How do you define “power”? Without getting pretentious, the ultimate definition is that of an overarching control granted by someone's position in office, such as displayed by a president or ruler.
But we must remember: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” and that, consequently, “With power, comes responsibility.”
Some synonyms for “power” include authoritative, commanding, dominant, and controlling; or dynamic terms such as energy and force; or forward-looking words such as potential.
In business terms, it is the “ability to cause or prevent an action” or “make things happen,” or the “discretion” to act or not act.
The PRWeek Power List 2010 represents all these facets. Sure, size is important. And high profile often means influential. Does money equal power? Most certainly – and the list reflects the source of that money: the brands and businesses of corporate America.
But power is more than that. Common to all definitions is a quality shown by people who make things happen, demonstrate vitality and enthusiasm for what they do, and have an influence beyond their circle.
The list is designed to stimulate debate and discussion about PR and communications. It will infuriate some. And, indeed, it is designed to provoke and surprise – but not in a gratuitous fashion.
It includes some who are well-known and others who operate in the background and are happy to do so. This year, for the first time, it contains celebrity.
Most of all, the list is designed to inform and entertain.
Click here to view individual profiles and headshots
1. Katie Cotton, VP, worldwide communications, Apple; Steve Jobs, cofounder and CEO, Apple
It is certainly tough to assess the communications strategy of a company whose official policy resembles the ancient Sicilian code of omerta. Despite its reticence to act “normally” – or perhaps due to it – Apple's products attract credibility, mystique, and reputation beyond any PR strategy. The hype around April's iPad launch again proved Apple can tap into the public zeitgeist at will, just as it did with the iPhone, iTunes, iPod, and Mac. Apple's all-powerful cofounder and CEO Steve Jobs effectively bestrides the CMO and CCO roles. But at his side for more than a decade has been the power behind the power: VP of worldwide corporate communications Katie Cotton – hence PRWeek's first joint Power List commendation. In her tenure, PR firms from the ill-fated Niehaus Ryan Wong to Bite to Edelman have come and gone, ultimately relegated to organizing impromptu press conferences for unspecified products. Communications is now handled in-house – it's all about control. The strategy annoys competitors and industry observers alike – but it works. And Jobs and Cotton show no sign of letting up. Jobs may be Apple's communications, but Cotton is with him at every turn.
2. Leslie Dach, EVP, corporate affairs and government relations, Wal-Mart
When the world's major consumer goods companies hang on your every word, you know you are in a position to define power. But Wal-Mart's Leslie Dach, hired in 2006 from its PR firm Edelman, has worked hard to alter the shopping giant's reputation, positioning it as a responsible global citizen that can rely on some of its 2.1 million employees to be its most loyal advocates on social media. With reputation increasingly forged on social networks, that's a formidable level of engagement.
3. Richard Edelman, Worldwide president and CEO, Edelman
After more than 25 years in the business, Richard Edelman continues to be enthusiastic in the quest to keep his network the dominant independent force among global communications agencies.
Edelman is thinking globally and acting locally as he evolves the firm into the new communications agency structure for the wired and interactive 21st century. Edelman's employees, from assistant account executives up to board member, are all encouraged to run their ideas past him directly. This, no doubt, contributed to a Forbes survey this year naming him among the 10 most popular CEOs with employees.
4. Jon Iwata, SVP, marketing and communications, IBM
The unassuming Jon Iwata has become the poster boy for all those who have long yearned for communications to assume its place at the head table of corporate America. For Iwata does indeed report directly to IBM's chairman, president, and CEO Sam Palmisano, and oversees the broader marketing mix as well.
More than that, Palmisano cites Iwata's influence as a crucial building block in shaping the tech behemoth's transformation as a business, and the path it should take moving forward – always, of course, in conjunction with its staff, clients, and other stakeholders.
5. Sally Susman, SVP, policy, external affairs, and communications, Pfizer
During the past year, Sally Susman, formerly chief communications officer, added policy and government affairs to her purview at Pfizer – doing so amidst a decidedly interesting time for pharmaceutical companies in the nation's capital. She has also had to work on integrating the communications function as the company continued to deal with the challenges of its Wyeth acquisition.
Susman is another top communicator who reports directly to the CEO of her corporation. In addition to being the head of global communications at the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, she is extremely well connected and influential beyond the PR industry. In fact, her extracurricular activities would be more than enough to fill most people's calendars, including raising awareness of women's health and well-being in New York City and serving on the boards of both the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation and the National Partnership for Women & Families.
6. Ed Skyler, EVP, global public affairs, Citigroup
Ed Skyler took on his new position at Citigroup in early May after high-profile spells working with Michael Bloomberg, first at the New York City mayor's eponymous media firm, then as deputy mayor in the Big Apple. Now, reporting directly to Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit, the youthful Skyler, 37, is charged with leading internal and external communications, as well as contributing heavily to government affairs and investor relations. It's a challenge he will no doubt relish, as it enables him to utilize all his experience to elevate the reputation of the bank in a business and consumer environment that has heaped opprobrium on the financial sector in the past two years.
7. Harris Diamond, CEO, Weber Shandwick Worldwide; CEO, IPG Constituency Management Group
As the über-dog of the alpha PR agency, Weber Shandwick Worldwide, and also head of IPG's wider Constituency Management Group agency body, Harris Diamond proves that while size isn't everything, it certainly has a force it can bring to bear – especially in tough times. Diamond navigated his firm successfully through a tumultuous economic year, to the extent that it won several new accounts and even expanded its business with existing clients.
Overseeing nearly 3,500 PR professionals across all of CMG's PR agencies, Diamond's influence is massive in scope. And with PR performing better than parent Interpublic Group's constituent agencies in advertising, media, and digital, Weber's CEO is poised to wield even greater influence in an increasingly rough terrain. IPG CEO Michael Roth will expect former political consultant Diamond to continue this leadership role in the next 12 months as Roth attempts to bring the rest of the network up to the level of IPG's PR agencies.
8. Chris Hassall, Global external relations officer, Procter & Gamble
Nearly a year into his tenure as communications head at the global consumer goods giant, Chris Hassall is working to engage 138,000 staffers in more than 80 countries while protecting and building Procter & Gamble's business and reputation.
He replaced Charlotte Otto as global external relations officer at the Cincinnati-based company last July when she retired after 33 years of service, 13 as external relations head. Like Otto, English-born Hassall is a P&G lifer, having joined in 1983. A key part of P&G's Brand Building Organization, Hassall has the potential to boost communications' profile even further within the company, as he and his team have made digital a priority for the year.
9. Rachel Whetstone, VP, public policy and communications, Google
Internet giant Google quietly dropped its slightly hippie, West Coast “Don't be Evil” business philosophy last year. Indeed, the mantra looks laughable now when appended to a firm that has decimated the media landscape for established print newspapers and magazines that relied on classified ads. It has such a large share of the search market it has almost achieved the impossible in making people feel sorry for Microsoft – almost.
As head of communications, Rachel Whetstone is helping Google avoid some of Microsoft's errors by adopting a less arrogant and confrontational approach to Washington than the then-Bill Gates-led tech firm. This approach will help the search giant deal with competition from such sites as Facebook, which this year overhauled Google as most popular US website for the first time.
10. Bill Margaritis, SVP, global communications and investor relations, FedEx
The well-regarded Bill Margaritis further elevated his profile this year with his election as chairman of the Arthur W. Page Society. His 13 years transforming FedEx's internal and external image means it is regarded as one of the best places to work and, now, as a full-service logistics company – not just an overnight courier. Margaritis will use his Page role to enhance the credibility of communications. He notes one-way branding values no longer fit the holistic workplace-to-marketplace communications approach he espouses for effective modern businesses.
11. Gary Sheffer, VP, corporate communications and public affairs, GE
Former journalist Gary Sheffer worked in government communications before joining GE, as press aide to New York Governors on both sides of the political divide: Mario Cuomo (D) and George Pataki (R). His work at the multinational conglomerate that encompasses electrical appliances, media – including broadcaster NBC – technology, and financial services is still informed by these formative experiences. In 2009, Sheffer helped smooth over the ongoing corporate ownership spat between Fox News and GE-owned MSNBC over coverage of each other's business interests on their high-profile evening news talk shows. Sheffer's influence also extends to positions on the boards of the Wisemen, the PR Seminar, and the Arthur W. Page Society.
12. Julie Hamp, SVP, communications, PepsiCo
As well as heading global strategy for corporate communications, media relations, marketing communications, and digital media, Julie Hamp also leads PepsiCo's comms strategies for its Performance with Purpose sustainable growth initiative.
After 23 years, PepsiCo dropped its Super Bowl ads in 2010 in favor of its “Pepsi Refresh” CSR campaign, a further sign of the rising power of communications and, by extension, Hamp in the marketing mix.
Hamp, who reports directly to PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, is a board director of The Ad Council and Purchase College and an Arthur W. Page Society member.
13. Mark Penn, Worldwide president and CEO, Burson-Marsteller
Love him or hate him, public affairs guru Mark Penn has the ear of some of the most powerful people in the world, having worked with luminaries such as Bill Clinton, his wife Hillary, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In terms of Washington power brokers, Burson-Marsteller's Penn stands right at the top of the food chain. His challenge is to remain relevant and influential in a rapidly changing global political climate, and to lead his Burson-Marsteller empire from the front and ensure key staff members come along for the ride.
14. Elliot Schrage, VP, communications and public policy, Facebook
Facebook had a landmark but turbulent year and challenges abound for former Google comms boss Elliot Schrage. In 2010, Facebook overtook Google as the busiest website for the first time. But the Mark Zuckerberg-founded social network's approach to and communications about privacy changes has many critics. Only now is it responding to lobbying and addressing concerns. Schrage's persuasive powers will be needed to soften Zuckerberg's laissez-faire approach and engage Washington if Facebook is to stay atop the Web traffic league.
15. Stephanie Cutter, Assistant to the President for special projects, White House
Stephanie Cutter is no stranger to Washington or the Obama administration. Last year, she took on the task of helping to usher the President's last Supreme Court selection, Sonia Sotomayor, through the confirmation process. Now, she faces the challenge of helping the White House communicate what could be the hallmark of the Obama administration: the new healthcare legislation.
Prior to serving in the administration, Cutter was the chief spokesperson for the Obama-Biden transition, as well as Michelle Obama's chief of staff during the presidential campaign.
With the reputation of Obama's presidency and administration on the line, Cutter holds enormous power.
Click here to view individual profiles and headshots
16. Teri Everett, SVP, corporate affairs and CSR, News Corporation
Ascending to the top communications spot at News Corp late last year, Teri Everett is now taking responsibility for the company's messaging during an exciting and challenging time for the media industry overall.
Working for one of the world's largest news conglomerates, Everett is facing the challenge of communicating on issues such as cross-ownership, paywalls, and growing use of technology. News Corp has proved to be a leading force in all of these areas, providing a never-ending need for proper positioning and communications. Everett has an opportunity to craft a message that can effectively reach media, industry analysts, advertisers, and readers – all while having the ear of arguably the most influential man in media: Rupert Murdoch.
17. Paul Taaffe, Chairman and CEO, Hill & Knowlton
Paul Taaffe might not be the highest-profile PR boss around, but it's worth noting the combative Aussie is one of the few PR agency leaders who report directly and solely to WPP's global chief executive Martin Sorrell.
Taaffe's Hill & Knowlton operation is also genuinely global, consisting of wholly owned companies in most key worldwide territories, including the fast-developing economies of Central and South America, Asia, and Russia. That, allied to the integral roles he plays in global lobbying campaigns, such as those for the Olympic Games and soccer's World Cup bids, makes Taaffe a more influential operator than many give him credit for – something that stood him in good stead to run a tight ship at H&K in a difficult period for all agencies over the past 18 months.
18. Mike Fernandez, VP, public affairs, State Farm
The likeable Mike Fernandez is leading a complete strategic overhaul at State Farm, as the insurance giant relies less on its core Baby Boomer- generation customers and more on developing audiences in the Hispanic and other diverse populations that are growing fast in modern America.
Working with a team of nearly 200 communicators at one of the largest insurance companies in the country, Fernandez's communications strategy and approach impacts countless employees, partners, agents, and consumers. Additionally, he has shown thought leadership in the industry, both as co-chair of the Institute for Public Relations and a board member of the Arthur W. Page Society.
19. Sumit Agarwal, Deputy assistant director of defense (public affairs) for outreach and social media, Department of Defense
The continuing war in Afghanistan and succession of servicemen and women arriving in body bags at US airports emphasizes that 2010 is going to be another difficult year for the troops, with the number of dead now surpassing 1,000.
Previously barred from using social media to communicate, troops are now encouraged to retain links with home by the appointment of Sumit Agarwal in January to champion internet use throughout the armed forces.
A former head of Google's mobile product management team and a venture capitalist at Atlas Venture, Agarwal is also charged with utilizing social media and mobile platforms to better engage US citizens and the global community with outreach and communications – a challenge for which he will need to call upon all the grit and determination he exhibited during his 12 years of service in the Air Force National Guard.
20. Kelly Cutrone, Founder, People's Revolution
Some might cry foul at the inclusion of a so-called frivolous PR executive such as fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone in the Power List of a serious business magazine. But, as outlined earlier, power takes a lot of different forms.
The straight-talking Cutrone's participation in a trio of MTV reality shows – True Life, The Hills, and The City – and NBC/Bravo's Kell on Earth series about her People's Revolution agency have undoubtedly raised the awareness of PR as an industry and a profession. It provides ordinary people with a look behind the scenes and, depending on your outlook, either transforms or confirms the impression that communications is less about substance and more about spin.
21. Thomas Collamore, SVP, communications and strategy, US Chamber of Commerce
After experience in George H.W. Bush's administration and subsequent years in corporate public affairs, Thomas Collamore joined the US Chamber of Commerce in 2007 and now represents the world's largest business federation, overseeing the interests of more than 3 million businesses, state and local chambers, and industry bodies.
The Republican-leaning Chamber is by far the largest spender on lobbying activity, dwarfing the outlay of other bodies, such as PhRMA and the American Beverage Association, and corporate giants such as GE, ConocoPhillips, AT&T, FedEx, and Verizon. With such a large bank balance, Collamore has the clout to make things happen in Washington, DC's corridors of power.
22. Zenia Mucha, EVP, corporate communications, The Walt Disney Company
Zenia Mucha is chief spokesperson for Disney and responsible for communications policies and strategic positioning of the company and all its diverse constituent parts around the world. That is certainly no easy task, considering the various businesses Disney owns.
Cited by journalists and publicists alike as one of the most powerful women in entertainment PR, Mucha has likely found some of that power from her political past.
Having served as director of communications and then as senior policy advisor to Gov. George Pataki (R-NY), Mucha is often credited with helping to orchestrate his successful gubernatorial run in 1994.
23. Jim Weiss, CEO, WCG
Jim Weiss enters the Power List on the back of a tough overall business year for the PR industry in which his WCG was in a small minority of firms that expanded both organically and via acquisition.
The independent healthcare specialist has grown rapidly in its eight-year existence and Weiss is now targeting a period of sustained but more solid, organic growth. He envisions doing so by building tighter relationships with existing clients such as Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb and consolidating new partnerships such as Medtronic.
24. Miles Nadal, Chairman and CEO, MDC Partners
As the economy emerges from recession, M&A activity is picking up and communications firms are high on the list of acquisition targets. MDC's Miles Nadal has already bought two PR shops in the past six months – Sloane & Company and Allison & Partners – and vows that is just the start for his rapidly expanding marketing and communications network.
Nadal's mantra is that brand-building is moving away from persuasion and toward the influence of trusted sources, which he sees as more than simply embracing digital and social media. It will be interesting to see if he puts his words into action with any further acquisitions over the next year and what the long-term plan is for his growing agency network.
25. Margery Kraus, President and CEO, APCO Worldwide
Margery Kraus is another major power broker in the tight-knit world of Washington, DC, communications. But her influence extends far beyond the Beltway, with her management buyout of her firm from Grey Global in 2004, which made APCO one of the world's largest privately owned communications and public affairs firms.
Appointed in December as chair of the Council of PR Firms, Kraus shows no signs of slowing down more than 25 years after she founded APCO and forged her reputation. She continues to be a trustee of the Arthur W. Page Society and Institute for Public Relations.