Leslie Gaines-Ross won over the judges with her commitment to thought leadership in the PR industry. Her work on reputation is exhaustive, and Gaines-Ross has led close to 50 studies at Weber Shandwick, where she is chief reputation strategist, since 2008.
Judges called her "smart, engaged, and a visionary," a "behind-the-scenes strategic thinker," and an "excellent thought leader with a true commitment to the field."
Gaines-Ross’ research has spanned many fields in the industry, from reputation to CEO transitions to gender equality. In the past year alone, she led three major studies on gender equity in leadership roles; the dawn of CEO activism; and the evolving role of the chief communications officer.
One judge noted she is "leading the way through research that helps others understand the field."
Her work helps Weber’s staff provide clients with the best, up-to-date information, and keeps them, and the entire industry, on top of the latest industry trends.
As part of her role, Gaines-Ross also tracks and advises on Weber’s own reputation, analyzes employee surveys and internal data mining, and advises top clients on their own reputation issues.
"Gaines-Ross is one of PR’s top thought leaders," one adjudicator added. "She helps elevate the industry to a new seat at the table."
Beyond pioneering thought leadership at work, Gaines-Ross has written two books on CEO and corporate reputation and regularly speaks at events on the topics.
She serves as a trustee on the board of the IPR.
Gaines-Ross also runs a blog, reputationXchange, which covers trends and news in her area of expertise.
"Leslie also leads by example," said a colleague on her nomination. "Her mantra to ‘pay attention, always’ is infused throughout the counsel she provides to our senior leaders, clients, and everyone she engages with.
As worldwide chair and CEO of Burson-Marsteller, Don Baer has focused on bringing top talent to the WPP firm. He was responsible for drafting Mike Fernandez to Burson from Cargill in 2016, naming him U.S. CEO in January 2017. Last year, former White House communications director Baer also ingrained StudioB — the agency’s data-driven, creative content, and social media approach — into each of Burson’s offices worldwide. "He’s a true CEO, leader, coach, thought leader, and communicator," one judge said.