PRWeek published its first Power List in 2007. Seven years may not seem like a long time, but in terms of the evolution of what is being accomplished by those at the leading edge of the industry, it is light years.
Jon Iwata, for example, was named on the inaugural list because he "took control of IBM’s corporate intranet, which had languished in the IT function previously."
Fast-forward seven years and Iwata and IBM are leveraging messaging around the company’s technology that will tackle enormous issues including crime prevention. He was also an early champion of the idea that transparency and authenticity are integral to business success, an idea that is repeated in every C-suite around the globe today.
Back in 2007, when we only named 25 power players, this year’s number 20, Tony Cervone did not make the list, rather he received emerging power player status.
In 2014, Toyota North America CCO Julie Hamp refers to him as the "Yoda of PR" and "one of the quickest minds in the room." He shares a trait common with many power players – they never run from a challenge and, often, run right at it. Cervone returned to GM this May while it was in the thick of a recall and an avalanche of bad press.
Similarly, Maggie FitzPatrick (#28), former Cigna CCO, joined Johnson & Johnson as the brand was recovering from a spate of challenges ranging from recalls of over-the-counter drugs to lawsuits over a defective artificial hip model. Kelli Parsons (#31) joined Fannie Mae in the midst of the financial crisis in 2010 and has since helped the organization shape a more positive message.
One of the things many of this year’s power players are noted for is their willingness to mentor associates and, often times, students – from LinkedIn’s Shannon Stubo (#18) to Weber Shandwick’s Andy Polansky (#12), who Harris Diamond called "a role model for everyone who works with him."
Polansky, along with Lagrant Communications’ Kim Hunter (#38) and Cargill’s Mike Fernandez (#30) are also to be credited for ensuring that the lack of diversity in the PR industry remains high on the list of issues that must be addressed by all communications pros.
With this group of 50 guiding the next generation, there is no telling how high the bar will be set in the next seven years.
Bernadette Casey is executive editor of PRWeek. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.