Corporate and crisis PR veteran Tom Donahue dead at 58

Donahue worked at Porter Novelli, Delta Air Lines, and Ogilvy.

Tom Donahue
Tom Donahue

ARLINGTON, VA: Tom Donahue, whose career spanned 35 years in PR with a specialty in corporate and crisis communications, has died at the age of 58.

Porter Novelli CEO Brad MacAfee, who worked with Donahue on two separate occasions when he headed Porter’s corporate reputation practice, said he was "a great colleague who would spend hours during a week coaching and mentoring others."

MacAfee said Donahue always remained calm while helping clients navigate some of the most challenging issues and situations.

"When others might cringe when there was a phone call at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday, [Donahue] lit up seeing an opportunity to help a client potentially avoid bad news," said MacAfee. "And personally, [Donahue] was a good person, a good father and more than a colleague. For those who knew him, it was great simply to call him a friend."

His other contributions to the industry include leading internal corporate comms teams for Delta Air Lines and CompuCredit and heading up Matlock Advertising and Public Relations’ corporate affairs practice, along with his two stints leading Porter’s crisis and corporate reputation practice. He also spent four years as a VP at Ogilvy.

Donahue began his career as an aide to Senator Ted Kennedy immediately after graduating Fairfield University in 1983 with a degree in politics.

He founded Donahue & Associates in 2003, a firm he led for seven years before going back to Porter Novelli. In 2016, he founded his own consultancy, Donahue Global Services, which advised clients on his PR strengths: crisis preparedness, crisis management, corporate communications, and brand reputation.

Donahue died March 11. He is survived by his three daughters, Erin, Megan, and Mary Clare, his father, stepmother, sister, brother-in-law, and nieces and nephews.

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