Power List 2014: Power principals

In an evolving comms landscape, these 50 power players have the blueprint for effective global strategies as companies expand into new markets to increase growth and agencies promote their integrated business models. PRWeek enlisted mentors, colleagues, and friends to best describe what puts these influential PR pros in a class by themselves.

Power List 2014: Power principals

Click here for individual profiles and an in-depth look at the rankings.

1. Martin Sorrell

By Steve Barrett, editor-in-chief, PRWeek

The prospect of an Omnicom-Publicis merger was the biggest story in marketing services in the past year. But while the abortive $35 billion deal disappointed senior executives who were set for a cash windfall from the so-called "merger of equals," one agency leader was celebrating what he termed "the sweetest of victories." Once again, WPP head honcho Martin Sorrell had called a situation perfectly, from the day the proposed merger was announced.

Of course, he had serious skin in this game in that WPP would have been relegated to number two in the global holding company pecking order if the deal was consummated, so it was natural he would pour scorn on it. But from the start Sorrell’s line was that the deal was being done for "emotional and egotistical" reasons, and that Omnicom’s CEO John Wren had been seduced by the Gallic charm of his Publicis counterpart Maurice Lévy. It was, he said, once the deal finally died, a case of "eyes bigger than tummy."

Sorrell stands apart from his network agency CEO peers in that he is always prepared to put his views out there and have a public opinion on the industry. This passion peppers the colorful commentaries that accompany WPP’s quarterly financial statements, full of patented phrases such as "gray swans," "bath-shaped recessions," and "mini" and "maxi-quadrennials."

And, despite his agencies having a tough couple of years in terms of growth – organic PR and public affairs revenues at WPP were down 1.7% in 2013 – Sorrell still oversees the largest PR holding company portfolio with $1.53 billion in revenues in 2013 across Burson-Marsteller, Ogilvy Public Relations, Cohn & Wolfe, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, RLM Finsbury, and other firms.

His championing of a Team WPP approach, whereby an integrated group spanning WPP agencies involved in several disciplines supplies a full service to clients, has worked extremely well with brands such as Ford and Bank of America. And Sorrell has introduced horizontal integrators, people who run clients across the whole of WPP – including PR and public affairs – to leverage knowledge in a more effective way for clients.

As with any agency business, the focus is on serving clients in the best way possible – something Sorrell noted those caught up in the excitement of the doomed Omnicom-Publicis tie-up temporarily lost sight of in the past 12 months.

2. Richard Edelman
President and CEO, Edelman

By Gary Sheffer, VP, corporate communications and public affairs, GE

Richard’s "dispatches from the front," as I call them, appear in my inbox frequently. They are in the staccato style of an army combat unit summarizing the latest action at the front: "From Old Pal. Says things are good. Focus on financial community. Not too risky. This will happen."

Richard Edelman is literally and figuratively at the front of PR and communications, whether it is gathering intelligence around the world for his clients or pushing the profession to try new ways to build trust and to connect with people in real and meaningful ways.

At GE, we have been listening to Richard for more than a decade, from the launch of our environmental campaign Ecomagination to helping us think about how brand and reputation must work together seamlessly.

It is hard to overestimate what Richard and the Edelman family mean to the modern practice of PR. They have instilled a sense of shared purpose, humanity, and social responsibility into their work and that of their clients. You can feel the sense of family in his people and in his advice.

Richard has an unflagging belief that his family of clients – and business writ large – is a force for good and a catalyst for social progress. He pushes us to listen to stakeholders and to stand up for what we believe in. It is smart advice.

So here’s my own dispatch to him: "From GE guy. Trust is essential. Keep pushing it. And thanks."

3. Gary Sheffer
VP, corporate communications & public affairs, GE

By Mike Fernandez, Corporate VP, corporate affairs, Cargill

If GE’s PR unit were a Major League Baseball team, it would be the New York Yankees.

No, not this year’s squad who seem to struggle whenever pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka is not on the mound. We’re talking about the glory days, when the Bronx Bombers were envied and only getting better.

Gary Sheffer, GE’s VP of communications and public affairs, is simultaneously his company’s Joe Torre, the manager who always gets a little bit more out of a talented team, and also its Mariano Rivera, the ace closer who delivers victories in a pinch.

Sheffer, who oversees PR and provides communication advice to GE executives, has shown that Imagination at Work – GE’s brand expression – is a pennant under which his team has become an innovator in content creation with thought leadership websites such as Ideas Lab and Txchnologist and a crisp storytelling machine across other channels.

An influential proponent of corporate transparency, Sheffer has successfully guided GE through some tough innings in the last few years, from GE’s federal tax controversy to the unwinding of NBCUniversal, the bolting on of new businesses, and the repositioning of GE Capital (GE’s financial arm).

Some people in baseball talk of a sweet spot where the baseball recoils off the bat soaring hundreds of feet out of the field of play to put a score on the board. At GE, the sweet spot for communications begins with a thoughtful professional by the name of Gary Sheffer.

4. D’Arcy Rudnay
CCO and SVP, Comcast

Another year, another game-changing deal. In 2014, Rudnay finds herself in the midst of another potential major acquisition with Comcast’s proposed $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable.

She must set the right tone to allay fears of consumer groups and investors that this will create a company that is too unwieldy with a monopoly in the sector – skills she successfully demonstrated around Comcast’s last major acquisition, when it bought NBCUniversal in 2011.

After the latter deal, Rudnay and her team created a fresh identity for the combined company that launched at the end of 2012 in time for Comcast’s 50th anniversary in 2013. Whatever happens next year, it’s safe to say Rudnay will be up to the challenge.

5. Jon Iwata
SVP, marketing and communications, IBM

By Dave Samson, GM, public affairs, Chevron

Jon Iwata has used his leadership, intellect, and skills to position IBM as a company that truly matters – an enterprise filled with smart people striving to create a smarter planet.

He has infused IBM with the promise of new technologies that will tackle the world’s most vexing problems in areas such as life sciences, crime prevention, and urban congestion.

Fortunately, for all of us, Jon has performed a similar service for our industry, demonstrating that our skills and counsel matter, and advancing the belief that we are a profession filled with intelligent people who can make a difference.

For the past decade, Jon has been one of our industry’s most compelling voices, urging the reinvention of what we as communicators and marketers do. He reset the benchmark, advocating for new, broader, and more rigorous models of communication. In this age of transparency, the notion of authenticity as a key to business success is one that Jon championed.

Every so often, someone emerges in our profession who stands apart. They think differently and operate with a different sense of purpose. They embody leadership qualities that can’t be learned. Jon is one of those rare individuals. During the course of his 30-year career inside IBM, Jon has become synonymous with excellence in our industry and inspired all of us to be smarter at what we do.

6. Ray Day
Group VP, comms, Ford Motor Co.

By Alan Mulally, President and CEO, Ford Motor Co.

Effective communication is core to the success of any business, and Ray Day and the team he has built have been absolutely instrumental to the transformation of Ford Motor Co.

When we set out on our One Ford plan in 2006, we knew success required developing a compelling vision, a comprehensive strategy, and relentless implementation of the strategy. It needed to capture the hearts and minds of all our stakeholders.

Everyone needed to understand it, where we were in the journey, and areas that needed special attention. Everyone had to feel valued, trusted, and accountable to each other. In fact, everyone needed to know everything.

Each day on this journey, Ray has not only been our fantastic communications leader, he has also been an indispensable business partner to me and the entire Ford leadership team.

Today, employee morale has climbed to record levels. Our corporate reputation has risen dramatically; we have become an employer of choice again for talented young people; and Ford is now one of the world’s most trusted and well-liked brands by consumers. The investment community understands and believes in our plan, and our share price and debt rating have risen accordingly. And we went from near the bottom in supplier and dealer satisfaction surveys to near the top of our industry.

Everywhere around the world, people understand and appreciate Ford. None of this would have been possible without Ray Day, our world-class communications leader, and the five-star communications team he has built at Ford.

7. Dave Samson
GM, public affairs, Chevron

By John Onoda
Onoda is a member of the international advisory board of FleishmanHillard

Using vast amounts of geological data, energy companies can drill down and sideways for miles below the earth’s surface to reach a target the size of a dinner plate. Dave Samson intends to use the same big data approach to benefit Chevron’s communications efforts above the ground, delivering messages with pinpoint accuracy to the individuals and groups who drive public opinion, provide financial backing, shape regulation, grant permission to operate, and track legal matters.

Since these key players influence the success or failure of energy companies, Chevron should approach communicating with them by applying the same rigor it requires for its other operations, Dave maintains.

I was impressed by his knack for presenting complex ideas in ways that generate enthusiastic support from top executives when we first worked together at Levi Strauss in the ’90s, and he has honed it into an art form. His ability to combine vision, use of new technology, sound business logic, and clear explanation is what makes him an exemplar within our profession.

His trademark approach is apparent in the communications relating to Chevron’s litigation with plaintiffs accusing the company of environmental misdeeds in Ecuador. Bold, principled, and comprehensive, the litigation communications he masterminded must be the most sophisticated ever in its use of social media.

Dave’s influence is also apparent in Chevron’s We Agree ad campaign, which underscores the company’s belief in partnerships and finding common ground, rather than confrontation. Because of this positioning, governments and business partners around the world lean toward working with Chevron instead of its competitors. Importantly, the ad campaign reflects the company’s culture and values, which Dave embraces.

8. Bridget Coffing
SVP, corporate relations, McDonald’s

The fast-food industry has had a challenging year, receiving criticism on issues such as workers’ pay, nutrition, and marketing to children. As one of the world’s largest fast-food chains, McDonald’s was pulled into the backlash, but Bridget Coffing has been there to help overcome the obstacles. The McDonald’s comms veteran, who leads a global team of PR pros and helps them communicate with staffers, media, stakeholders, consumers, and NGOs, has seen massive shifts in the industry throughout her 28-year tenure.

Coffing has been with McDonald’s as it shifted to healthier options in recent years, issuing new nutritional guidelines, and launching a mobile app that provides calorie and fat content for its products. She has steered the brand through its many Olympic sponsorships, including the Sochi Games in which the company launched its Champions of Play initiative, inviting children from various countries to experience the festivities firsthand. 

In her career, Coffing has been honored with the McDonald’s President’s Award and the Team and Circle of Excellence Awards.

9. Bonin Bough
VP, global media and consumer engagement, Mondelez International

By Gary Vaynerchuk, Cofounder and CEO, VaynerMedia

As a VP at an international brand, Bonin Bough is one of the special few who operate with an aggressive entrepreneurial spirit, while at the same time understanding how to navigate through the context of a corporate environment.

I admire the bravado, bravery, attack, and long-term thinking he brings to his projects. A lot of people are catalysts for innovation within their organizations, but the ones who really succeed are those who perfect the yin to their own yang. Where some digital gurus might seek to be disruptive for the sake of disruption, Bonin operates with a level of practicality and grace that elevates him among his peers.

All of these things have increased exponentially as I’ve watched him mature during the last half decade and evolve into an extremely impactful leader.

As more global organizations are forced to confront the reality of the market, his reputation will shift from a new paradigm to a gold standard. Bonin is setting the bar for the way Fortune 500 companies enter the modern age, and I can’t wait to see what he does with his next half decade.

Top Communicators

Adam Silver, NBA commissioner
In his first real test since assuming the role in February, he was swift and strong in handling the LA Clippers/Donald Sterling saga. Lauded by media, fans, and players alike, his first impression could not have been better.

Pope Francis
Time’s 2013 Person of the Year famously said the Internet is "a gift from God." And he has already shown he will use that gift to communicate with anyone, at any time, in any language.

Robin Roberts, anchor, Good Morning America
From her very visible efforts to inspire others as she was battling myelodysplastic syndrome to her prideful, but understated, announcement late last year that she was gay, Roberts epitomizes the bravery sometimes required to most effectively communicate.

Edie Windsor, activist, PRWeek’s 2014 Communicator of the Year
Once determined to keep a low profile, this icon of the gay-rights movement has since embraced a public-facing role. Her message is largely credited with the Supreme Court’s 2013 historic ruling to recognize marriage between same-sex partners.

First lady Michelle Obama
In late 2013, Valerie Jarrett, senior White House adviser, told Politico, "The first lady is the best salesperson" for the administration. The president often makes these lists, but his wife’s articulate, humble speaking style takes a backseat to nobody.

10. Marc Pritchard
Global brand building officer, Procter & Gamble

Marc Pritchard’s statement that "the era of digital marketing is over," is the sort of declaration expected from a nimble startup, rather than a global marketing powerhouse.

But P&G veteran Pritchard has pushed for a post-digital mindset at the CPG giant that puts great creative ideas at the heart of its marketing and communications.

As this year’s Sochi Olympics proved, P&G’s Thank You, Mom campaign still resonates with consumers, with its warm and fuzzy Pick Them Back Up advertisement going viral.

11. Caryn Marooney
VP, technology communications, Facebook

By Margit Wennmachers, Partner, Andreessen Horowitz

Caryn is a singular person, an unstoppable force, and someone I have been lucky to know since 1993, working side by side at Blanc & Otus before cofounding The OutCast Agency in 1997.

Caryn can meet a founding team or an executive and instantly hone in on the essence of their story. She then creates endless ways to tell stories, each different and tailored for a specific outlet and perfectly timed as the company evolves.

Take Salesforce, where Caryn and Marc Benioff declared the end of software for more than a decade, establishing it as a force. They built the software-as-a-service category, rang the Nasdaq bell, and created a Silicon Valley icon.

Anyone in the valley knows a spokesperson can be a reluctant nerd, a rookie, or both. Caryn embraces whatever traits are on display, no matter how awkward or untrained. She leans into the person’s characteristics and peculiarities, and celebrates who they are, rather than drilling talking points into their heads.

Simply put, that’s magic. All of a sudden an awkward geek or a cynical skeptic gets excited about telling their story. The result is a real story, something the press corps are eager to tell, not a tweaked script that reporters have seen a million times before.

It can be tricky to have equally good relationships with reporters and clients and executives, but Caryn has built that trust and delivered on it for more years than the two of us care to count. That is her secret sauce. Based on mutual trust, she can have any conversation, with anyone. Everyone talking to her knows she will take it to the grave – and that is priceless.

12. Andy Polansky
CEO, Weber Shandwick

By Harris Diamond
Chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup; former CEO of Weber Shandwick and holding company Interpublic’s Constituency Management Group

I’ve had the privilege of working with Andy for more than two decades and he is one of the most dynamic agency leaders around. I’ve watched as he helped clients build their businesses and became a role model for everyone who works with him.

More than a year and a half after moving into the CEO role, his leadership has solidified Weber Shandwick as one of the industry’s pre-eminent firms. He commands respect from clients, employees, and competitors, and is a most innovative, influential, and admired leader. 

Andy continues to capitalize on emerging trends and introduce new capabilities and practice areas. To help drive organic growth, he named Cathy Calhoun chief client officer earlier this year. To bolster Weber’s considerable digital and social media chops, he launched a content creation unit, Mediaco. And he pushed the company’s team of PhDs to the forefront, forming its Element Scientific Communications unit – a clear differentiator for the firm in healthcare.

Acquiring Sweden-based Prime, one of the industry’s leading creative and digital firms, was another key move this year that reflects Andy’s focus on delivering bold solutions to clients.

He has also used his influence to help transform the PR business overall. Not only does he actively promote diversity at Weber, but he also introduced diversity as a key initiative while chairing the Council of PR Firms from 2010-2012. He continues to be a strong voice on this topic as a PRSA Foundation board member.

Andy always finds time to mentor young professionals and actively promotes PR as a career, most recently as commencement speaker at The College of New Jersey’s communication studies department’s graduation ceremonies.

13. Jeff Jones
EVP and CMO, Target

It has been a rough year for Target, which suffered a massive security breach in December 2013 and the departure of its CEO Gregg Steinhafel earlier this year.

 But in the spirit of greater transparency and authenticity, Jeff Jones tackled the communications crisis head on, responding to an anonymous post from an employee attacking the company’s culture on news site Gawker.

Jones’ public manifesto, titled "The Truth Hurts," is a bold and refreshingly honest read, outlining the problems Target needs to fix in the coming months.

14. Dan Bartlett
EVP, corporate affairs, Walmart

Dan Bartlett, previously the US president and CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies and top communications counselor to former President George W. Bush, not only has the top comms job at the largest retailer in the world, but the number one company on the Fortune 500 list.

Walmart continues to face labor issues and other challenges, but Bartlett has a chance to take the positive momentum engineered by his predecessor Leslie Dach and continue the organization’s improved relations with the media, customers, and communities. 

15. Dave Senay
President and CEO, FleishmanHillard

Fresh off its spring 2013 rebranding, the Dave Senay-led FleishmanHillard is coming off a winning year, taking home Large PR Agency of the Year honors at the 2014 PRWeek Awards and Global Agency of the Year at the first PRWeek Global Awards.

Senay was also recognized at both, winning highly commended plaudits at the global awards and grabbing the top agency professional prize at the US show. Going forward, his biggest challenge will be steering Fleishman further toward becoming a fully integrated firm.

16. Corey duBrowa
SVP, global comms & international public affairs, Starbucks

By Torod Neptune, VP, corporate communications, Verizon Wireless

Corey is a passionate advocate for the role of integrated communications in driving organizational change and a model of the quintessential adviser and counselor to the CEO. He is highly regarded by his peers and teammates alike for shepherding one of the world’s largest and most respected brands toward even greater influence and respect around the globe since joining Starbucks in 2010.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, often credited with devising the grandest of visions in first founding, then returning to, and revitalizing Starbucks, said: "The currency of leadership is truth and transparency." I worked with Corey at Waggener Edstrom and can confirm he is a great model of this truism: transparency has been demonstrated in his leadership tenure within agency and corporate environments, from Ketchum to Nike to WE, and now Starbucks.

He is a champion of the power of storytelling as a strategic comms weapon, having played quarterback for Starbucks’ efforts to ensure it carves out a place among the world’s great brands by leading with its values and focusing tirelessly on using its scale for good. More recently, he has shepherded Starbucks through the debate around whether companies, and their CEOs, should espouse a values-laden rationale for their existence, which Starbucks has continued to do to great brand reputation success.

Corey revels in the constantly evolving 24/7 news environment and its impact on the role of strategic communications, making each day energizing and affording PR professionals the opportunity to have a more meaningful impact by engaging the "public just as much as, if not more than, the media" aspects of our jobs.

17. Suzy DeFrancis
Chief public affairs officer, American Red Cross

Given the fact her organization provides aid to people all over the world in their greatest times of need, few communicators have a more crucial role than DeFrancis.

From her never-ending efforts to maintain the public’s trust to her philosophy that led to the recent launch of numerous free apps and the March 2012 opening of a digital operations center in Washington, DC, DeFrancis is providing a blueprint for how all nonprofits should be communicating.

18. Shannon Stubo
VP, corporate communications, LinkedIn

By Luanne Calvert, VP and CMO, Virgin America

I met Shannon at Yahoo when the world was still learning what a search engine could be.

That was when I first felt the "Shannon surge," a cocktail of exuberance, vitality, positivity, and smarts hitting you all at once. She is a wunderkind who can do anything she sets her mind to, but still have fun doing it. She also has a scary good memory – and an amazing ability to focus.

I had never seen an individual complete the work of a small team in one morning. I once quizzed her on my license plate during her Oscar viewing party and I can confirm she has a photographic memory.

Shannon has always been wise beyond her years during a stellar career at companies such as Yahoo, eBay, and Open Table. Now she’s running corporate comms at one of the world’s most disruptive companies: LinkedIn.

Most of all, she is a great colleague and friend who genuinely cares about the organization’s mission and people around her. Shannon never forgets an anniversary or a birthday and she’s always there when you need her for emergency advice. And she takes time with colleagues at every level to provide guidance or feedback, no matter how crazy her schedule.

On top of it all, Shannon has a wry sense of humor and infectious energy that makes work fun – or bearable when the going gets tough. In fact, my only criticism is she has been a bit harsh on my laugh lines.

19. Zenia Mucha
EVP and CCO, The Walt Disney Co.

In winning the 2012 Matrix Award from New York Women in Communications, Mucha noted her philosophy that "communications’ role is a critical component of business" was shaped while serving as senior adviser to Gov. George Pataki (R-NY).

That ideology guides Mucha in leading global comms for the Fortune 500’s largest entertainment company. As guardian of one of the world’s most recognized properties and with oversight on all its networks, studios, consumer products, and brands, she has been integral in Disney’s ascension as a content-generating powerhouse.

20. Tony Cervone
SVP, global communications, General Motors

By Julie Hamp, CCO, Toyota North America

Tony is the Yoda of PR, a true leader with wisdom that comes from both knowledge and experience. He knows when to lead, when to let others lead, and how to look at a situation from another perspective.

I worked with Tony at GM from 2000 to 2007 and the first thing you notice is he never shies away from giving his opinion – and he is right very often. He has an uncanny ability to influence and challenge others around him, without offending anyone, and does so with a sense of ease and confidence.

He often leaves people asking "why didn’t I think of that?" Tony has one of the quickest minds in the room, frequently injecting a voice of reason into any discussion.

He also has an incredible sense of humor that is endearing and brings levity to situations when desperately needed. This is an essential part of Tony’s DNA that serves as a great motivator to the team around him.

He is one of the most honest and transparent people you will ever meet. Tony will tell you the truth without varnishing any painful or negative aspects, yet leave you at ease knowing you have an opportunity to improve and be comfortable taking risks and making mistakes. At the same time he is incredibly humble and self effacing, which puts people around him at ease.

He is the mature voice of reason who does it all while doling out anecdotes, advice, and encouragement you would swear were straight from Yoda. For Tony, there is no "try," only "do."

CEOs who get it

Neil Blumenthal, Warby Parker
In a 2013 New York Times interview, Blumenthal underscored "the power of persuasion." He facilitates a culture of communication, easily seen in the passion with which he talks about his company and his insistence on weekly, full-staff meetings.

Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup Co.
"I learned marketing at my dinner table," Morrison told Forbes, which ranked her 81st on its World’s Most Powerful Women list in 2013. Her use of all communications channels has the 145-year-old company embracing a more creative and flexible philosophy.

Blake Mycoskie, Toms Shoes
The epitome of building relationships through communications, his sincere, authentic style connects with consumers and perfectly tells the story of a company that gives one pair of shoes to an impoverished child for every pair it sells.

Irene Rosenfeld, Mondelez International
Mondelez has established itself as one of the most forward-thinking marketing brands. That starts with Rosenfeld, who at a PRSA event this January stated, "A big part of any leader’s job is to communicate clearly and often."

Jeff Bezos, Amazon
At PRWeek’s Influencer Summit last December, Suzy Welch called Amazon’s Prime Air reveal "one of the best PR moves I’ve ever seen." Bezos’ 2013 purchase of The Washington Post underscored what he has often stated: "Words are as important as numbers."

21. James Mahoney
Global corporate comms and public policy executive, Bank of America

During challenging times, effective comms leadership is crucial. Mahoney played a key role in the bank’s 2013 branding and marketing campaign, which included a new slogan, as well as staff retraining. His skills as a communicator will continue to be tested as the company maneuvers its way through a number of probes by the Justice Department and other federal and state authorities.

22. Charlene Wheeless
Principal VP, global corporate affairs, Bechtel

Few communicators have left an imprint on their companies the way Wheeless has. Since assuming her role in 2009 at the construction and engineering company, she has spearheaded its adoption of data, social media, and a willingness to communicate – elements that did not exist before her arrival.

One example is the digital site built to promote Bechtel’s mission and gather global job applicants. After one month, the website generated almost 20,000 visitors.

23. Larry Solomon
SVP, corporate comms, AT&T

After AT&T agreed to buy DirecTV for $48.5 billion in May, Larry Solomon is busy communicating the benefits of the acquisition to investors, shareholders, federal regulators, and skeptical consumer groups.

AT&T, which will gain 38 million video subscribers in the US and Latin America through the deal, is seeing strong customer growth on the wireless side and higher smartphone sales. His main aim, since joining AT&T in 1996, has been to explain how the company’s services impact people’s lives.

24. Rob Flaherty
CEO and president, Ketchum

In the two years since his promotion to his current role, Flaherty has taken a leading role advocating for improved measurement in PR. However, international affairs will be among his biggest challenges in the next year, as he must lead Ketchum’s navigation of its sensitive relationship with its client Russia. 

25. Julie Hamp
CCO, Toyota North America

By Joe Jacuzzi, CCO, Audi of America

"You know you will start to succeed as a leader when you have loyalists." Julie Hamp said that.

Julie has built and led global communications teams for GM and PepsiCo. She truly has a following of loyalists. Julie is brilliant at building teams, pushing for creativity, and has a relentless drive to garner support of communications in companies.

After decades in the complex automotive business, she took on the job of building PepsiCo’s global communications team. Country by country, leader by leader, Julie has built a network of communications professionals who formed a dynamic group managing corporate, brands, and financial communications for the food and beverage giant.

Those of us in the auto PR sector have a formidable challenger, who returned to our world when Julie became CCO for Toyota North America. She is devoted to our craft, her people, and the business she supports.

I am proud to say I have worked with Julie three different times, in three different countries, and with two different companies.

Like many, I am one of her loyalists.

26. Jim Wilkinson
SVP, head of international corporate affairs, Alibaba

Jim Wilkinson made the leap from PepsiCo to join Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba at a crucial time in its history. In May, Alibaba filed for an IPO, which could be potentially the largest tech debut ever.

Previously, he was a key spokesman for the Republican Party and served as a senior adviser to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and deputy assistant to President George W. Bush. With Alibaba under scrutiny from investors, regulators, and the media, his corporate and regulatory affairs experience will be crucial in helping the tech giant navigate the foreign waters.

27. Oscar Zhao
CEO, BlueFocus

By Lord Chadlington, CEO, Huntsworth

There are a few people you meet in the communications and PR business of whom you immediately say, "He is quite remarkable." I felt that when I first met Maurice Saatchi, Martin Sorrell, Tim Bell, and David Cameron.

About 10 years ago, I felt the same way when I first met Oscar Zhao. In those days, his English was a little hesitant (it’s now fluent), but he managed to impress me with a combination of brilliant insights into the future of global communications, the role of digital, and how to make money from their exploitation globally.

His concentration on the importance of a service culture, of loving your clients, and training staff made one realize he was the real deal. The extraordinary success that followed is in no small part due to the clarity of his vision and his determination to grow tenfold in 10 years. He proffers a knowing smile when critics look at him in disbelief as he makes this claim – but his business is already valued in excess of $4 billion.

I predict that before this decade is out, Oscar will be as well known globally as Saatchi, Sorrell, and Bell; although even with Oscar’s ambition, it’s unlikely he will be prime minister of the UK.

28. Maggie FitzPatrick
CCO and VP, public affairs and corporate comms, Johnson & Johnson

Maggie FitzPatrick is closing in on her one-year anniversary at Johnson & Johnson, a company she joined after serving as Cigna’s CCO since 2010. In her new role, where the narrative for many pharma companies in early to mid-2014 was driven by M&A and deals to better define a parent brand, J&J veered toward the advocacy route, working with PFLAG for a second year on Care with Pride, a campaign against bullying.

29. Frank Shaw
Corporate VP, corporate communications, Microsoft

By Corey duBrowa, SVP, global communications and international public affairs, Starbucks

Nobody puts Microsoft’s Frank Shaw in the corner. Rarely has a communications pro been so perfectly suited to their role. His military training as a public affairs officer in the Marines gave him the discipline and dogged determination required of a guy fighting on the front lines of tech’s non-stop innovation wars.

His liberal arts education and love of Socratic argument perfectly positions him to referee the voluminous opinions floating around Microsoft on any given issue.

Full disclosure: Frank and I were colleagues for many years at Waggener Edstrom – in fact, he hired me – and once told me our job descriptions working as co-leads on the Microsoft account should read, "We take your input, here."

His social media acumen is almost nonpareil – as more than one journalist and fellow communicator has learned on the receiving end of a sharp verbal uppercut, right @jillhazelbaker?

As our mutually favorite bard Bob Dylan once sang, "You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." But a spirited, top-notch comms guy? The kind who can lead through one of the most talked-about CEO transitions in recent memory? Or navigate acquisitions on the scale of a Skype? You can always use one of those. And Frank most certainly qualifies as one of the best.

Global Communicators

SY Lau, president, Online Media Group, Tencent (China)
Marketing veteran SY Lau is now telling technology giant Tencent’s story to the rest of the world, having already established it in China through several high-profile campaigns with global brands.

Sue Garrard, SVP, sustainable business development and communications, Unilever (UK)
In addition to leading global comms, she recently expanded her role to encompass responsibility for the CPG giant’s Sustainable Living Plan social impact blueprint.

Young-kee Kim, EVP, chief relations officer, LG Electronics (Korea)
Kim has been in charge of industry relations, PR, government relations, organization culture, legal, and corporate business support at the Korean electronics giant since 2007.

Eraldo Carneiro, head of international corporate communication, Petrobras (Brazil)
Energy giant Petrobras portrays a friendly image in line with its Brazilian roots. Carneiro will oversee this during the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Herbert Heitmann, EVP, global brand, communications, and government relations, Bayer (Germany)
After holding senior comms roles at global companies including Shell and SAP, he took on a wide-ranging remit last September at German chemical and pharma giant Bayer.

Andre Manning, global head of PR and public affairs, Booking.com (Netherlands)
PR measurement expert Manning recently left his longstanding role at Philips, spanning spells in the US and Europe, for a new challenge at online travel company Booking.com.

Claire Dorland Clauzel, director of comms and brands, Michelin (France)
French-based Dorland Clauzel is pushing mobility and the integration of marketing and communications at the global tire manufacturer best known for its Michelin Man mascot.

Phil Thomson, SVP, global communications, GlaxoSmithKline (UK)
Thomson is a veteran of GlaxoSmithKline with more than 18 years’ service under his belt. He currently oversees media and investor relations, corporate responsibility, and internal and product communications.

Roma Balwani, EVP, group communications and CSR, Vedanta-Sesa Sterlite (India)
After elevating PR to a board-level function at multinational conglomerate Mahindra – a rarity at an Indian company – Balwani recently joined Vedanta to lead comms at the global natural resources giant.

Boutros Boutros, divisional SVP, communications, Emirates (UAE)
With his 20 years of experience in PR and vast marketing and communications acuity, Boutros continues to play a significant role in the building of this truly global and high-profile airline brand.

30. Mike Fernandez
Corporate VP, corporate affairs, Cargill

By Oscar Suris, EVP, corporate communications, Wells Fargo

Mike Fernandez is many things – a PR pro, a government relations expert, a seasoned political operative, a strategic thinker with influence in boardrooms and C-suites, and a pioneer, having distinguished himself as one of the first Hispanics to serve in a CCO role.

Even before embarking on a PR career, Mike gained fame as one of the youngest professionals – and the first Hispanic – to serve as a press secretary on Capitol Hill. His professional influence has only grown as he has paid forward his good career fortunes by promoting diversity and inclusion across our profession.

Sometimes, he has lent his time and sponsorship dollars to industry-wide initiatives led by organizations such as The Lagrant Foundation, which promotes the development of diverse communications and marketing talent.

Other times, it has been through the kind of one-on-one mentoring one expects from a trusted adviser. I was a lucky beneficiary of Mike’s counsel when he mentored me through a particular career crossroad.

He was generous with his time, shared stories of his own career highs and lows, and his contacts. Above all, he listened, giving this mid-career pro a safe place to talk through what the future might bring.

Indeed, it is fitting that last year The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations recognized Mike with a Milestones in Mentoring honor for the many careers he has influenced through his leadership. Lucky for us, this adviser to CEOs and elected officials also believes in helping fellow PR pros succeed, no matter what power they possess.

31. Kelli Parsons
SVP and CCO, Fannie Mae

Kelli Parsons joined Fannie Mae in the midst of the financial crisis in 2010. Now that the company is profitable once again, she has an on-the-offense approach to communications, leaving Fannie Mae’s former legacy issues in the dust. She has been focused on effectively communicating the company’s role in the housing market’s recovery and its taxpayer payments.

For being successful in a challenging environment, Parsons and her 66-strong department collected the 2014 PRWeek In-House PR Team of the Year award.

32. Oscar Suris
EVP, corporate communications, Wells Fargo

By Frank Ovaitt, President and CEO, Institute for Public Relations

If you believe effective use of research will define PR professionalism going forward, you should listen to Oscar Suris, who co-chairs the IPR board. He could not be more direct in saying that a PR pro’s development is incomplete without harnessing research and analytics.

In May, Suris pledged Wells Fargo’s support for the first set of standards published by the Coalition for Public Relations Research Standards.

He said: "A common language would help elevate research’s role in our profession and would send a clear message that the understanding and leveraging of research and measurement have become vital to success."

That also describes how Suris earned the respect of top management at Wells Fargo when he joined the bank in 2009 in the immediate wake of the financial crisis.

"In the eyes of the public, all big banks were in the reputation dog house," he said. "We needed proof points and stories that spoke to the values and concerns of the post-financial-crisis era. Our reputational research was invaluable and no doubt saved Wells Fargo from moments of public tone-deafness."

33. Don Baer
CEO and worldwide chair, Burson-Marsteller

Burson-Marsteller’s revenue was flat in 2013, but under Don Baer’s leadership, the agency is beginning to turn a corner, based on its corporate reputation work for Amazon and Comcast/NBCUniversal, and crisis communications for Target in response to its data breach in December.

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

A 2014 Temkin Group study of 10,000 US consumers named Southwest the best airline for customer experience. Unsurprising, given Hardage’s emphasis on culture. As a colleague shared, "She understands we must enable comms, not control it."

35. Torod Neptune
VP, corporate communications, Verizon Wireless

By Kim Hunter, President and CEO, Lagrant Communications

As head of corporate comms for the largest wireless company in the US, Torod spearheads Verizon Wireless’ brand and PR positioning as it evolves into an integrated global tech company.

An agency and in-house veteran, he is responsible for guiding Verizon through one of the most fierce competitive environments of the last decade, defending traditional marketing, and competing in emerging categories such as mobile commerce, big data, and mobile videos with Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

He has transcended boundaries throughout his career. Torod reports directly to Verizon’s CEO and has restructured the communications department into a truly integrated newsroom, redefined its competency model to align with this shift, and spearheads the "conscience of the company."

He champions a new digital analytics-focused competency model for the team, which creates interesting content that Verizon customers care about and distributes it in a really effective way. They are able to communicate with their customers and also drive more media coverage.

Moreover, Torod always takes time to give back to ethnic minority college students who are ready to embark on their future careers in advertising, marketing, or PR.

36. Christopher Graves
Global CEO, Ogilvy PR

Graves made the leap to PR as Ogilvy’s Asia-Pacific CEO in 2005, ending a 20-plus-year stint at various media companies. He has long been bullish on the importance of integration with marketing disciplines in the Ogilvy & Mather group and for the last few years has studied neuroscience and behavioral economics to understand the power of messaging on human behavior.

37. Paul Gennaro

In his eight years at AECOM, he has led global comms through a period in which the design and engineering firm has experienced huge growth. Gennaro has also pushed for greater ethics in the sector, through his work as chairman of the communications advisory board at the Ethisphere Institute.

38. Kim Hunter
President and CEO, Lagrant Communications

By Andy Polansky, CEO, Weber Shandwick

Kim Hunter is a change agent and has staked out an undeniable leadership position in what is clearly one of our industry’s most critical issues: diversity and inclusion.

His entrepreneurial efforts to build his integrated marketing and communications firm, Lagrant Communications, which focuses on black, Hispanic, and LGBT consumer markets, have not only made a mark for his clients, but also the entire industry.

His establishment of The Lagrant Foundation, which is committed to building the next generation of communicators that reflect society, has earned the respect of firms and companies nationwide. The foundation has made a big difference.

To date, it has awarded $1.56 million in scholarships to 221 ethnic minority students and has paved the way for these students to receive more than 275 internships and helped them land full-time roles.

But Kim’s boundless energy in pushing beyond this success has continued in the past year. He launched KLH & Associates, an executive search consultancy, and, more recently, a new Lagrant Communications public affairs division that promotes and supports women seeking elected office at the local, regional, and national level, with a strong emphasis on electing women of color.

While he moves around quite a bit, for clients and often with a commanding presence at industry leadership conferences, he still finds time for one of his passions – travel.

Kim’s success and track record is all the more impressive when you consider he was one of 11 children, and the only one with a college education.

And, if you are really fortunate to know him well, he will serve you a wonderful home-cooked Mediterranean-inspired meal and a great bottle of wine.

39. Jack Martin
Global chairman and CEO, Hill+Knowlton Strategies

In 2013, H+K’s US operations were the strongest in the firm’s past five years and Martin presided over key restructuring moves around the globe, including re-unifying its China division and developing global creative hubs for bigger channel-neutral ideas.

Stealth Agents

Shunning the spotlight themselves, these comms professionals exert great influence at some of the biggest brands in the world.

Ken Cohen, VP, public and government affairs, ExxonMobil
Political influence and a strong social media presence are just two traits synonymous with this top comms pro at the number two company on the Fortune 500.

Clyde Tuggle, SVP, chief public affairs and communications officer, Coca-Cola
For a quarter-century, he has been a key ingredient in Coca-Cola’s continued category dominance.

Jake Siewert, global head of corporate communications, Goldman Sachs
Though work remains, the former White House press secretary has improved the investment banking giant’s reputation and willingness to engage the public.

Joe Evangelisti, MD, head of worldwide corporate comms and media relations, JPMorgan Chase
In addition to his job at the banking giant, his advisory-board role on Columbia’s Master of Strategic Comms program enables him to influence current and future industry leaders.

Sally Susman, EVP, policy, external affairs, and comms, Pfizer
The recent breakdown in Pfizer’s bid to acquire AstraZeneca is just the latest example of the high-profile task Susman bears at the pharma giant.

Rachel Whetstone, SVP, public policy and comms, Google
From regulatory probes to fierce competition to continual product launches, the global spotlight is always on Google’s lead communicator.

Ed Skyler, EVP, global public affairs, Citigroup
Along with his role at the financial services company, the political clout gained from leading Mayor Bloomberg’s comms means he is sought after by many for his advice.

Jonathan Friedland, CCO, Netflix
As he leads efforts around the company’s expansion into Europe, his effective comms about Netflix’s price hike earlier this year exemplified a brand learning from past mistakes.

Carolyn Castel, VP, corporate communications, CVS Caremark
In February, CVS announced it would stop selling tobacco and cigarette products in all stores by October 1, a decision that placed Castel in a prominent role.

Nigel Powell, VP, global comms, Nike
His deft handling of challenges, including the 2013 Lance Armstrong saga, proves Nike is in safe hands.

40. Fred Cook
CEO, Golin

By Al Golin, Founder & chairman, Golin

According to the CEO of one of the top 50 companies in the world, "One of the key attributes of a great CEO is to embrace change."

Fred Cook, CEO of Golin, certainly practices that – big time. And, being based in the Windy City, I also love the quote from famed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, who said, "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood." Fred’s bold style is a real example of that quote, too.

Since becoming CEO of the firm in 2006, Fred has grown the agency to become one of the top 10 globally – with 50 offices throughout the world. He has counseled some of the world’s most iconic leaders, such as Apple’s Steve Jobs, Disney’s Michael Eisner, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

He completely redesigned the agency structure by creating The Bridge, a global network of holistic engagement centers to help companies infuse their brands and products into the news and conversation cycles of the hour – a breakthrough in today’s complex media environment.

His new book, Improvise: Unconventional Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO, outlines Fred’s life, illustrating a path to the top that defies conventional wisdom. Each chapter features a bold lesson from his unorthodox early career, reinforced with insights from his later efforts working with major companies.

41. Donna Imperato
CEO, Cohn & Wolfe

Under Imperato’s leadership, Cohn & Wolfe has soared to great heights, including double-digit growth in Southeast Asia last year and winning the PRWeek 2014 Consumer Launch Campaign award for its work with Nokia’s Lumia. C&W also won big accounts this year, such as Nissan North America’s Hispanic work.

42. Karen van Bergen
Global CEO, Porter Novelli

In early 2013, Karen van Bergen took control of the then-struggling Porter Novelli, which was in turmoil after several C-suite members left. Since then, she has managed to steer the ship back on course by growing the firm globally, winning major clients, including Durex and Beirsdorf, and stengthening talent with new hires and promotions.

43. Adele Ambrose
CCO, Merck

Adele Ambrose runs in some pretty A-list circles. She was a co-host of The Woman I’m Here For segment at the Women in the World Summit 2014 on a panel that included Meryl Streep, Diane von Fürstenberg, and Laura Bush.

Similarly, at the pharmaceutical company where she heads communications, investment in women’s issues is significant. In August, with the help of Marina Maher Communications, Merck partnered with Her Campus in a campaign called Pledge to Plan it Forward to help women consider the role of contraception and family planning for their future.

A 20-plus-year veteran at AT&T, Ambrose joined Merck in 2007 and spearheaded communications around its $41 billion merger with Schering-Plough in 2009.

Looking ahead, she faces her next significant deal as Merck plans to sell its consumer care business to Bayer for $14.2 billion. Bayer will come out of the deal with Claritin, the allergy medication, and Afrin, the decongestant.    

44. Margery Kraus
CEO, APCO Worldwide

APCO Worldwide celebrated three decades in business this year and saw 18% growth in the New York office in 2013.

Kraus made the bold move of partnering with Text100 on the BlackBerry business, an account worth an estimated $10 million. "It is a unique partnership that has already reaped great benefits and will continue doing so," she said of the deal.

45. Marian Salzman
CEO, Havas PR North America

Marian Salzman doesn’t let adversity stand in her way. After having a brain tumor removed last summer, being out of the office for 10 weeks, and going through some tumultuous times at the firm in terms of new business, the CEO was able to pull everything together and keep Havas on the right track.

All of Salzman’s efforts were recognized in May at the inaugural PRWeek Global Awards in Barcelona, where she was honored with the Global Agency Professional of the Year award.

Since taking the helm at Havas in 2009, she has led the firm through a number of significant changes, including rebranding from Euro RSCG Worldwide PR in 2012. She also played an integral part in creating a Havas PR operation across several continents, called the Global Collective. 

In 2013, Havas PR saw revenue gains of about 8%, but even more impressive is the agency’s United Nations Foundation global account win last year worth more than $3 million. When Salzman is not working on accounts or mentoring her team, she is doing pro bono work or speaking at universities.

46. Olivier Fleurot

Olivier Fleurot orchestrated some significant deals in the last year, including the acquisition of public affairs firm Qorvis Communications and Espalhe in Brazil.

Within the agency, Fleurot finessed several important leadership moves at the start of the year. He tapped eBay’s VP of communications Paul Newman to take over from Renee Wilson as president of North American operations with Wilson returning to the role of chief client officer.

With the failure of the Omnicom-Publicis merger, MSLGroup, which works with top brands such as Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble, retains its status as the sole PR firm in the Publicis empire, a strong position from which to continue to build its global brand.

47. Simon Sproule
VP, communications and marketing, Tesla

Simon Sproule’s new position at Tesla is nearly unique in its potential. Sitting at the intersection of the technology and auto industries, Sproule is leading communications for an automaker that may do more than any other to shape the way consumers get around and the technologies they use to do so.

It won’t always be easy – see opposition from automobile dealers in New Jersey and other states for some examples of hurdles Tesla is facing – and the company will be challenged to demonstrate how its technology works. A controversial 2013 review in which a New York Times journalist did not fully understand its Roadster is a prime example why.

However, Tesla has an ace up its sleeve in CEO Elon Musk, one of the most inspiring innovators in recent memory. There’s no doubt that Sproule’s experience and understanding of the auto and the technology industries – he’s served in top comms roles at Nissan and Microsoft – will be called upon as Tesla makes its unique mark on automobile culture.        

48. Jim Weiss
CEO and chairman, W2O Group

W2O’s mission of "pragmatic disruption of the status quo" has resulted in 13 consecutive years of growth for the independent network founded by Jim Weiss.

Under his leadership, the agency, which deems healthcare and tech as its specialties, has more than doubled its annual revenue in the past five years, growing from $25.8 million in 2009 to $69.7 million in 2013.

Weiss’ wealth of health experience has proved significant in W2O gaining a stronghold in the burgeoning digital health sector.  

After opening a Boston office in March this year, he plans to strengthen W2O’s global footing, establishing strategic partnerships beyond its London hub in Europe, to include Asia and Latin America. 

49. Barby Siegel
CEO, Zeno Group

Barby Siegel’s "fearless" mantra has certainly been working. The 2012 PRWeek PR Professional of the Year led Zeno to its third PRWeek Midsize PR Agency of the Year award in 2013, and with four consecutive years of double-digit revenue growth, the firm is on track to its goal of becoming a $100 million company. 

50. Aedhmar Hynes
CEO, Text100 

In her 14 years at the helm, Aedhmar Hynes has grown Text100 into one of the largest independent tech agencies in the world during a period of intense change in the industry.

New York-based and Ireland-born Hynes has nurtured many deep and long-term relationships with clients such as IBM, Xerox, and Lenovo.

Last year Text100 teamed up with APCO Worldwide to win beleaguered handset manufacturer BlackBerry’s $10 million global PR account.

The win was a massive boon for the agency, which returned to double-digit growth in the North America region in 2013 for the first time since the financial crisis, with its 2013 revenue up 11.6%.

Hynes has been with Text100 for 20-plus years, starting in its London office before relocating to the US. A mother of four, she advocates a blend of family and work life, proving the success of one does not come at the expense of the other.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in