Catherine Hernandez-Blades: PRWeek Hall of Femme 2017

SVP of corporate communications, Aflac

What would you do if you were not in PR?
I would likely be head of strategy for a large, global organization. Strategy is a passion of mine. I love envisioning an endgame that advances the business and creating strategies that can be mapped to make it happen, breaking it down to manageable elements and inserting tactics then measuring the results. I love problem solving – the more complex the better.

Talk about the last time you experienced a truly fist-pumping victory moment.
I put together a tiger team of five junior-level members to attack a project and develop a communications plan for one of our business partners. I reviewed the final plan, and they knocked it out of the park. I’m so proud of my team. Anytime the people I work with achieve success, it’s a fist-pumping victory moment. 

When was the last time you endured a real "agony of defeat" moment, a total wipe out? What did you learn from that moment?
Fortunately, I don’t think I’ve had an epic fail, but there have been a few "diving catches" that likely come close. The lesson that comes to mind is to always prepare for every possible contingency no matter how remote the possibility.

How long ago was the last time you truly took the time to recharge your batteries? What did you do?
This may actually be my epic fail. I am terrible at this. I once held off on having an important surgery so it could be scheduled between the earnings call and the annual sales meeting. And, no, I would never allow anyone on my team to do such a thing.

I did go to San Lucia last year, and it was a heavenly five days. I’m from New Orleans, and going home charges my batteries, too. 

What is it about this industry that frustrates the hell out of you sometimes?
Besides the fact no one in my family has any idea what I do all day, it’s the measurement piece, or often lack thereof. I get frustrated when people measure activities and not results and impact on the business. 

When have you seen this industry or your organization really shine?
Anytime we focus on corporate social responsibility, and when we do the right thing in a crisis. We as communicators and business people have the power to make great things happen. When we do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do and have a positive impact on others, then that’s when we shine. 

Words to live by?
Never stop listening and learning.

Favorite drink?
Scotch – a single malt and the older the better – on the rocks.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Worry less and savor the successes more.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say to you as you enter?
What I suspect everyone from south Louisiana wants to hear: Bienvenue! And the Saints won the Super Bowl again! That last part is how I’ll know I’ve really made it to heaven.  

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