An affinity for change fuels HBO's Procter-Rogers

With a bevy of accomplishments under her belt, Cheryl Procter-Rogers, corporate affairs director for HBO, plans to continue to achieve all she sets her mind to - next as leader of the PRSA.

With a bevy of accomplishments under her belt, Cheryl Procter-Rogers, corporate affairs director for HBO, plans to continue to achieve all she sets her mind to - next as leader of the PRSA.

It would be an understatement to use the word "accomplished" to describe Cheryl Procter-Rogers, HBO's corporate affairs director. According to many, she is a high-energy, talented, and generous person who is one of PR's great ambassadors. In her 25-year career, she has always striven to improve and advance the profession, and now as the PRSA's current president-elect, she is gearing up to take the reins there.

"She'll be one of the better president's the PRSA has every had because she regards it as a responsibility rather than just an honor," says mentor, friend, and retired PR pro Chester Burger. "She said to me, 'What's the point of being president unless I bring the organization and profession forward?'"

Procter-Rogers has been recognized for her service and has won awards from the NAACP, the LA Black Media Coalition, Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), and former LA Mayor Tom Bradley. She was the youngest member (and first African-American woman) to earn accredited professional status from the LA chapter of the PRSA, and she was the youngest member ever to be inducted into the PRSA's America's College of Fellows (in 2000). She is a charter member and past president of the Black Public Relations Society of Southern California.

Procter-Rogers' credits her parents with teaching her the importance of being organized and volunteering. "My mother was always volunteering and taking us along," she recalls. "I got an appreciation of giving back and a real understanding that you don't define yourself through your own accomplishments - you let others define you."

As busy as she is, Procter-Rogers always takes time to share wisdom. She is the Public Relations Student Society of America's professional adviser for DePaul University in Chicago, serves on the communications advisory council for the University of Florida, has contributed to several books, and greatly enjoys lecturing and speaking to students and professionals across the US.

"I like to share all I've learned," she says. "When you share, you grow. I don't think it's by accident that I've always worked for organizations where I get paid to do something that I can do and give back at the same time."

Adrienne Robinson, currently senior development executive at HBO, says working for Procter-Rogers for five years made her a better person. "It was wonderful because she knows a lot and she shares," Robinson says. "She's fun to work with. She asks a lot because she does a lot. Was it easy? No. Was it fun? Yes. Did I learn a lot? Yes."

At HBO, Procter-Rogers leads PR and integrated marketing communications across 11 Midwest states. She enjoys the environment because it allows for creativity and growth. "[HBO is] a strategic risk taker and looks for opportunities to deliver something fresh and new every time," she says.

HBO often develops community partnerships. Recently, it worked with The New York Times on a project involving a documentary about last letters home from soldiers in Iraq and helped out with the Katrina Family Film Festival to provide entertainment for hurricane victims.

"I can take a film like Rory Kennedy's Pandemic: Facing AIDS around the world to audiences that aren't informed and make them aware of it," she says. "This is my job. It's wonderful."

Michelle Kornfeld Boas, VP of corporate affairs at HBO, calls Procter-Rogers the "supreme multitasker."

"Earlier this year, Cheryl was juggling three events in three different cities, all in one week," Boas recalls. "She maintained her calm sensibilities, from the planning through the flawless execution. She becomes even more motivated as her plate gets bigger."

Procter-Rogers' first job was PR and ad manager for Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Co. While there, she developed many external partnerships, including with Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch, companies that encouraged her to open her own business - A Step Ahead Public Relations. Though she had an impressive client roster that included Eastman Kodak and Coca-Cola, Procter-Rogers was frustrated by the economics of self-employment.

"I was in my mid-20s, and I found I didn't really understand cash flow," she says. "Now, I talk [to students] about the importance of business economics."

Deciding to close the firm was tough, but it served Procter-Rogers well. She went to work for Nielsen North America, where she led PR and advertising. She also served as liaison between D&B and Wall Street analysts and was a member of D&B's worldwide communications council.

Subsequently, Procter-Rogers spent four years consulting in the Chicago area for clients like Sears and HBO, which led to her current job. Experience has taught her to remain flexible.

"Change is energizing," she says. "It keeps you fresh. It forces you to be creative and quick. You can't sulk about the fact that a wonder plan you developed is gone. You have to turn on a dime and look at every change as an opportunity."

Procter-Rogers' grandmother, who was an entrepreneurial seamstress with a great sense of humor, was the most influential person in her life. "She was a great listener," Procter-Rogers says. "I learned how important it is to listen."

Burger, who has known Procter-Rogers for more than 20 years, thinks listening is one of her greatest strengths.

"She listens and asks questions," he says. "She doesn't talk at you. She finds common ground with people of differing viewpoints to reach a consensus."

Terrie Williams, president of Terrie Williams Agency, agrees.

"She has the ability to connect with the humanity in people," says Williams, "and hence forge a strong and productive working relationship."

For all her achievements, Procter-Rogers feels her greatest accomplishment is yet to come.

"I came upon a 10-year plan and realized I'd accomplished it all," she says. "Immediately, I thought, 'I need a new list,' but then decided not [to have one] for a couple of years. I'm finding a sense of liberation because the sky is the limit. I realized that the most important thing was a balance in life. I enjoy my family, work, PRSA - and, hopefully, having some positive impact on the industry."

 


Cheryl Procter-Rogers

1997-present
HBO, corporate affairs director

1994-1997
Corporate communications consultant

1992-1994
Director, PR and advertising, Nielsen N.A.

1986-1992
President/owner, A Step Ahead Public Relations

1980-1986
Manager, PR and advertising, Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Co.

1979-1980
Technical writer/administrator, Sperry Univac

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