For every industry professional, there is another who has inspired them. In this inaugural feature, PRWeek called for nominations from the industry at large for these sometimes unsung heroes. In common to the five leaders here are strong beliefs in integrity, leading by example, and developing and nurturing talent.
Senior director of PR,
Siemens Medical Solutions
LuJean Smith has an unusual take on the question of leadership in the PR industry - one that perhaps best reflects the unique characteristics of this industry that is driven, first and foremost, by its people.
"It's less the industry's job to define leaders; it's more the practitioners' responsibility to look for mentors," says Smith. And through learning from her own mentors, including SVP of corporate affairs and marketing Jack Bergen, Smith has had a profound effect on her staff, her company, and its reputation, say nominators.
Siemens had very little US brand recognition and has experienced a lot of change in recent years, including acquisitions and management turnover. Smith helped it navigate in a mercurial environment.
Nominators recognize Smith for generating excitement about the Malvern, PA-based company, for energizing colleagues to "achieve greatness," and for educating internal and external audiences about the power and importance of PR.
Smith believes that leadership is bred by constant seeking and sharing of information.
"I'm lucky to have Jack Bergen within the company that I look to as a mentor," Smith says. "He is also seen as a leader in the industry. Do we need... leaders? Absolutely. But what's more important is finding people who know you personally and can lead you personally."
VP of worldwide integrated marketing, NetApp
Though her background is in other areas of communications, nominators recognize Elisa Steele for touting "PR as the best air-cover marketing tool for the [Sunnyvale, CA] company" and for bringing internal communications under PR to increase employee synergy.
Nominators say, "Elisa is a tremendous mentor as PR evolves from media relations to something more far reaching."
Steele believes success is derived from integrated marketing and that leadership is about using multiple methodologies to drive common goals.
"PR is a key component to corporate relations, and it needs to be integrated," Steele says. "In the old days, produc[ing] an ad or issu[ing] a press release seemed like what marketing should be doing. It's really not. It's about making things work together to a unified goal."
Integration extends to her personal life and management style - she takes time to enjoy uninterrupted time with her family and allows her staff the same. "Each person [on my team] has such strength and talent," says Steele. "It's critical that they want to be here a number of years."
Lisa Osborne Ross
Ogilvy PR Worldwide
Nominators applaud Ross for championing multicultural communications as a business imperative. Ross advocated for and directs Ogilvy's multicultural communications group, and believes that one's principles should always be evident - to colleagues, clients, and people on the street.
Ross, in Ogilvy's Washington, DC, office, has helped the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reach women of color; the Department of State increase participation of blacks and Latinos in the Foreign Service; and the Social Security Administration and US Department of Labor increase employment of people with disabilities. She also cofounded the Washington Area Women's Foundation, which serves low-income and underserved women and girls.
Leadership that emphasizes integrity and supports "innovative approaches to [helping] young people to think" is important to Ross.
"People work best when they are happy, and it leads to profitability," she says. "The integration of innovation and integrity will lead our industry on a path that we all can be proud of."
Principal and cofounder,
Elizabeth Shea was nominated for her dedication to being the best possible partner to her tech clients and her employees. Nominators also recognize Shea's community commitment from the firm's base in McLean, VA, which includes involvement with Women In Technology, a national consortium of marketing entrepreneurs, the Northern Virginia Technology Council, and George Mason University's Communications Department Advisory Council.
Training and development are an integral part of the agency's culture. "Leadership starts with empowerment and understanding your people and their talents," she says.
PR practitioners have earned seats at the strategic table, Shea says, and it's incumbent upon industry leaders to hold those seats. "I want to be the best," she says. "That means taking a stand. We've had tough conversations with our clients [about being strategic partners]. We lost some clients, and I'm OK with that. It sends a mixed message to our people if we're not true to that mission."
President and CEO,
Over the past 20 years, Michael Kempner has grown MWW Group, with headquarters in East Rutherford, NJ, from one client and one employee to a $41 million agency. Nominators single him out for his commitment to his business.
Though Interpublic Group bought MWW Group in 2000, Kempner has maintained its entrepreneurial spirit. Demonstrating ROI is a priority. Agency offerings ScienceDialogue, DialogueMedia, ParentPulse, CARES, a dedicated CSR practice, and Technology Translation were created last year to advance and show PR's value.
MWW University is an example of commitment to employees. Nominators say, "[He] mentors all levels of employees with the same vigor with which he serves CEOs of global companies."
Of industry leadership, Kempner says: "PR practitioners are worried about taking a stand because they might insult clients. If the industry would take a stand, we'd do a lot of good. [Richard] Edelman has done a good job bringing new media front and center. [Weber Shandwick CEO] Harris Diamond has done a good job. We have great potential leaders - we just don't come together enough as an industry to promote ourselves."
Honorable mentionsHelen Ostrowski, CEO, Porter Novelli. Nominators said: "As CEO of Porter Novelli and chair of the Council of Public Relations Firms, Helen is consistently working to advance the reputation of the public relations industry and the value it delivers to clients. Although her CEO and chair roles keep her busy, Helen is very much a hands-on leader within Porter Novelli and serves as an example to us all. She is usually the first person to send congratulations to teams that have been shortlisted or won awards, or following campaign launches. Helen is a very approachable leader."
Jeff Hunt, president and CEO, GCI Group.Nominators said, "He is a pioneer in every sense of the word from his views on measurement and ROI to his ability to manage the future of a global firm while also maintaining active client relationships. He strongly believes that you cannot ever stop practicing your craft if you expect to lead an organization to success."
Peter Verrengia, regional president of Fleishman Hillard's Eastern region and co-head of its corporate credibility advisory practice
Peter Verrengia, regional president of Fleishman Hillard's Eastern region and co-head of its corporate credibility advisory practice. Nominators said, "His skills at motivating people are exemplary. He inspires great work by setting high standards and ensuring everyone involved has the tools and information required to generate results. His hands-on style equals his intellectual capabilities. Peter's vision for public relations is broad, imaginative and, of course, challenging He addresses every element with a focus and resourcefulness to constantly create new realities - if not now, soon."
Dave Samson, general manager, public affairs, Chevron.Nominators say Samson is a leader because of "his handling of the 'record profits' issue."
Larry Weber, chairman and CEO, W2 Group.Nominators said, "Weber is at the forefront of the next generation of marketing and can provide insight about the ways that marketers can target the blogosphere, utilize online community-based and social network marketing programs, as well as embrace consumer-generated media as a new medium to target customers... He has led the industry in identifying these changes and establishing ways to calculate and manage the business impact of PR on these digital media."
Kim Hunter, president and CEO, Lagrant Communications.Nominators put his name forward for "founding the Lagrant Foundation, and pioneering some amazing diversity campaigns."
Cathy Baron Tamraz, president and CEO, Business Wire.
Cathy Baron Tamraz, president and CEO, Business Wire.Nominators said, "Cathy played the pivotal role in Business Wire's recent acquisition by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and Warren unceremoniously said that he would not have made the acquisition had Cathy not been the CEO... And as a woman, she has certainly broken through the glass ceiling and plays a leadership role throughout the industry."
Richard Licata, EVP, corporate communications, ShowTime Networks.
Nominators said, "He understand the concept of branded entertainment in and environment that is crowded and extremely competitive... Licata has taken an industry leadership position in creating unique award campaigns that have led him to be referred to by his peers as the 'Yoda' of PR executives."
Marina Maher, president and CEO, Marina Maher Communications
for being "a pioneer in marketing to women." Nominators also said, "Marina knows and grows leaders. She has the ability to see untapped potential in the people who work for her... She recognizes that leaders will go out on a limb and make mistakes sometimes, and she doesn't hold this against anyone."
Keith Burton, president of Insidedge at GolinHarris.
Nominators said, "Keith has been a leading industry practitioner in employee communications and change management for more than two decades. Through his leadership, Insidedge has focused exclusively on improving organizational performance by building employee trust, improving internal communications and effecting overall change at many of the world's leading corporations."
Lou Capozzi, executive chairman, Publicis Groupe's Public Relations and Corporate Communications network.
Nominators said, "Beyond his MS&L and now Publicis duties, Lou has somehow always made time to be an advocate for the PR industry. Perhaps more revealing, he's the type of person who's always willing to lend a helping hand to a colleague."
Carolyn Raffa Fazio, chair and COO of Fazio International and chair of PRSA's international section.
Nominators said, "Carolyn has ... built a reputation for consistent, innovative and highly successful programs in the nonprofit fundraising and marketing field. She has been an active member of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) since 1986. In that time, because of her experience in fundraising and sponsorship, she ... can take some of the credit for IPRA being the credible organization it is today. Through her efforts, she has encouraged and motivated PR professionals around the world to provide a global network for each other."