" moment, a total wipeout? What did you learn from it?
If you applied a little data visualization genius to the day to day in PR, and represented it graphically, it would look a tad Alpine. Super high peaks. And low lows. That’s the beauty and thrill of it.

There is an "agony of defeat" moment when the most buttoned-up, strategically sound, stupefyingly breakthrough idea you’ve ever had — ever — gets dissed or,
worse, ignored, but it pushes you further. But the micro-agonies of the every day make you think and move differently — dare I say, better — over the long haul. 

How long ago was the last time you truly took the time to recharge your batteries? What did you do?
I’m not much of a mega-recharger, but there is one place on Earth that I can go to decompress and that’s paddle-boarding on the ponds of Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Me and a few frogs. No devices. Much reflection. Until I fall in.

What is it about this industry that frustrates you sometimes?
The part that frustrates some — the relentless pace of change and the unpredictability of people — is what turns me on. Anything else would be unexciting.

When have you seen this industry or your organization really shine?
We are all extremely fortunate to be part of an industry that can — and does — make a powerful difference in the world. We use and invent platforms and tools that engage, empower, and embolden. Weber Shandwick works on campaigns addressing all 17 of the recently announced UN sustainable development goals — more than 150 campaigns in all that address poverty, hunger, water quality, and more. Nothing shines brighter than deploying our talent to drive positive change. 

Words to live by?
I’ll quote Arthur Schopenhauer: "Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see."

Favorite drink?
Sparkling water with cranberry juice. Or champagne. (It depends upon the time of day and occasion).

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Read more. Sleep less. Experience everything you can. And over-index on kindness.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say to you as you enter?
"I like your shoes."

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