PRWeek Hall of Fame 2016 honorees

Six giants of the comms industry make up the fourth class inducted into the PRWeek Hall of Fame.

Six giants of the comms industry - whose dedication, expertise,  and influence continue to be felt by the next generation of leaders - make up the fourth class inducted into the PRWeek Hall of Fame. 

Margi  Booth Lisa Caputo
Margi Booth Lisa Caputo David Drobis
Steve Harris John Onoda Patrice Tanaka
Steve Harris John Onoda Patrice Tanaka

border

Margi Booth, founder and chairman, M Booth

Margie Quote

What are you most proud of over the course of your career?

Some time ago, a young man came to work as an intern at M Booth. After three days, I recognized he was a superstar, hired him to join our team and, in time, he became our creative director. After 10 years, he approached me sheepishly one day and asked what he should do. He had been offered a job to lead an experiential events team at Google.

This was not an opportunity he could pass up, and I told him he should say yes immediately. It was one of the proudest moments of my career because if you create an entrepreneurial, courageous culture that promotes risk-taking, people will do their best work and grow beyond what they even thought was possible of themselves. This was certainly true of this young man and many others who I have seen flourish in the culture we’ve created.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

Don’t rush to take your first full-time job, no matter what your friends or parents tell you. Take a year off and be adventurous. Travel to faraway places, do community service, or immerse yourself in an interest or passion. You’ll be a much more fascinating, well-rounded person and that much more attractive to any potential employer.

Really great opportunities may appear as risks, but must be embraced. Trust your instincts and intuition. They often are much better than any data point that says otherwise.

Don’t worry so much about what people might think. Do what you think is right, not what is popular. You won’t look stupid if you admit you don’t know something. 

Tell us about an important mentor in your life.

My first PR job was at Ruder Finn, and I was fortunate enough to be taken under Bill Ruder’s wing, a brilliant communicator and a spectacular human. He was the first to let me know what I did right and what I did wrong.

After my first new business presentation, he told me my answers were smart, but that I had to learn "to sit up straight and not play with my hair." He taught me how to think big and the importance of soft skills as I watched him build a culture that instilled loyalty, fostered creativity, and rewarded bold thinking — things I’ve tried to emulate when I was building M Booth.

He gave me a life-changing opportunity when he asked me to run a separate agency he founded dedicated to helping nonprofits. It started with two clients and $10,000 in the bank, and he guided me through my first year in business on my own. I was too naïve to be scared, but he was there for me every step of the way, referring clients, giving sound advice and incredible encouragement — and that remained a constant for almost 30 years till the day he died.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

I remember this piece of wisdom vividly. When I became an account supervisor, I was able to work with an assistant for the first time. One day, I was at her desk leaning over her shoulder watching her write a memo and she said, rather harshly, "Stop doing that! Let me do my work and start acting like an executive!" 

I was really cowed and quite taken aback at the time, but unbeknown to her, she was giving me some invaluable advice. Trust people you work with; don’t crowd them in. Let them do the job until they give you a good reason otherwise. Chances are if they are free enough, they’ll exceed your expectations. 

Do you have a golden rule of comms?

Always tell the truth with as much compassion and humor as you can muster. 

You are going into a very important meeting. What is your warrior song?

"Fight for The Winnies." For six years, I went to Camp Redwing in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. The highlight of the summer was when you found out what team you would be on for color war. Think Yankees/Mets, Coca-Cola/Pepsi. I was a Winnebago, the brown team, and "Fight for The Winnies" was our anthem/fight song.


Margi Booth is a classic New York PR pioneer and entrepreneur. She started out as an assistant in Ruder Finn’s television/radio department and helped book clients onto TV talk shows. When it was slow, she was also the receptionist. Booth worked her way up to become a VP at Ruder Finn, heading that very same broadcast department, and then became president of Public Interest Public Relations in 1977.

In 1985, she founded her eponymous firm M Booth with a view to creating innovative communications programs for consumer, lifestyle, and corporate brands. Under her leadership, the agency’s client roster grew to include American Express, Unilever, Google, GE, Mercedes Benz, and Godiva, among others.

In 2009, M Booth was acquired by Next Fifteen Communications, and Booth assumed the role of AWC (Active Working Chairman), setting the firm’s strategic direction, client counseling, and new business.

border

Lisa Caputo, EVP and chief marketing and communications officer, The Travelers Companies

Lisa Caputo

What are you most proud of over the course of your career?

I’ve been very fortunate to work for incredible people — CEOs and public officials — who have taught me so many different lessons, be it in the public or private sector.

Lessons you wish you knew before starting a career in PR?

I wish I had confidence in the ability to negotiate at the age  of 22 or 23. When I was offered my first job on Capitol Hill, I called my father and he said, "Don’t think, take it."

It’s always important for a prospective employee to advocate for oneself. 

What has you most excited about the next 10 years of PR?

The next decade is going to be incredibly exciting because of all the dynamic disruption going on in the world of digital and social.

While news is 24/7 in today’s world, everything can change by the minute, by the second. It makes careers in communications and marketing very exciting. 

What has you most concerned about the next 10 years?

The danger of the next generation is tech being so incredible that in some respects it could be a deterrent to diving deeply into subject matter. 

What is the best career advice you ever received?

It was a mentor of mine who told me not to have a grand plan in terms of a career path, but rather go into everything with an open mind so you don’t miss opportunities that can come across the transom.

Do you have a golden rule of comms?

In comms, it’s all about communicating succinctly, directly, and honestly.


Lisa Caputo is one of those rare communications professionals who made the fundamental extra step in crossing over to run the marketing department as well as PR at two high-profile global financial services companies. Caputo leads Travelers’ marketing, research, corporate communications, creative services, and customer experience functions.

She joined the financial services company after more than 11 years at Citigroup, where she was Citi’s first corporate CMO and led global marketing, public affairs, and community relations as EVP, global marketing and corporate affairs. She founded Citi’s leading women’s financial services business, Women & Co., and was its chairman and CEO from 2000 to 2010.

Caputo also held senior executive marketing and communications positions at The Walt Disney Company and CBS Corporation. Before joining Citi, Caputo was VP of global communications and synergy for Disney Publishing Worldwide, from 1998-1999.

border

David Drobis, former CEO and chairman emeritus, Ketchum

David Drobis

What are you most proud of over the course of your career?

The people I met and worked with all over the world; how much we learned from each other; and how much we positively affected each other’s lives. 

Lessons you wish you knew before starting a career in PR?

How much you need to know about so many things.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

Enjoy the ride.

Tell us about an important mentor in your life.

Jerry Voros was my mentor at Ketchum for more than 30 years and through six to seven job changes for both of us. He continuously pointed me in a direction, normally did not tell me how to get there, but always supported me.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

Making a mistake is no big deal. Learn from it, sweep it aside, and move on.

Do you have a golden rule of communications?

Transparency and honesty.

You are going into a very important meeting. What is your warrior song?

"My Shot," from Hamilton the musical.


A pioneer in the PR industry, David Drobis joined Ketchum in 1967 and rose from account executive to CEO. During his 36-year run, he helped grow the now Omnicom-owned firm from a single office in Pittsburgh and established its significant global presence.

His high-profile clients included Heinz, Stouffer Foods, Weight Watcher’s International, Clorox, Kikkoman, FedEx, Miller Brewing, Wendy’s, Genentech, Johnson & Johnson, and Dow Chemical. In 1996, Ketchum Communications, including its advertising and PR businesses, was acquired by Omnicom.

Over time, the advertising unit was absorbed into other Omnicom companies, but the PR firm thrived and became a top-10 agency. Drobis gave up the position of CEO of Ketchum in 2000, replaced by Ray Kotcher. He retired from the firm in January 2004, but stayed on as chairman emeritus and a consultant to the agency.

border

Steve Harris, partner, McGinn and Co.; former VP, global communications, General Motors

Steve Harris

What are you most proud of over the course of your career?

The relationships with the people I worked with and those in the media that have lasted well beyond my corporate career. And the success of people that I worked with. The honesty and integrity that I was able to maintain throughout my career. And the success we had within the auto industry.

Lessons you wish you knew before starting a career in PR?

You can be right and still be wrong. No one person has all the good ideas, and the best idea should always win regardless of whom it comes from.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

Don’t spend time planning a career, just do the very best you can, take advantage of opportunities you are given, and treat everyone equally 

What has you most excited about the next 10 years of PR?

The recognition of the value and critical nature of PR, and the role most CCOs are playing in their organizations today.

What has you most concerned? 

The increasing gap between organizations and the universe of media channels. The speed at which things move today and the difficulty in responding quickly enough. Also, the punitive nature of the reaction and response when anyone or any organization makes a mistake or does something wrong. 

Tell us about an important mentor in your life.

I've had many great mentors, too many to focus on just one. They exposed me to different ways of getting things done, different styles of leadership, different ways of measuring success.

They taught me to value diversity of thinking and that good ideas can come from every person. They taught me to listen better and say less. They demonstrated the value of respecting everyone and treating everyone equally. They improved me as a person and made me a better communicator, leader, husband, father, and friend.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

Find a job where you get to do what you really like to do with people you really enjoy working with.


Steve Harris is a genuine automotive communications legend who is named as a mentor by many individuals in the close-knit sector. General Motors thought so highly of Harris the embattled auto giant brought him back in 2014 as a temporary consultant to advise the company on its faulty ignition switch recall crisis.

Harris advised CEO Mary Barra and consulted on the running of the communications department while GM searched for a permanent PR lead, ultimately settling on one of Harris’ mentees and protégés, Tony Cervone. Harris held the automaker’s top communications spot on two separate occasions, including during 2009 when the company descended into bankruptcy.

He came out of retirement in March 2006 at the behest of then-CEO Rick Wagoner and led global communications through July 2009. Prior to that, Harris was GM’s VP of communications from 1999 until 2003, before he retired.

border

John Onoda, senior consultant, FleishmanHillard; formerly with Visa, Levi Strauss, Charles  Schwab, GM, and McDonald’s

John Onoda

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

I would tell my younger self that in addition to developing professional skills and managerial skills, it is just as important to learn how to be a leader. For those seeking to reach the highest levels of any profession, leadership is the most important of the three factors. It is the hardest to master, the most painful and yet the most satisfying. It enables you to make the greatest possible contribution, not just in the workplace, but also in life. It is a very rare quality and highly valued.

What has you most excited about the next 10 years of PR?

We are entering a period of massive upheaval and disruption ¾ some intentional, but much of it flowing from long-term economic, societal, demographic, political, and environmental trends. Because communications delivers the greatest value in times of extreme change or crisis, we as a profession are going to be in a position to make an even greater contribution and to have more influence than ever before.

I’m especially excited by the movement of our PR professionals into deeper public policy waters. Most of the big challenges we will be tackling are tied to tremendous policy questions. What to do with workers displaced by artificial intelligence, automation, robots, and driverless cars? How do we reduce the income gap between haves and have-nots? Who is responsible for cybersecurity and who is accountable when it is breached? How much genetic alteration will we accept in plants and animals, even in humans? How do we enable billions of people to achieve middle-class lifestyles without destroying our environment? 

Businesses are going to have to work with governments, NGOs, the investment community, and the general public to figure all this out and build consensus for action. Communicators will be in the thick of it.

What has you most concerned?

In the future, some of us will be advocating for disruptive products, business practices, technologies and ways of behaving, while others will be dealing with the consequences. Human beings don’t have a great track record for anticipating all the negative effects of their actions. We’ve polluted the skies, overfished the ocean, destroyed forests, made ourselves obese, and worse. The coming changes will be done for the right reasons, but they will send shockwaves through our society.

Clean energy and tough environmental standards are wiping out jobs and communities in coal regions. Driverless vehicles will cost millions of people their livelihood. Artificial intelligence will eliminate the need of lower-level workers in the healthcare, education, professional services, hospitality, and restaurant industries. 

If we help create problems we have a moral obligation to minimize their impact and try to help those who suffer setbacks because we were successful. While I’m on the side of big change, I also think we need to invest in our societies to keep them healthy.

Tell us about an important mentor in your life.

My mentor was Al Geduldig, and he taught me several things that changed the trajectory of my career. He stressed communicators can’t work apart from the businesses they are supporting; they can’t think they can be successful if the business they’re supporting fails to meet its objective. 

"You’re either a cheerleader on the sidelines or a player on the field," Al would say. "Yes, players take hits and can be knocked down, but they are also the ones who score the points. People may like the cheerleaders, but they respect the players."

Al was role model for me in the kind of counsel he provided. He could come up with traditional solutions as quickly as anyone, but he invariably tossed in a few out-of-the-box ideas, imaginative solutions that no other counselor I knew would ever have suggested. Many of these ideas were impractical for any number of reasons, and Al knew they would be shot down, but if he offered up five or six of them, one might prove to be workable. In other words, Al wasn’t afraid to have his ideas dismissed and this liberated him to think creatively and tackle problems from fresh angles. In my consulting work, I try to emulate Al’s approach.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

For many of us, the hardest part of our career relates to the ongoing challenge of balancing our work and family lives. I was raised with the belief that work always came first. That was a manageable approach for a while, but the time came when my family was clearly suffering as a result of career decisions I had made. I knew I had to quit my job and make some changes to avoid a pending crisis, but I felt guilty about it.

So I talked with a couple of my rabbis, guys who had helped guide my career on an upward path, who I thought might try to talk me out of doing anything drastic. Instead, they assured me that I absolutely had to put my family ahead of my career, at least in this instance. Just hearing this affirmation from people I greatly respected really calmed me down and dispelled my stress. 

Do you have a golden rule of comms?

Be a business person first, a communicator second. In other words, our main objective is not to craft the perfect piece of communications. Our main objective should be to help our company achieve success in whatever its most critical objective is at any given time. Sometimes the way we add the most value has nothing to do with anything in our job description. 

You are going into a very important meeting. What is your warrior song?

Sorry, I don’t have a warrior song. I can barely carry a tune.


John Onoda is a 30-year veteran of corporate communications who has represented a diverse array of blue-chip clients in numerous business sectors. Onoda led corporate communications for General Motors, Charles Schwab, Visa USA, and Levi Strauss. Prior to that, he oversaw global media relations for McDonald’s, Holiday Inn, and Harrah’s Casinos.

Like many PR pros, Onoda started out as a journalist, reporting for the Omaha World-Herald in Omaha, Nebraska, which he left after a year to work for The Houston Chronicle, the largest newspaper in the South. In the next four years, he worked the major news beats, including city hall, crime, and transportation, and also did investigative reports.

His first job in PR was working for Mitchell Energy & Development Corp., which at the time, the 1980s, was the largest independent oil and gas company.

border

Patrice Tanaka, cofounder, Patrice Tanaka & Co., CRT/tanaka, and PadillaCRT

Patrice Tanaka

What are you most proud of over the course of your career?

Cofounding three highly respected, award-winning PR agencies - Patrice Tanaka & Company, CRT/tanaka, and PadillaCRT - all recognized for being among the best places to work in our industry. The last one, PadillaCRT, is the largest employee-owned PR agency in the U.S. I am extremely proud of that. 

Lessons you wish you knew before starting a career in PR?

I didn’t realize until much later in my life and career about the power of setting intentions as the first step in manifesting goals and dreams. Rather than worrying about what happens if something doesn’t go well, set an intention for the positive result you want, whether it’s running a productive brainstorm, helping a client solve a problem, or achieving a big hairy audacious goal [BHAG]. We’re far better served by setting the positive intention we want and putting energy into making that happen instead of frittering away our life force worrying.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

Think about your purpose and what you want to achieve in life. Discovering and living your life purpose is the single most efficient and powerful thing you can do to unleash your leadership potential and the joy of a fulfilling and rewarding life. Moreover, discovering your life purpose earlier in life rather than later will likely give you a longer time horizon to accomplish those things that matter most.

What has you most excited about the next 10 years of public relations?

The continuing evolution of digital and social media in heightening our global collective consciousness. Ten years ago, Twitter was founded, and we’ve seen its power to connect us globally in celebration of events like the World Cup, to communicate during disasters, monitor epidemics, and even organize revolutions. I’m excited to see how the next 10 years in digital and social media will further enhance life in this global village in terms of our connectedness, compassion, and ability to quickly mobilize and help one another, including disaster victims a hemisphere away. 

What has you most concerned?

That bad actors, leveraging enhanced digital and social media, will be able to wreak global havoc more efficiently and effectively. And that being more closely and viscerally connected to the suffering of others globally will make us more inured to their suffering.

Talk about an important mentor in your life.

My mom. She taught me that love and sharing your cookies and toys were the secrets to getting along with others. She was right. 

Do you have a golden rule of comms?

Do the right thing. 

You are going into a very important meeting. What is your warrior song?

Beyoncé’s "Run the World (Girls)".


Born in Hawaii, Patrice Tanaka's career is a tribute to the power of positive thinking and inspiration, culminating in a long and entrepreneurial career in the PR agency sector in the industry’s capital: New York City. Her eponymous full-service PR firm, Patrice Tanaka & Co., was founded in 1990 and based in New York.

Tanaka led a group of colleagues in a management buyback from Chiat/Day Advertising to cofound the employee-owned PR agency with 12 colleagues. Clients included Mercedes-Benz USA, Target, and Charles Schwab. Carter Ryley Thomas Public Relations & Marketing acquired Patrice Tanaka & Co. in 2005, creating a 72-strong firm called CRT/tanaka with then combined revenues of $10.5 million.

In 2013, Padilla Speer Beardsley acquired CRT/tanaka and the firm was renamed PadillaCRT, with Tanaka as chief counselor and creative strategist. Last year, Tanaka departed the firm to launch career-coaching company Joyful Planet.

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.