Martha Boudreau, Hall of Fame 2019

EVP and chief communications and marketing officer, AARP

Martha Boudreau is a long-standing leader in the Washington, DC, communications scene, having worked at top-five global PR firm FleishmanHillard for more than 17 years, latterly as president of the mid-Atlantic region and Latin America.

Boudreau departed Fleishman and joined AARP in 2014, where she leads the integrated communications and marketing function, providing leadership and strategic direction for overall awareness and brand positioning of the organization that advocates for adults older than 50 in the U.S.

What would your advice be for a young person entering PR in 2020?
Do not shy away from hard work. Learn from everyone around you — those who are more senior as well as junior. Learning from a variety of perspectives is the foundation of sound counsel.

Prioritize excellent writing because it’s essential for communicating clearly and effectively no matter the channel or the platform. Find an organization that shares your values and has a strong ethical underpinning. Get involved in professional organizations and events to drive your learning, expand your network and contribute to the profession.

PR is constantly changing, but it feels like we’re at a fundamental tipping point — what role should the industry play in government, society and business?
Public relations is an integral function within government, business and all public-facing organizations. However, gone are the days when access to information was the imperative.

Now there is so much information that determining the source and veracity is a priority for the public. Trust in institutions is low and the very fabric of our democracy is fraying based on the public’s skepticism about how to determine the "truth." Our industry must double down on its commitment to ethical standards.

How are the founding principles of PR relevant in today’s fast-moving and febrile communications environment?
Transparency, truth, access and responsibility to the public. In the midst of change and upheaval, these principles stand the test of time.

What keeps you excited about working in the PR industry?
The fast pace of change in technology and modes of communication requires agility and a deep well of intellectual curiosity to do our fundamental job: communicate clearly and effectively. I enjoy the dynamic nature of the profession, and the challenge of it requires expertise in specific channels, but more importantly it requires a mindset that embraces change and the courage to let go of what no longer works.

What is the biggest misconception about "older people"?
The biggest misconception is that "older people" are one single cohort. With 110 million people over the age of 50 and with 85-plus being the fastest-growing age group in the U.S., people are living longer, healthier and more vibrant lives than ever.

Thirty percent of people 65-plus are working, so the traditional notion of retirement hardly exists anymore. More than 80% of U.S. household wealth is controlled by people older than 50. The truth about "older people" is they are working, traveling, entertaining, socializing, using technology, consuming media and pursuing their dreams later into life than at any other time in history.

A better question might be, "Does old age exist anymore?" I think the answer is no.

How do you relax?
My go-to place is walking on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay with my Corgi and Shetland Sheepdog. However, in August you’ll find me relaxing on the north shore of Lake Erie sailing my Sunfish.

Favorite drink?
A good Cabernet Sauvignon unless it’s August, at which point I switch to margaritas.

Favorite band and album?
If I have to pick, I’d say at the top of the list would be Eric Clapton’s Slowhand along with Zac Brown’s You Get What You Give.

Which three people, living or dead, would you like to host at a dinner party?
Madeleine Albright, Abraham Lincoln, Rachel Carson.


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