PRWeek U.S. honors six giants of the comms industry in its Hall of Fame Class of 2018

Celebrating its sixth year, PRWeek's Hall of Fame recognized six inspiring leaders of communications for their outstanding contributions to the industry.

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Joanne Bischmann, president, Harley-Davidson Foundation, and VP, communications, Harley-Davidson

Joanne Bischmann leads communications for Harley-Davidson and oversees the business aviation and travel and meeting services functions of the iconic American motorcycle manufacturer. She is also president of The Harley-Davidson Foundation, which supports community needs based on education, health, and the environment in places of greatest need where the company has corporate facilities.

Her team shapes stakeholder perceptions and advocates for the company through targeted communication of the Harley-Davidson story globally.

What would you do if you didn’t work in marcomms?

I would be an event producer.

Talk about the last time you experienced a fist-pumping victory moment.

At the completion of Harley-Davidson’s Annual Dealer Meeting in August — the team nailed it. My most memorable moment was when Bruce Springsteen agreed to perform at our 105th anniversary.

When was the last time you endured an "agony of defeat" moment? What did you learn from it?

Waking up to President Donald Trump’s tweets. I had naively thought we had adequately covered off the White House. I learned you can inform the White House, but don’t expect you have covered off President Trump.

How long ago was the last time you recharged your batteries? What did you do?

In early August I spent the week at our lake house in northern Wisconsin with my family. It’s my happy place.

What frustrates you most about working in marketing and communications?

The expectation communications can fix anything.

When have you seen the marketing and communications industry truly shine?

The polarization of today’s society has forced marcomms into navigating unchartered waters and led companies and brands through unexpected challenges.

I am very proud of the way they are stepping up and, more importantly, leaning on each other for best practices and support.

What are your words to live by?

This too shall pass.

Talk about a mentor in your life.

I have many mentors that have helped me professionally, including the amazing CEOs I have worked for, but no one comes close to my mom for supporting me and showing me how to live a happy and productive life as a working mother.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

Eat the cheeseburger, moisturize, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Favorite drink?

LaCroix sparkling water or a gin and tonic.

What three people, alive or dead, would you like to host at a dinner party?

Julia Childs. Her love of food, fantastic personality, and life stories would make her a perfect dinner guest.

Oprah Winfrey. She has a wealth of insights on people and has got to have a million good stories. Plus, she drinks tequila.

Abraham Lincoln. His leadership qualities are unmatched. I’d love to know what he thinks of our political environment.

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Lynn Casey, chair, Padilla

Lynn Casey was the third CEO to lead the former Padilla Speer Beardsley since the agency launched in 1961.

She led the company through the largest acquisition of its history when it combined with CRT/tanaka in September 2013 to form Padilla, as well as several deals since then, culminating in its acquisition by Avenir Global in August, at which point she transitioned to the role of chair.

Casey’s reputation for building, growing, and protecting successful brands comes from her ability to listen, strategize, and shoot straight. She works with Padilla clients around the country and in a variety of industries. 

What would you do if you didn’t work in communications?

I would likely have gone to culinary school, earned my registered dietitian credentials, and started some kind of business in the food world with a charitable component. 

When was the last time you endured an "agony of defeat" moment? What did you learn from it?

Like most firms in competitive markets, we occasionally lose good talent. This year we said goodbye over a matter of weeks to three promising people in the under-30 group. We thought we were doing all the right things to help our employees "grow in place." It turns out we weren’t.

Today, we’re on a more frequent promotion schedule and are also more diligent about finding opportunities for younger staff to gain experience in areas of the company beyond their "home base" practice. 

Talk about the last time you experienced a fist-pumping victory moment.

We made a major talent investment two years ago in an industry segment new to Padilla. I gave it 18 months to bear fruit. It started slowly. Then, almost to the day, we began a relationship with a wonderful client that has become one of our top three.

How long ago was the last time you recharged your batteries? What did you do?

Last March, during an annual scuba diving trip. There’s nothing like a coral reef 100 feet below sea level to clear the mind. 

What do you find frustrating about working in comms?

We still haven’t found a way to help procurement pros understand the lowest-cost provider is rarely the least-expensive option — especially when the stakes are high.

What are your words to live by?

A quote by the scientist Louis Pasteur, passed on by a predecessor many years ago: "Chance favors the prepared mind." Staying curious and open-minded pays dividends, even when you least expect it.

Talk about an important mentor in your life.

Fred Zimmerman, the professor who taught my MBA capstone course in the late ’80s, was a brilliant engineer and entrepreneur. I was the only one in the class with a communication consulting background. When Fred found that out, he dubbed me "the blood-sucking parasite." Hardly a term of endearment, but I got the point.

Ever since, Fred’s words have motivated me to drive Padilla toward achieving results that impact the bottom line. We still get together every year or so. Fortunately, he’s dropped the nickname, but continues to demand a full accounting of how the company has moved the needle for our clients.

What people, alive or dead, would you like to host at a dinner party?

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. They were friends and built places on adjacent lots in Fort Myers, Florida, that are a museum today. I’d have it catered, and that’s where we would dine.

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Harris Diamond, chairman and CEO, McCann Worldgroup

As chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup, Harris Diamond leads one of the most storied creative agencies in history, one much-referenced on TV’s Mad Men.

He’s one of those rare PR pros who transitioned to the world of advertising and now oversees over 20,000 employees in more than 100 countries, working for global corporations including Coca-Cola, General Motors, L´Oréal, Mastercard, Microsoft, Nestlé, and Reckitt Benckiser.

Prior to joining McCann in 2012, Diamond was CEO of Weber Shandwick, which was formed in 2001 following the combination of BSMG Worldwide (which was acquired by Interpublic in 2001), where he was a founding partner and CEO, and Interpublic Group’s Weber Shandwick.

What would you do if you didn’t work in marcomms?

I would probably be unemployed. But honestly, public service. 

Talk about the last time you experienced a fist-pumping victory moment.

Pretty much every month. It’s a business that has fist-pumping moments all the time, tremendous highs along with tremendous lows. 

When was the last time you endured an "agony of defeat" moment? What did you learn from it?

I take all losses personally. I do much better when we win.

What did you do last time you recharged your batteries?

Riding my bike through the Rockies, New England, and across Europe. It’s a great way to recharge.

What do you find frustrating about working in marcomms?

This is a resilient and adaptable business and works best when clients utilize all of our services so our campaigns can perform to their potential in the marketplace. It’s frustrating when they don’t.

When have you seen the marcomms industry truly shine?

Fearless Girl and Immunity Charm for the Public Health Ministry of Afghanistan are two of the most recent pieces we’ve created that I am most proud of. Also, any effort where the work we do impacts social discourse, drives culture, and helps sell our clients’ products.

What are your words to live by?

I like McCann to win.

Talk about an important mentor in your life.

Chuck Peebler, who was the chairman and CEO of Bozell. Chuck bought my business, promoted me into his, and taught me the way to grow a business is to invest in the people, not the entity.

Business investment to him was not financial — it was spending the time to find and work with the people you would be proud to partner with, who have the same goals and drive, and who share the intellectual rigor and a long-term focus. He believed if you got the people right, you couldn’t be stopped.

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Rochelle Ford, dean and professor, School of Communications, Elon University

Rochelle Ford became dean of the School of Communications at Elon University this year after a long and storied career at Syracuse and Howard Universities.

She was chair and a tenured professor in the PR department of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, as well as provost faculty fellow. Under Ford’s leadership, the S.I. Newhouse PR department won PRWeek’s Education Program of the Year award for two consecutive years.

Prior to that, she spent 16 years in the School of Communications at Howard University in Washington, DC.

What would you do if you didn’t work in education?

Full-time missionary or flight attendant — either way I get to travel and help people. 

When was the last time you endured an "agony of defeat" moment? What did you learn from it?

When I didn’t become dean of the School of Communications at Howard University. I learned how to fall forward, and how important it is to complete each step of the academic chain.

I worked on my scholarship more, earned full professor, worked in Howard’s Office of the Provost, and left to become the chair of Newhouse. Had I become dean at Howard, I probably wouldn’t have left to lead the nation’s top PR program at Newhouse, designed a center of academic excellence at Howard, or become the dean of the School of Communications at Elon University. 

Talk about your last fist-pumping victory moment.

When my Newhouse public relations team was recognized for the PRWeek Education Program of the Year back to back in 2016 and 2017.

How long ago was the last time you recharged your batteries? What did you do?

After dropping my kids off to college and kicking off the academic year at Elon, I did nothing but yoga, sleep, eat, pray, and go to church. I did not think, do any homework, or travel. I rested my body, mind, and spirit all from the comfort of my new North Carolina home.

Favorite drink?

Thai iced tea.

What frustrates you about working in marcomms?

Many in the industry do not financially support higher education, nor do they pay interns.

When have you seen the industry truly shine?

Supporting causes such as Black Lives Matter, Love Has No Labels, and March For Our Lives.

Talk about an important mentor in your life.

Dr. Barbara Hines. This blond, blue-eyed Texas Longhorns fan is my Howard University mom. She has coached, advised, encouraged, cried with me, celebrated me, and made me smile. I wouldn’t be the scholar and professional I am without her. Her ethics, integrity, multicultural and intergenerational understanding, work ethic, and positive attitude demonstrate what a PR educator is supposed to be.

What are your words to live by?

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

What three people, alive or dead, would you host at a dinner party?

Harriet Tubman. She was amazing, heroic, and I want to hear her story from her own voice.

Denzel Washington. He’s a talented, cute actor who signed my college boyfriend’s paper when he visited Howard, and I want to say thank you.

Pop pop Tillery, my paternal grandfather. I miss him and have so many things I want to ask him.

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John Graham, chairman, FleishmanHillard

John Graham joined FleishmanHillard in 1966. He was elected VP, director, and senior partner in 1970; was elected president and CEO in 1974; and was named chairman in 1988.

During the period he was chairman and CEO, the firm grew from a single office to more than 80 around the world, making it one of the largest in the world today.

During his career, he has personally worked in nearly all aspects of PR, including public affairs, financial strategy, corporate strategy, investor relations, crisis situations, and employee relations.

He is widely regarded as one of the top crisis communications professionals in the industry and still personally counsels CEOs of many Fortune 100 companies. 

Talk about the last time you experienced a fist-pumping victory moment.

Several years ago I was introduced by the CEO of a major financial service firm, which was a client, to some of his friends at a private reception at the World Economic Forum as "the most persistent PR man you will ever meet." He told the group "to get our business he not only had two of our largest clients call me to recommend we hire his firm, he also had my father, whom he knew, call me with a similar recommendation." Then he added "he has a very good PR agency as well, and they do a great job." 

When was the last time you endured an "agony of defeat" moment? What did you learn from it?

When I got turned down by a high-tech firm we had been trying to acquire for over a year. I felt it would have made a perfect fit for FleishmanHillard both in terms of culture and capabilities. The issue was not price. It was just not ready to be a part of a large organization.

Eight months after we agreed not to pursue it further, the acquisition was completed and it has been a great partner for many years. I learned sometimes the time is not right and you have to be patient for good things to happen. 

What would you do if you didn’t work in marcomms?

I would be a high school or college track coach. When I was competing in track both at the high school and college level, I had the benefit of two outstanding coaches who played important roles in my development not only as an athlete, but also as an individual.

How long ago was the last time you recharged your batteries?

This past summer, my wife and I took two months off to hike and fish in the Teton mountains in Wyoming.

Talk about an important mentor.

I was very fortunate in that when I joined FleishmanHillard, we only had 10 employees, so I had the opportunity to work closely with and be mentored by both our founders: Al Fleishman and Bob Hillard.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

Be patient, be kind, work hard, and stay committed to your dreams and goals.

Favorite drink?

Bud Light.

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Dave Samson, GM, public affairs, Chevron

Dave Samson has been GM of public affairs at leading global energy behemoth and Fortune 500 company Chevron since 2004.

His team is responsible for Chevron's comms strategies and activities, including digital and social engagement, media relations, employee engagement, executive comms, issues management, and litigation comms. Samson’s team is also responsible for corporate branding, advertising, research, and analytics.

He joined Chevron from Oracle, where he was VP of international comms.

What would you do if you didn’t work in marcomms?

I would own a ranch in the Colorado Rockies and write mystery novels. That still may happen one day.

Talk about your last fist-pumping victory moment.

When PRWeek VP/editorial director Steve Barrett informed me of this terrific honor. 

When was the last time you endured an "agony of defeat" moment? What did you learn from it?

Earlier this year when a close colleague lost her battle with cancer. She taught me what matters most and the importance of always keeping perspective.

How long ago was the last time you recharged your batteries? What did you do?

While I often joke vacation is the window I look out of when I work, I do take time to get a break with my family, though not as much as they would like.

Because I grew up in Colorado, I am a mountain man, while my wife and daughter are island girls. As a result, our vacations are often spent in Hawaii or Lake Tahoe, California.

Our most recent vacation was to Kauai, Hawaii. We got lucky and beat Hurricane Lane by a week. 

What do you find frustrating about working in marcomms?

I seldom get frustrated over work. Life is too short and I love what I do.

When have you seen the marketing and comms industry truly shine?

I see it shine every day, but I am most inspired by those who apply these skills to make people’s lives better.

What are your words to live by?

Never take yourself too seriously.

Talk about an important mentor in your life.

I have two. One is a gentleman named Don Ferguson, who is now retired. Don helped me get my first job by introducing me to one of his closest advisers who ran a small Denver-based PR firm. Don later became my boss. He is one of the most generous and decent people I know.

My other mentor is John Onoda. He has been my friend and mentor for nearly three decades. His wisdom is second to none.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

Don’t worry about what lies ahead. You will be blessed.

Favorite drink?

Iced tea most days. A good Manhattan every so often.

What three people, alive or dead, would you like to host at a dinner party and why?

I would have two dinner parties. The first would be with Neil Armstrong, Amelia Earhart, and Winston Churchill, reminiscing about how each had changed the course of history. The second would be with Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg to talk about what the heck is going on in big tech and how they intend to change the course of history.

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