Power List 2012: The 50 most powerful people in PR

With a seat at the top table firmly established, leading communicators today don't only wield influence on reputation, they are changing the way major organizations are doing business. On these pages, PRWeek highlights individuals who are propelling PR to unprecedented heights.

Power List 2012: The 50 most powerful people in PR

1. Jon Iwata
SVP, marketing and communications, IBM

Jon Iwata's lofty position as head of marcomms at IBM, a perennial Fortune 20 company (ranked 19 this year), has cemented his annual place in PRWeek's Power List. As the man who oversees the company's strategy team, he fully has CEO Virginia Rometty's ear. He leads a global staff responsible for communications, marketing, and corporate affairs.

Heard of Watson? You know, that artificial intelligence computer system capable of answering questions in natural language. The one that dominated past champions on Jeopardy! last year and took home a handful of 2012 PRWeek Awards, including Campaign of the Year. Iwata headed the creative vision that developed not only the global marcomms effort around the computer that is now working with medical centers on diagnosing and treating cancer, but the company's universally lauded “Smarter Planet” agenda.

“Jon has built and enabled world-class teams Ð and he gives them the autonomy to develop and lead,” explains a high-ranking executive in IBM's communications department. “Companies come from all over the world to benchmark with IBM communications.”

His efforts on behalf of his company are well established. However, when he was named chairman of the Arthur W. Page Society in September 2011, he assumed a role that gives him the type of wide-reaching influence that merits his ascension to this top position.

“Jon is a transformational leader, both inside IBM and in the profession,” says current Page Society president Roger Bolton. “When I became chairman of the Page Society in 2006, my first move was to ask Jon to lead our new foray into thought leadership. Since then, we have created ‘The Authentic Enterprise' and ‘Building Belief,' the new model of corporate communications.”

Upon his appointment as Page Society chair, Iwata said, “The context in which corporations operate is undergoing historic change. CCOs are at the forefront of understanding and embracing this change.”

The industry can embrace the chance to learn from someone who holds two prominent positions from which he can provide an example of the best of PR.

2. Sheryl Sandberg
COO, Facebook

Sheryl Sandberg's year was dominated by speculation around, and then the lead-up to, Facebook's high-profile and subsequent controversial IPO launch on the NASDAQ in May.

COO since 2008, Sandberg crossed the divide from Google to become the communications power behind Mark Zuckerberg's throne, the person who has kept the social networking behemoth's wheels on the road in a male-dominated environment while Zuckerberg concentrates on product development and innovation.

A passionate advocate for women in business and the need to retain a work-life balance, Sandberg can look forward to becoming a billionaire if her share options mature as planned. And no one can say she won't deserve it if this scenario pans out, given her pivotal role in transforming the site from a busy social network with no discernible revenue stream into a Web behemoth with 900 million users that now turns a regular profit.

Communications played a key part in that transformation, as Sandberg got everyone within Facebook to buy into the vision and then went out to the wider world and convinced skeptics there was a genuine business model behind the media hype.

3.Ken Cohen
VP, government and public affairs, ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil regained the top spot on the Fortune 500 this year, leapfrogging Wal-Mart. In turn, Ken Cohen, who maintains incredibly broad communications oversight for the world's top oil and gas corporation, merits this lofty position on our list.

The economy will likely be the major issue that determines this year's presidential election. Gas prices are often a main barometer by which citizens judge the country's financial health. That provides Cohen an incredible opportunity to shape messages that carry great heft with various audiences.

Cohen, a lawyer and lifetime ExxonMobil employee – he originally joined its legal department in 1977 – has done yeoman's work over the years in rehabilitating the company's image, which took a huge hit due to its generally perceived lackluster response to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.

In his current post since 1999, Cohen has oversight over government relations, communications, media relations, global community outreach, and corporate citizenship. He also heads the company's PAC and ExxonMobil Foundation. A willing engager of the press and public, Cohen has truly changed the dialogue for the company.

4. Leslie Dach
EVP, corporate affairs and government relations, Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart has had a lot of buzz in the media in the last few months, being accused of allegedly bribing Mexican officials to obtain building permits in the country in 2005 and losing its number one spot on the Fortune 500 list. But despite the recent press, Leslie Dach has been working diligently to deliver on the retailer's message not only as a place where consumers find value and low-cost goods, but also on its role as a good corporate citizen.

Dach, who joined Wal-Mart in 2006, has been the face of the company in the media, helping to shine a positive light on the retail giant. In 2011, he focused on anti-obesity and sustainability efforts for Wal-Mart, as he attended the Aspen Ideas Festival to talk about the importance of fighting childhood obesity in the US.

In January 2011, Dach collaborated with first lady Michelle Obama on her “Let's Move!” campaign, and in February, Wal-Mart continued its healthy lifestyle efforts by creating “Great for You” labels for its nutritious food products. Dach says the labels aren't meant to lecture consumers; they are just promoting healthy food choices. To ensure the labels' accuracy, he met with various government groups, nonprofit organizations, and nutrition experts.

5. Richard Edelman
President and CEO, Edelman

As head of the largest global PR agency, Richard Edelman has been the subject of both admiration – and a little resentment – for many professionals in the industry over the years, and now the ambitious CEO has a new objective of building Daniel J. Edelman Inc. into the first billion-dollar PR group.

In 2011, the firm made it more than halfway to his goal, earning global revenue in excess of $600 million. The agency currently does 61% of its business in the US. In the next five years, Edelman hopes to expand the agency's global work to account for half its business.

Edelman brought on a number of big consumer clients in 2011, including TJ Maxx and Marshalls, Volkswagen of America, and Hilton Worldwide. The firm also created a conflict shop, K Group, later renamed Krispr, for its new Kellogg account.

Part of his plan includes expanding Edelman's sister agency Zeno Group to a $100 million business and creating a presence in the UK, Germany, India, and China. Zeno opened its fifth office in the US last year in Silicon Valley to bolster its tech reach. With his strong sense of determination and his targets laid, it's safe to say 2012 will be anything but quiet for Edelman and his agencies.

6. Harris Diamond
CEO, Weber Shandwick; CEO, Interpublic's Constituency Management Group

Harris Diamond had a year of highs and lows, ranging from giving up a high-profile new account due to client conflict, to suing a rival network PR agency, to posting impressive growth across the PR and events firms he oversees as CEO of Interpublic's Constituency Management Group. The division's biggest agency, Weber Shandwick, is one of three firms racing to be first to hit $1 billion in revenues.

One chastening blow to that ambition was the Kellogg account, which Weber won in October only for a client of a sister IPG ad agency to cry foul over a perceived conflict. The irony of the business ending up at Edelman, which established a second conflict shop to avoid clashes with existing clients at Edelman and sister firm Zeno, was not lost on Diamond. The gaining of Diet Pepsi, BAE, and Cargill softened the blow.

Diamond's influence on the PR economy is proven by the numbers and this was demonstrated by double-digit growth across all major regions at Weber and 9% organic growth at GolinHarris. Those performances led some pundits to wonder whether Diamond is one day set for a larger role in the IPG empire.

Cohen also serves as chairman of the ExxonMobil Foundation, the company's primary philanthropic arm.

7. Gary Sheffer
VP, corporate communications and public affairs, GE

As the communications head at GE, Gary Sheffer has been instrumental in making the multinational conglomerate more transparent to stakeholders. During the peak of the financial crisis in 2008, when GE and other corporations were criticized for their lack of openness, Sheffer led efforts to create clearer messages about GE Capital for analysts and investors.

GE has faced more communications challenges since then, such as when the company came under fire for paying nothing in federal taxes, despite earning a $14.2 billion profit in 2010, triggering protests from consumers even into April 2012. Throughout, Sheffer has continued to defend GE's corporate culture and work to integrate effective communications within the C-suite.

Sheffer helped launch a campaign called “GE Works,” which highlights the company's altruism and positive impact on the communities in which it operates. GE also partnered with the US Chamber of Commerce to sponsor job fairs with the goal of hiring 5,000 veterans over the next five years. Such efforts helped his team win a 2012 PRWeek Award for In-house PR Team of the Year. He also served as chair of judges for the 2012 PRWeek Awards.

8. Marc Pritchard
Global marketing and brand building officer, Procter & Gamble

P&G's marketing chief Marc Pritchard has long been a proponent of the value of PR in the marketing and communications mix.

This commitment was sealed in May, when the consumer packaged goods giant reorganized its communications structure under Pritchard, with longtime P&G staffer Chris Hassall retiring in June after 30 years at the company. At the time of the changes, Pritchard told PRWeek, “PR and communications will become an even more essential and integrated part of how we build our brands.” Indeed, no piece of marketing is rubber stamped at P&G these days without PR being at least a component of it.

Clearly, it is good news for the PR industry when the largest packaged goods company in the world takes such a bold step. But, in truth, the change is driven also by a desire to cut costs and recognition that paid-for advertising, as well as being much more expensive, is not the sole answer to marketing effectiveness in an age of conversation and consumer engagement.

The other factor is the trend toward global marketing where brand activity clusters more around big events, such as the Olympics, to produce economies of scale.

And Pritchard is also spearheading P&G's commitment to leading the way on measurement, establishing an in-house system that can evaluate the effectiveness of PR and social media activity, as well as any system in the business. That is especially significant when the company you work for owns 22 brands that each generate more than $1 billion in revenue every year and another 19 that pull in $500 million or more. It's also a response to a 16% year-on-year dive in profits in Q1 at P&G and the cutting of 4,000 jobs in February of this year – every cent counts.

The industry will be watching closely to see how Pritchard evolves his dual marketing and communications role over the next 12 months and how it impacts the way P&G promotes its brands and handles its corporate and consumer relations.

9. D'Arcy Rudnay,
Chief communications officer and SVP, Comcast

While Comcast's D'Arcy Rudnay is no stranger to the PRWeek Power List, this year she appears with a new title, having been promoted in March to chief communications officer. Her promotion reflects expanded responsibilities for managing integrated initiatives following its acquisition of a majority stake in NBCUniversal, a deal completed in January 2011 that created a $56 billion company.

Rudnay remains in charge of all strategic communications for Comcast and will retain her title of SVP. Being at the communications helm there is complicated, to say the least.

The business itself, which according to Rudnay exists at the intersection of communications and technology, functions across areas including telecoms, television, Internet, video distribution, and advertising to name a few.

Rudnay has also had to finesse communications through a rapid clip of acquisitions including Adelphia Communications, which gave Comcast 1.7 billion video subscribers, as well as purchases of DailyCandy and Fandango. Largely through acquisition, the number of Comcast associates has grown from 60,000 to 125,000 employees in eight years.

10. Dave Samson
GM, public affairs, Chevron

Leading communications at Chevron, the second-largest US energy company, must not be for the faint of heart. Dave Samson has been hard at work in an age when mention of an oil company often calls to mind exorbitant gas prices or disasters such as the BP oil spill. Chevron has not been immune to its own communications challenges. This year the energy giant suffered a string of legal setbacks. It fought an $18 billion ruling for environmental damages in the Amazon jungle and is facing two more massive battles on the horizon. These crises aside, Chevron consistently ranks among the top five of the Fortune 500, taking the third spot again this year.

Samson's team is responsible for corporate branding, issues management, media relations, and employee communications, in addition to managing the company's global website.

This year, Chevron continued its investment in the Asia-Pacific region; the company signed a contract with Japanese utilities company Tohoku Electric Power to supply LNG fuel as Japan moves away from nuclear energy.

11. Sally Susman
EVP, policy, external affairs and communications, Pfizer

Sally Susman, the head of communications at the world's largest bio-pharma company, led the second restructuring in two years of Pfizer's in-house communications, the announcement of which corresponded with the June departure of longtime VP of external affairs Ray Kerins. The company is merging his external communications unit and the business communications team run by Mary Lou Ambrus, SVP of communications – with the goal of becoming a leaner unit as the company loses significant revenue following the expiration of its Lipitor patent.

In the coming months, the company is planning to launch campaigns to get consumers to embrace the idea of aging. It is also preparing for an IPO for its animal health unit.

The company faced some heat in late 2011 over racy Chapstick ads, which it subsequently pulled, but fanned the flames by deleting negative comments about the ads on its Facebook page.

Susman has also been making news over the last several months for her work on the political scene as she's been cited as one of President Barack Obama's chief fundraisers, reportedly raising more than $500,000 for his re-election.

12. Ray Day
VP, communications, Ford Motor Company

The auto industry has seen a dramatic recovery in the last year, and Ray Day has been at the forefront of finessing communications for Ford, helping to elevate the corporation's reputation and brand among consumers, stakeholders, and the press.

Day, a PRWeek Awards finalist for PR Professional of the Year, has served as VP of communications at Ford since November 2007, but has been at the company since 1989. He's been through the automaker's ups and downs in the last few years, helping Ford gain positive coverage after it reported a loss of $5.8 billion in the first quarter of 2007 and reorganizing the marketing department to make communications its own operation. Ford has been busy in the last year, launching a number of PR and social media campaigns. In August 2011, the company created a Facebook campaign to promote the fuel efficiency of its F-150 EcoBoost truck.

In November, Ford partnered with social gaming platform Zynga to target tech-savvy, young audiences for the debut of the 2013 Ford Escape. When he's not leading global internal and external communications at Ford, Day serves as a board member at both the Automotive Hall of Fame and Detroit Public Television.

13. Bill Margaritis
SVP, global communications and investor relations, FedEx

Bill Margaritis is in charge of PR at a shipping company that has 255,500 employees, 688 planes, and more than 900,000 vehicles that operate in 220 countries and regions. With so many company representatives out in the field, it might be easy to imagine communications going awry, such as in December 2011 when an online video of a FedEx delivery man tossing a computer screen over a fence went viral. Still, Margaritis has helped build a strong corporate reputation that even a rogue deliveryman couldn't do much to shake. Following that incident, FedEx released a video of its own, in which the head of express delivery operations apologized to customers.

Margaritis' team has helped mobilize FedEx employees as ambassadors, empowering them to tell the company's story through video and social media. That tactic seems to have paid off, as FedEx consistently tops annual rankings of the best places to work.

The corporation also came in sixth among Fortune's annual “World's Most Admired Companies” this year; it has appeared in the list's top 20 since 2001. It has also expanded its footprint in Europe, opening greater opportunity for Margaritis to spread the company's message of authenticity globally.

14. Kate James
Chief communications officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Few people ever get the chance to make the world a better and healthier place through PR, but Kate James has been given that opportunity and she continues to make the most of it. Since joining the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in early 2010, James has centralized the philanthropic group's communications structure and worked to leverage social media and other tools to create a global conversation around worthwhile causes. “Kate's expertise at managing large teams to harness the voice of global, multifaceted organizations has helped expand our efforts to share what we learn and support the work of our grantees and partners,” foundation CEO Jeff Raikes, told PRWeek last September.

One example is a three-year partnership between the foundation and Spanish soccer club FC Barcelona that leverages the team's worldwide popularity by having players participate in PSAs on the fight to eradicate polio. The goal is not only raising awareness among sports fans, but also spreading the word on the importance of vaccines.

James came to the foundation after stints in corporate communications at Citibank, Standard Chartered Bank, and GlaxoSmithKline, and brings with her a strong belief in analytics to better gauge the effectiveness of the group's messages and communications platforms.

The Gates Foundation has made more than $25 billion in grant commitments, the vast majority centered on efforts outside the US, so James is also working to beef up the organization's global communications infrastructure by not only adding new staff with international media experience, but also expanding offices in Beijing and Delhi to include media outreach and advocacy.

Along with Bill and Melinda Gates, James is one of the public faces of the foundation, a role she takes very seriously. In June, she was in Rio de Janeiro to speak at the Rio+Social event, held in conjunction with the Rio+20 sustainability conference.

Here, she and others debated the role social media plays in impacting global sustainability issues, including energy, the climate, jobs, food, and water.

15. Selim Bingol
VP, global communications, General Motors

Ask Selim Bingol if he had second thoughts about taking the lead communications job at General Motors, and he'll compare it to the Super Bowl and note that hundreds of rock and roll and country songs have been written about GM brands over the years.

And with his help, consumers are now humming a happier tune about GM than they were in 2009, when the government bailout and doubts about the company's future were fresh. GM reported a record profit in 2011, two years after its bankruptcy, reducing the jeers of “Government Motors” to mostly a memory.

Bingol still faces myriad challenges at GM. The company's decision to skip advertising in next year's Super Bowl will undoubtedly be second guessed, and Bingol's communications team will be expected to perform well to help pick up the slack. GM will also be remembered for its decision to drop Facebook advertising just before the technology company made its public debut on the NASDAQ.

As the automaker moves forward, its communications function will play an integral role in determining public perception by responding to critics and engaging stakeholders. With Bingol at the wheel, the company is primed to succeed.

16. Bridget Coffing
SVP, corporate relations, McDonald's

A year after being promoted to SVP of corporate relations at McDonald's, Bridget Coffing is still steering the fast-food giant in the right direction. Coffing, who has been at the company for 26 years, handles all corporate communications issues, including PR, marcomms, media relations, CSR, internal communications, and government relations.

Even before joining McDonald's, Coffing sank her teeth into the food and beverage industry, working at GolinHarris in the food and consumer marketing practice. Over the last year, McDonald's has been busy with its Olympic sponsorship and nutrition efforts, holding live webcasts for both issues in July 2011.

As part of its goal to appeal to health-conscious consumers, McDonald's launched new nutritional guidelines last September, as well as a mobile app that provides calorie and fat content for its food products. By 2015, McDonald's plans to reduce sodium levels in its products by 15%, and by 2020, plans on decreasing portion sizes and the amount of added sugars, saturated fats, and calories in its food.

Coffing has earned various awards, such as the McDonald's President's Award and the Team and Circle of Excellence Awards.

17. Dave Senay
President and CEO, Fleishman-Hillard

Dave Senay is one of only three PR agency CEOs who can claim global revenue of about $500 million for his firm. Expect the ambitious Senay to drive Fleishman hard toward becoming the first $1 billion PR agency. Senay boosted the number of Fleishman's million-dollar clients to 84 in 2011, and he aims to top 100 in the next 36 months. He told PRWeek earlier this year that 2011 was “the best year in the history of the company – in terms of revenue and profit, margins, and new business.” He added another unique milestone to his résumé last year: jury president for public relations at the Cannes Festival of Creativity.

Senay will take an industry thought-leadership position on ethics in 2012, after having worked with the Josephson Institute to plan an ethics code of practice for the industry. He has also made integrating his firm's communications services with other marketing disciplines a priority. As the chief executive of one of PR's “big three,” Senay is in a unique position to shape the industry going forward. In large part, his legacy will be defined by how the Omnicom Group firm measures up to rivals Edelman, Weber Shandwick, and the other industry standard bearers.

18. Clyde Tuggle
SVP, chief public affairs and communications officer, Coca-Cola

Clyde Tuggle has worked at Coca-Cola for more than two decades in offices all around the world. He was there when the company launched a new global marketing effort with the slogan “Welcome to the Coke side of life” in 2005 and also when it opened its office of digital communications and social media within the public affairs and communications department in 2009.

Coca-Cola, which has been a partner in the Olympics since the 1928 Amsterdam Games, is going to be busy this summer for London 2012. Last year, the company created a limited-edition Coke bottle with an image from British photographer Rankin for the Games, and recently released its anthem and campaign “Anywhere in the World.” The program blends sports and music, helping to engage younger audiences.

While Coca-Cola has many great initiatives under way, Tuggle still has to wrestle with challenging issues that arise. In March, the soft drink giant had to push back against media reports that said it was changing its beverage recipes to comply with California state laws. The company set the record straight with PRWeek, explaining that it was only modifying the manufacturing process.

19. Mark Penn
CEO, Burson-Marsteller

Mark Penn has mostly dropped from the headlines since the last presidential election, when he faced a torrent of criticism after Hillary Clinton's campaign lost to that of then-Sen. Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries. However, Penn's status in the PR industry hasn't diminished, nor has his reputation as one of its hardest working executives. Aside from running a top-five agency network, Penn is also chief executive of polling firm Penn Schoen Berland, which counts former President Bill Clinton and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair among its success stories.

Penn still has challenges ahead of him. Burson will have to continue growing its digital offerings for clients to adjust to a world where brands must respond in real time to crises. But with the next Costa Crociere or Foxconn right around the corner, Burson's services aren't going out of style anytime soon. Yet Penn will have to continue to expand the firm's services in healthcare and consumer marketing. As any reader of parent WPP Group's earnings statements will tell you, holding company CEO Martin Sorrell has a keen eye on the public affairs sector. As with all holding company bosses, Penn will aim to keep Burson out of the negative headlines and grow its bottom line.

20. Rachel Whetstone
SVP, public policy and communications, Google

Google flew under the radar compared to deadly rival Facebook but grew revenue and profits significantly in 2011, helped by the communications prowess of Rachel Whetstone.

The company faces strong competition from major brands such as Facebook and Twitter, but responds to competition with a ferocity and an unwillingness to fall behind that allowed Google to make a significant jump on the Fortune 100 list, landing at 73 in 2012 after holding the 92nd spot in 2011.

Google launched products including Google+ and Google Drive, on both of which the jury is still out, as well as rolling through its now-standard acquisitions of tech companies including Admeld, Zagat, and DailyDeal. All the while, Whetstone has helped lead the Google communications team as it delivers consistent and effective messaging; a position often challenging when looking to communicate throughout the globe. Google responded quickly earlier this year when accused of breaking its own search engine ranking quality guidelines by reportedly paying bloggers to promote its Chrome browser. There is something to be said for Whetstone's role in helping to maintain and solidify the strong brand that is Google. 

21.Jack Martin
CEO and global chairman, Hill+Knowlton Strategies

Jack Martin spent much of 2011 on a plane getting to know the global empire he had assumed power over from previous incumbent Paul Taaffe in a coup that surprised everyone except perhaps those who had seen the no-nonsense Texan in action at close range.

Martin became part of the iconic H+K family when his Public Strategies firm – also owned by WPP – was merged with Taaffe's outfit in fall 2010. By January, Taaffe had gone. By the end of 2011, the operation had assumed the name Hill+Knowlton Strategies, further cementing the Martin influence.

Such change led to internal and external uncertainty as H+K staff and the wider market waited to see how Martin's vision would play out. But aided by the strong senior team of US president and CEO Dan Bartlett and new appointments, such as worldwide head of digital Andrew Bleeker, global CTO Josh Hendler, and New York GM Ian Bailey, the new H+K is finding its feet and gaining an identity.

Martin's mission is to put the “public” back into public relations and “defeat the mediocrity” he believes has crept into the profession. However, there was one hiccup during the year when H+K COO Ken Luce and US EVP Jody Venturoni became embroiled in a legal dispute with former employer Weber Shandwick over allegations of employee and client theft.

Coming from politics, where dirty deeds and hard compromise are part of the daily rough and tumble, Martin may have found the dispute mystifying. He probably also figured it wasn't his fight to fight, thus partly informing the agency's decision to settle rather than suffer a messy court battle where dirty laundry would be aired in public.

If Martin continues to build on the progress of the last 18 months, he will likely consider his decision to eschew comfy retirement in Texas for the globetrotting life of a worldwide agency CEO as one well made.

22. Zenia Mucha
EVP and CCO, The Walt Disney Company

Zenia Mucha champions communications for one of the most beloved brands in the world, as well as its divisions, including ABC, ESPN, and Marvel. Mucha's message extends far and wide to 150,000 employees and millions of fans, from the announcement of Disney's $6 million investment to support forest carbon projects in California to the company's new partnerships to advance the animation industry in China.

Mucha joined the company in 2001 as SVP of communications for the ABC Broadcast Group and Television Network and a year later made the leap to Disney. To create a more collaborative communications team, she created a dual-reporting system – communications staff report to Mucha, as well as respective business heads.

Her skills as a communicator are well documented, but when speaking about Mucha, colleagues more often point to her dedication and honesty as her best attributes.

“It is her passion and tenacity that set her apart. She is a person of great integrity,” Bob Iger, Disney chairman and CEO told PRWeek. “I particularly appreciate her instincts and candor. She also brings an energy and a commitment to her job every day.”

23. Jay Carney
White House press secretary

Jay Carney completed a 20-year journey from budding reporter to the most visible spokesman in the country in January 2011, when President Barack Obama named the former Time standout his second press secretary. He followed Robert Gibbs into the role.

Carney had a prime seat for the presidency of Obama predecessor George W. Bush as Time's Washington bureau chief from 2005 to 2008, before starting work for Vice President Joe Biden in 2009. Now on the other side of the briefing room, Carney's job-jousting with reporters in daily press briefings and serving as the first line of defense against media criticism defines the PR profession.

That isn't to say Carney's job is an easy one. He's defended the Obama administration's unpopular Affordable Care Act and he famously sparred with the media in the lead-up to the president's historic gay marriage announcement. While less combative than some of his predecessors, Carney gives as well as he gets on most days. He's made up for his lack of political campaign experience by displaying his intellect and attention to detail behind the podium in the White House briefing room. His legacy will largely be defined by Obama's success or failure against Mitt Romney this November.

24. Ray Kotcher
Chairman, Ketchum

Approaching his 30-year anniversary with the firm, chairman Ray Kotcher has worked to position Ketchum as one of the largest PR agencies in the world. By the end of 2011, the Omnicom agency posted a global headcount of 2,500 with more than $400 million in global revenue. The firm, which already has offices and affiliates in more than 73 countries, continues to expand, particularly in Russia, China, and India.

In July 2012, Ketchum promoted president Rob Flaherty to CEO, still reporting to Kotcher who assumed the role of chairman.

With Kotcher at the helm, Ketchum drove nearly 600 business wins in 2011, such as Gillette, Sanofi-Aventis, and Weight Watchers, while retaining clients including Hyundai, Mattel, and IBM.

Earlier this year, Ketchum claimed PRWeek Awards for Agency of the Year and Large Agency of the Year, two of the highest honors in the field. “It is a validation, not only of our ability to break through in the work we do for our clients, but to break through as an agency,” said Kotcher, who joined the firm in 1983 as VP and was named CEO in 2000. Active participation at the Arthur W. Page Society and recent service at the Council of Public Relations Firms have also established Kotcher's position as a thought leader within the industry.

25. Larry Solomon
SVP, corporate communications, AT&T

It's been a busy year for Larry Solomon as he helped AT&T recover from its failed acquisition of T-Mobile USA. The company received a lot of press attention for the proposed purchase of its smaller rival for $39 billion, but the plan went sour when the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against the company, saying the deal would not be in the public's best interest. With Solomon's guidance, AT&T had launched a full-scale lobbying and PR campaign, including a dedicated website, which argued that the merger would result in more capital expenditure, job creation, and improved voice and data services. Despite this, pressure from both the government and competing wireless carriers pushed AT&T to scrap the deal and pay a $4 billion breakup fee to T-Mobile.

Good news followed for the telecom giant as AT&T benefitted from Apple's release of the iPhone 4S, surpassing previous smartphone sales records and beating figures reported by Verizon, its biggest rival. In May, the American Customer Satisfaction Index reported that AT&T had achieved a boost in customer satisfaction, scoring just one point below Verizon. The gain can undoubtedly be attributed in part to Solomon's communications tactics.

26. Frank Shaw
Corporate VP, corporate communications, Microsoft

Microsoft found itself in the media spotlight numerous times throughout the past year, one of the most notable being the company's announcement that its 2012 CES keynote would be its last, as maintaining a presence there no longer fits the timeframe of Microsoft's product launch schedule. At nearly the same time, the company announced a plan to restructure its marketing operations, which would involve numerous job cuts in an effort to reduce job responsibility overlap and allow the company to be competitive with tech powerhouses such as Apple, Amazon, and Google.

In another headline-grabbing move, Microsoft finalized its $8.5 billion purchase of Skype in October 2011. Shaw was a crucial player in these announcements and much of the company's other communication with stakeholders and consumers. Despite only joining the company in 2009, Shaw is a Microsoft veteran, having led Waggener Edstrom's work on the account as president.

As a communications expert with more than 20 years of experience, Shaw has consistently stayed on top of key tactics for nearly all of the brands' communications efforts and helped his company communicate its often challenging messages and announcements.

27. Joseph Evangelisti
Global corporate communications director, JPMorgan Chase

Communications heads of Wall Street banks are no doubt well compensated, but few would argue Evangelisti hasn't been earning every penny of his salary in recent months after JPMorgan Chase admitted in early May that it lost a staggering $2 billion, and possibly much more, when a hedging strategy went horribly wrong.

It's banking's biggest crisis since the 2008 global meltdown, but Evangelisti has helped JPMorgan weather the storm thus far by being up front and transparent with both the media and public about the loss. CEO Jamie Dimon, a vocal critic of some proposed Wall Street reforms, quickly made the rounds at top-tier media outlets, including NBC's Meet the Press, to take responsibility and provide as much detail on the complex money-losing transaction as he could, while also stressing the company's overall health.

“The message is, ‘We made a mistake; we were sloppy,'” Evangelisti told PRWeek recently. “We're sorry and are working to make sure it doesn't happen again. We're a very strong company and we'll be OK.” Evangelisti's straight-shooting style, as well as his close relationship with Dimon, will come in handy over the rest of the year as he continues to deal with the fallout from the loss.

28. Thomas Collamore
SVP, communications and strategy, counselor to the president, US Chamber of Commerce

This year, much of Thomas Collamore's focus has been on the US Chamber of Commerce marking its 100th anniversary. A centerpiece of the organization's celebration was the January unveiling of a revamped FreeEnterprise.com, which features original editorial content and aggregated stories that cover US employment issues. The Chamber's aim is to use the site to advocate policies that will create jobs. On the regulatory front, the organization has an ongoing aggressive outreach effort targeting the US Securities and Exchange Commission in order to halt any additional changes to money market regulations. The Chamber fears fewer people will use the financial tool if more regulation is added.

The Chamber has also been an active player in this year's elections, launching a multimillion-dollar campaign in February to support 18 Republicans and one Democrat in the House and Senate races. Collamore said this was the earliest that the organization has launched such an initiative during an election year in an effort to aggressively educate constituents about which leaders recognize the role free enterprise plays in leading the US's economic recovery.

29. Oscar Suris
EVP, corporate communications, Wells Fargo

The path to recovery for US banks continues to be a steep one, and Oscar Suris is among the foremost voices helping to shape the conversation around those challenges. As one of the big four banks in the US, Wells Fargo confronted its own share of fallout from the financial crisis. Then, 2011 brought the birth of the Occupy Wall Street movement and growing anger toward banks. Suris and Wells Fargo can be credited with avoiding any PR missteps as severe as its competitors', but it is still a volatile time for the banking industry and financial communication leaders.

The communication challenges facing Wells Fargo include a January 7 ruling from the Massachusetts state court that Wells Fargo and US Bancorp had wrongly foreclosed on two homes. Regulators are now investigating whether hundreds of thousands of foreclosures from the past several years were invalid. To combat such issues, Suris is employing his trade's sharpest tools. Earlier this year, he told PRWeek that the bank is “really trying to push ourselves to do storytelling that helps to address the reputation challenges that are facing our industry.” In February, Suris was appointed to the Institute for Public Relations' board of trustees.

30. Olivier Fleurot

Publicis, the French-based parent company of Olivier Fleurot's MSLGroup, has been on a serious acquisition trail. It seemingly buys a new agency every other week to try and fulfill CEO Maurice Levy's objective of increasing the percentage of the network's business that is digital, which now amounts to 30% of all activity.

Some of these agencies found a home at MSLGroup and this helped propel Fleurot's PR empire into what he claims is now the fourth-largest in the world, after Edelman, Weber Shandwick, and Fleishman-Hillard. Talk of him taking over from fellow Frenchman Levy when the charismatic Publicis CEO retires may have waned, but Fleurot still finds himself leading a single-brand global PR giant that is achieving 20% organic growth in Asia and just under half that worldwide – though a slightly lower 6% in the US.

An ambitious Fleurot plans to see further growth in Asia and Latin America, as well as developing nascent markets such as Africa, and other CIVETS countries: Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa. He has a big toy box to play with – and it's one that could appeal to clients looking for a one-stop global solution to their communications and social media requirements. 

31. Peter Thonis
CCO, Verizon

Peter Thonis spearheads communication at Verizon, a business that facilitates communications for 128 million customers.

In the last year, the CCO has successfully finessed communications around a number of initiatives and events, including a strike by 45,000 workers, the about-face on a $2 customer fee that resulted in negative backlash, and the joint venture with Redbox for a streaming video service. Thonis and his team of 200 also handle consumer communications across all Verizon's brands, including FiOs and the wireless business, and stream content to consumers via blogs, podcasts, videos, Facebook, and Twitter in multiple languages. Providing more geographic-targeted communications to employees and customers has been a priority.

Before joining Verizon, Thonis held leadership positions at big names in the tech sector including BBN, the company credited with sending the first email and developing the ARPANET, the beginning of today's Internet. Prior to that, he spent 14 years at IBM.

His passion for communications is as strong today as it was at the start of his career. “I believe in having a job you love,” he asserts. “And I don't mean like, I mean love.”

32. Jake Siewart
Global head of corporate communications, Goldman Sachs

Managing communications and corporate reputation for a company once famously described in Rolling Stone as “a great vampire squid, wrapped around the face of humanity” would undoubtedly scare off many top communications executives. Then again, most top communicators haven't faced the cauldron of the White House briefing room only months after their boss escaped an impeachment trial in the Senate.

Jake Siewert can now say he's done both. He was appointed head of global corporate communications at Goldman Sachs in March after he was reportedly also courted by Pepsi.

Replacing longtime chief Goldman spokesperson, and industry legend, Lucas van Praag, Siewert will have to defend one of the most unpopular companies in the US, and at a time when trust in financial institutions remains exceedingly low. Case in point: Just after Siewert was hired, former Goldman executive director Greg Smith wrote an op-ed in The New York Times saying he could no longer work at the financial institution “in good conscience” and called its culture “toxic.”

Turning Goldman's reputation around is a huge task, but there's nothing to suggest Siewert isn't up for it. He has a better understanding of government affairs, private industry, and finance than nearly all, having also worked as an executive for Alcoa and as a counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. He's been praised by former colleagues in media reports for his cool, calm, and collected nature that can rise to a fiery defense of his superiors when the time calls for it.

If Siewert succeeds, it might not be immediately evident to either the public or the press because Goldman would be taking a break from the headlines. It's a tough task to defend a company that is still taking the heat for the 2008 financial collapse and is a favorite punching bag for politicians and commentators alike.

But Siewert has worked for other people who have turned their reputations around in the long run – ask former President Bill Clinton.

33. Ray Jordan
VP, public affairs and corporate communications, Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson has faced many challenges in recent years in the form of product recalls, settlements, and leadership transitions.

Ray Jordan, who is approaching his 10-year anniversary with the company, has been leading public affairs and corporate communications for some of the most challenging years in J&J's recent history.

Jordan, who started the company's first blog, began his career as a reporter in Connecticut and spent 17 years with Pfizer before making the transition to begin a communication practice for the device and diagnostics business at J&J.

Today his influence extends across J&J, a behemoth that spans more than 250 companies, operating in 57 countries. Jordan helped internationalize J&J's communication function and establish formal connections between communication officers across the enterprise. Jordan will undoubtedly continue to be a major force behind efforts to re-establish customer confidence and restore J&J's sterling reputation through effective communications.

In addition to successes within J&J, he is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society and Institute for Public Relations.

34. Chris Graves
Global CEO, Ogilvy Public Relations

Chris Graves, a former TV business news executive, has spent much of the past year leading Ogilvy PR well beyond its traditional media relations and communications role.

With the launch of Social@Ogilvy a few months back, he took the agency's expertise in social media through its 360° Digital Influence practice and worked with parent company Ogilvy & Mather to broaden social's scope across a vast array of disciplines, including advertising, direct marketing, SEO, and CRM.

“The idea is that everything goes social,” Graves explained to PRWeek in a recent interview. “The big win for us is when our clients and partners see social as business strategy and not just communications strategy.”

Graves has only been in PR since 2005, when he became president and CEO of Ogilvy's Asia-Pacific region, but his leadership and management skills made him a natural choice to succeed Marcia Silverman as head of worldwide operations in 2010. Since then, Ogilvy PR has posted strong gains, including double-digit growth last year in US and global business. Graves continues to look for opportunities to attract new business in India and China.

35. Adele Ambrose
CCO, Merck

Adele Ambrose and her team at Merck spent much of 2011 orchestrating communications surrounding the $41 billion merger between the company and Schering-Plough. The merger meant Merck had to reshape and reposition the organization and make sure the right amount of resources were aligned with growth opportunities, such as emerging markets and internal communications, Ambrose told PRWeek at the time of the merger.

This year, the head of communications has been spearheading innovative campaigns around some of Merck's most iconic brands.

The most notable example has been the “Little Miss Coppertone” contest, which has drawn significant media attention from publications such as The New York Times. The company is turning to social media sites to find the new face for the 60-year-old character and reinvigorate interest in the Coppertone brand.

It's been four years since Ambrose left her post as EVP of PR and IR communications of AT&T Wireless Services, a company where she spent 20 years. At AT&T, Ambrose skillfully steered communications through a number of high-profile issues, including massive personnel cuts and a company restructuring.

36. Ginger Hardage
SVP, culture and communications, Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines' list of external accolades is long – rated first in BrandIndex's 2011 US Buzz rankings for airlines for positive brand presence; the top ranking by Forbes for The Brands American Women and Men Desire Most; and named 10th most admired company in the world in Fortune's 2012 survey of corporate reputation. And in business, where bottom-line success measures rule the day, Southwest Airlines, the biggest domestic carrier in the US, carries 100 million passengers a year, has a long history of solid financial numbers, and has never laid off an employee.

Best-in-class corporate culture and employee morale are the foundation for customer satisfaction and shareholder return, insists Ginger Hardage, who has played a key role in fostering culture and communications at the airline since joining in 1990.

Hardage, who grew up in Mozelle, TX, a “town so small it was 20 miles to the Dairy Queen,” leads a robust slate of initiatives and events that recognizes employees and builds bonds between fellow associates, management, and communities that Southwest services. “I don't think there are many companies that spend as much time as Southwest does on direct employee contact,” she proudly asserts.

37. Bonin Bough
VP, global media and consumer engagement, Kraft Foods

Bonin Bough moved to Kraft Foods this past February after spending three years with PepsiCo as its senior global director of digital and social media.

While at PepsiCo, Bough – known for his digital expertise – spearheaded a number of projects. Among them was the well-regarded Pepsi Refresh campaign in 2010, during which the company funded $20 million worth of projects by consumers, businesses, and nonprofits. He also worked on a project for PepsiCo's Gatorade, when it built a mission control center to analyze and drive conversations about the brand on social platforms.

Bough now oversees all digital communications for Kraft, while also forging partnerships with online platforms, driving digital strategy for its products, and managing internal capabilities.

A strong proponent of mobile technology, one of Bough's first initiatives at Kraft has been to oversee the Kraft Nokia Mobile Innovation Lab, which seeks to develop mobile strategies in areas including gaming and social experience that provide entertainment, engagement, and meaningful experiences to users. Nokia and Microsoft Windows are also both involved in the project.

A renowned digital and social media guru, Bough is a well-regarded thought leader among the tech sector. He frequently speaks on social media at various events, such as the 2012 Social Business Summit, and is known to attend and set up digital-focused seminars at events such as the South by Southwest festival.

He is a contributor for Forbes, where he writes about digital topics and delves into his fascination with technology, and its role in transforming society and business. Bough also tweets to his 9,500-plus followers regularly.

Creativity and drive have played strong roles in Bough's success thus far. He has said that LEGO has proven influential in the way he thinks about ideas and concepts, in terms of joining mismatched pieces together and using traditional blocks in new ways.

Prior to his positions at Kraft and PepsiCo, Bough was EVP and director of the global interactive, social, and emerging media practice at Weber Shandwick.

38. Blair Christie
SVP and CMO, Cisco

Within her 13-year tenure at Cisco, Blair Christie has risen in rank from IR director to SVP and CMO, where she leads all marketing and communications functions for the networking equipment company.

In April 2011, Cisco embarked on a corporate turnaround after suffering from weakened customer spending and missed Wall Street earnings expectations for consecutive quarters.

Christie finessed communications around initiatives that made Cisco a stronger company by reducing operating expenses, streamlining its work force by 6,500, and refocusing on fewer core initiatives. Those efforts paid off with rising stock prices and improved financials. Most recently, sales increased 6.6%, to $11.6 billion, for the quarter ending April 28, 2012, versus the comparable quarter in 2011.

Christie carried multiple learnings from her IR background into her current role. Cisco integrated its corporate communications, PR, and government affairs function under Christie's direction, helping to speed along its resurgence as a powerhouse brand throughout the past year.

In addition to leading communications with stakeholders, businesses, and other target audiences, Christie has also helped Cisco bolster its internal communications efforts with its 63,820 employees around the globe. She often uses Cisco TelePresence technology to communicate with her own teams – for example, creating video messages that enforce key information and then encouraging employees to provide positive and negative feedback to create a healthy dialogue.

While holding her high-powered roles at Cisco, Christie is also raising three children with such a stroke of work-life balance that she was named “Working Mother of the Year” by Working Mother magazine in 2009.

Christie is also active in the community, serving on the board of the San Jose Tech Museum and the President's Leadership Council at Drexel University. Additionally, she is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society and sits on Cisco's Enterprise Business Council.

39. Margery Kraus
CEO, APCO Worldwide

Margery Kraus kicked off the year with a bang, jumping into the world of paid media by acquiring a majority interest in advertising and marketing firm StrawberryFrog.

She considers the move a game-changer and the ultimate direction in which communications is going. Kraus believes short-term and isolated campaigns are being replaced with wide-scale and ongoing movement-marketing efforts that resonate emotionally with consumers and tackle social needs. Having such an impact means moving away from just relying on the PR silo.

She has been aggressive in bolstering the staff of the DC headquarters of her firm as the country gears up for the general elections. She brought on Tim Roemer, former US ambassador to India, and Paul Dyck, former associate White House political director, as SVPs. From a business perspective, the firm's food and consumer products practice has seen increased growth in the past year. The agency is aggressively increasing its presence in the Middle East, opening offices in Abu Dhabi and Istanbul with more companies looking to promote brands around the region and Western companies looking to break into those markets.

40. Kim Hunter
President and CEO, Lagrant Communications

Kim Hunter is arguably one of the biggest champions of diversity in the PR sector. “It still astounds me that an industry which I love still does not fully understand the importance of inclusion or diversity,” he explains.

He founded Lagrant Communications 22 years ago, an integrated firm headquartered in Los Angeles targeting African-American and Latino consumer markets that now boasts a client list including Harley-Davidson and H&R Block.

Hunter is equally passionate about education. In 1998, he founded the nonprofit Lagrant Foundation for the professional advancement of minorities in PR, marketing, and advertising. The foundation has awarded more than $1.29 million to 182 minority students nationwide. In February 2012, the energetic and fast-talking. Hunter took it up another notch, launching KLH & Associates, an executive search firm that recruits mid- to senior-level diverse candidates in the communications industry.

A leader with almost 30 years of experience, Hunter was named Diversity Champion in the inaugural Diversity Distinction in PR Awards by the Council of Public Relations Firms and PRWeek.  

41. Maggie Fitzpatrick
Chief communications officer, Cigna

Maggie Fitzpatrick and her communications team broke new ground in the last year by being one of the first insurance companies to target individual consumers via the integrated “Go You” media and branding campaign. Such initiatives will soon become more common as the Affordable Care Act has called for the creation of state health insurance exchanges. This legislation will require insurance companies differentiate themselves to get business as, until now, most have used a b-to-b outreach model.

In March, Cigna encouraged nearly 600,000 of its customers to receive colorectal cancer screenings via its Colorectal Cancer Screening campaign, which is in its seventh year. The program aims to increase the number of individuals who are screened for colorectal cancer and also to identify the most effective outreach methods that result in more people getting tested.

Fitzpatrick has also been working hard to promote issues important to the veteran population. Last year, she joined the board of P2V, an organization that rescues shelter animals and pairs them with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or other mental health issues.

42. Katie Cotton
VP, worldwide corporate communications, Apple

One event dominated the year for everyone involved with Apple or its iconic products: the untimely death of founder Steve Jobs last October, at the much-too-young age of 56.

Katie Cotton had a particularly close relationship with Jobs, acting as his gatekeeper, confidante, and right-hand woman. Under new CEO Tim Cook, there is little sign the dynamic between C-suite and communications chief has altered much. She is still the “voice” of Apple, even if that voice is very much in the background.

With or without Jobs, Apple stubbornly refuses to conform to traditional communications norms, making a feature of its lack of openness that historically contributed to the mystique and air of exclusivity around the brand, as well as some frustration.

Cotton's communications strategy appears unchanged and she will point to the continued commercial success of the company as a sign that “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” is a good rule of thumb to go by. Cook recently said that Apple would become “the most transparent company in the world” on issues such as social change, supplier responsibility, and the environment. That, surely, will presage a slightly different communications approach from Cotton.

43. Susan Gilchrist
Group chief executive, Brunswick

The number of PR companies headed by women is growing, and Brunswick can now be added to the list. After dedicating 17 years to the firm, Susan Gilchrist was promoted to group chief executive this May during an executive reshuffle, making her the first female to fill this role since the company's inception in 1987.

She relocated to New York in 2010 to become US managing partner after spending several years as senior partner and head of Brunswick's consumer industries practice in the firm's London office.

While in the UK, Gilchrist worked on significant deals for the company, including a bid for Safeway, the banking mega-acquisition of Abbey by Santander, and the Guinness/GrandMet merger. Her clients also included Asda, Kingfisher, Mothercare, and Reckitt Benckiser.

In a global agency whose largest practice lies in financial industries, Gilchrist is a natural fit: her journalism and business expertise, stemming from her time as retail correspondent for UK newspaper The Times and as a management consultant at Bain & Co., gave her a solid launching pad into PR. And this is a great time to be CEO at Brunswick.

In this year's agency business report, Gilchrist would not disclose 2011 financial figures, but said during the past two years global revenues increased 35% with US revenues up 63%. Last year, the agency managed communications on some of the year's most high-profile business transactions, including the announcement by

Kraft Foods that it will create two new independent companies, Microsoft's $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype, and Autonomy's nearly $11.5 billion sale to HP.

New clients include Klout, Groupon, and Dropbox. The firm also represents Facebook on corporate matters, including its recent IPO filing.

After opening offices in Shanghai and Munich, Gilchrist intends to focus on further expansion into markets such as Asia and South America. Gilchrist also currently serves as a governor for London's Southbank Centre, the largest single-run arts center in the world. The board of governors manages Southbank Centre's global operations.

44. Ed Skyler
EVP, global public affairs, Citigroup

The April revolt by Citigroup shareholders over the compensation package for CEO Vikram Pandit proved there's still plenty of anger at Wall Street, but Ed Skyler continued to prove his worth as lead communicator for the banking giant with a well-argued blog posting, acknowledging the rights of the shareholders, but also noting how Pandit's leadership has helped restore Citigroup to profitability in recent years. The fact that news coverage of the shareholder revolt seemed to fizzle out after only a few days is testament to Skyler's skills in defusing a crisis.

Though still under 40, Skyler has the experience of a battle-tested veteran, having joined Citigroup in 2010 after eight years with the administration of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

There, he rose from press secretary/communications director, managing all communications including speechwriting, to deputy mayor of operations, helping the mayor with key budget, legislative, and labor negotiations. Skyler leads all of Citigroup's external and internal communications, government affairs, branding and corporate sponsorships, and jointly oversees investor relations – meaning he'll be facing plenty of challenges in the coming year.

45. Mike Fernandez
Corporate VP, corporate affairs, Cargill

With his recent appointment to the advisory board of AHAA: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing, Mike Fernandez continues to be a leader in the Hispanic PR/marketing community, while also delivering on his main job of overseeing internal and external communications, government relations, and brand management for Cargill, the privately held food, agriculture, financial, and industrial products and services conglomerate.

Fernandez's role includes raising Cargill's profile as a good corporate citizen. The Minneapolis-based company recently received positive coverage for its participation and financial contribution to a new $3 billion White House initiative to boost agricultural productivity and build markets in the developing world.

Last year, he also proved deft in helping Cargill mitigate the brand impact of two ground turkey recalls due to possible salmonella contamination at its Springdale, AR, facility by quickly issuing press releases outlining the company's concerns and its thorough efforts to fix the situation. Before joining Cargill in 2010, he filled key communications roles for a veritable who's who of corporate America, including State Farm, Cigna, and Eastman Kodak.

46. Barry Caldwell
SVP, government affairs and corporate communications, Waste Management

Barry Caldwell spends more time talking trash than most people. It's his job. At a time when environmental awareness and CSR are at an all-time high, Caldwell shepherds communications around high-minded technical processes to daily garbage collection for Waste Management, the top-ranked waste management company on the Fortune 500 list at 203 with $13.4 billion in revenue.

Caldwell is spreading the word to customers, policymakers, and Waste Management associates about the cutting-edge processes that create high-octane fuel or industrial chemicals out of what people throw away and at the same time educating and promoting the basics of curbside pickup.

Caldwell builds relationships with Waste Management's partners, such as energy corporation Valero and tech company Terrabon to develop an asset-fermentation process to make organic material into high-octane fuel. He is focused on three objectives: knowing customers more and how to service them better; extracting more value from the materials handled; and innovating and optimizing the business from a communications and public affairs standpoint.

47. Christine Cea
Senior marcomms director, Unilever

Unilever's marketers have been given permission to fail by their bosses – or, at least, a mandate to take risks and not over-rely on quantitative research that strangles the life out of a creative idea before it has had chance to bloom. It's a mandate Christine Cea's bosses expect to define the consumer packaged goods giant's approach to creativity and ROI over the next decade.

Cea, who was promoted to senior director of marketing communications this year in recognition of the impact she is having on Unilever's US portfolio of food and personal care products, has a fascinating canvas on which to expound her version of the big marketing and communications idea, overseeing brands as diverse as Ragu, Dove, Lipton, Vaseline, Hellmann's, Suave, Axe, Breyer's – and many more. Cea leads social media and word-of-mouth marketing initiatives for Unilever, working with brand marketing teams to ensure the new media are properly engaging consumers and fulfilling the higher-ups' vision of creativity and risk-taking.

As chair of judges of the 2013 PRWeek Awards, she will also play a key role as PR celebrates the best of the best at the industry's biggest night of the year.

48. Paul Hicks
EVP, communications and public affairs, National Football League

Earlier this year, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told PRWeek that his league is “sometimes called the ‘NFL PR machine' and we take that as a compliment. As a business, the NFL was built on the game and PR. Now it is much more complex and Paul's team has proved to be very nimble in evolving our strategic direction.”

When the NFL faced the nightmare scenario of a lockout last year, Hicks, who was hired in July 2010, mainly to assist in bringing a resolution to the impasse between owners and players, was a key driver not only in getting an agreement done, but in making sure fans were kept top of mind throughout.

His agency background, including eight years as regional CEO of the Americas at Ogilvy PR, and preceding years spent in Washington, give him a unique perspective in the sports world. It has also helped the NFL think more broadly about outreach efforts on topics such as player safety and its philanthropic endeavors.

The game's popularity is soaring. In the US sports arena, the NFL is a shining light. In the PR sector, the same could be said of the man who quarterbacks its communications.

49. Melissa Waggener Zorkin
CEO and president, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide

Though Waggener Edstrom Worldwide experienced a global revenue increase of just 3.5% in 2011, CEO, founder, and president Melissa Waggener Zorkin led the firm with a sense of drive and energy that allowed the agency to build strong roots in the digital and integrated influence spaces.

Under Zorkin's direction, the Seattle-based firm held onto major accounts such as Microsoft, while also landing business with clients including the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, Siemens PLM Software, United Nations Foundation, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

The agency has expanded substantially since it was founded in 1983 by Zorkin and Pam Edstrom. It has grown to become the second-largest independent PR agency in the world, falling behind only Edelman. The firm, which started simply as a two-person consultancy, now consists of more than 900 employees worldwide.

Zorkin recently added Munich-based healthcare agency Patzer PR, acquired to help Waggener Edstrom strengthen its healthcare expertise in Europe, particularly Germany. This past year, she also invested in technology and consumer agency Shout Communications Korea and Australian communications agency Buchan Consulting.

A working mother herself, Zorkin is committed to helping her employees succeed and fulfill their potential in business, all the while maintaining parenting roles and responsibilities. In doing so, she often takes a hands-on approach in her dedication to developing future agency leaders.

Fiercely dedicated to philanthropy and volunteer work, Zorkin recently made a trip to Ethiopia where she participated in the World Economic Forum on Africa 2012. She also holds board member roles at Mercy Corps and See Your Impact.

Additionally, she is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society and the Council of PR Firms. Zorkin regularly shares her thoughts, experiences, and other musings through blogging on Waggener Edstrom's CEO blog. Zorkin also writes for the Council of PR Firms and speaks at various industry events.

50. Donna Imperato
CEO, Cohn & Wolfe

Donna Imperato first made the Power List in 2008 when she successfully led Cohn & Wolfe through a merger with sister WPP Group agency GCI Group.

Through Imperato's oversight during the subsequent evaluation and reshuffling of talent, C&W emerged with a more global and dynamic know-how.

Imperato's ambition for her agency did not stop there. C&W again expanded its reach in November 2011 with the purchase of top Asian PR firm ImpactAsia. By merging the two agencies' Beijing and Shanghai locations, C&W tripled its presence in China. C&W went even further just weeks later, this time into Southeast Asia, by obtaining Singapore-based digital shop XPR.

These acquisitions brought clients such as Rolls-Royce, Guinness,  Groupon, BMW Asia, and Dell into C&W's top client roster, contributing to the agency's 8.4% overall growth in 2011, which led to the firm being called out more than once in WPP's financial statements. Imperato has turned the agency into a PR powerhouse and attributes her personal success to toughness, a quality manifested in C&W's aggressive go-getter attitude and its willingness to take risks.

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