Chris LaPlaca, a 40-year veteran of ESPN, was named SVP, corporate communications, at the sports broadcaster in June 2008.
He is responsible for worldwide internal, public and media relations strategies, including consumer, corporate and employee communications for ESPN’s 50 business units. He also oversees the day-to-day working relationship with parent company Walt Disney’s corporate comms group.
LaPlaca received a BA in journalism and mass communication from St. Bonaventure University in 1979, and remains active in support of the University’s Russell J. Jandoli School of Communications. He gave an inspiring and passionate keynote commencement speech to the 2017 graduates.
What would your advice be for a young person entering PR in 2020?
Be curious and know the career you’ve chosen, done with purpose and driven by integrity, can make a difference. Commit to learning something new every day. Evolution is massively important.
What role should the industry play in combating COVID-19 and racial injustice?
It’s already leading, because companies are playing a larger role than ever in societal issues — and because CCOs are out front in helping brands smartly navigate.
How are the founding principles of PR relevant in today’s fast-moving and febrile comms environment?
Preparing for and confronting issues at warp speed means we all need to quickly find the best intersection of “fast” and “right.” “Right” should drive, but “fast” needs to be in the front seat. Responsible, smart, contextual advocacy starts with facts, and understanding how to punch through in a polarized world where facts are increasingly rare.
We hear a lot about cord cutting — what is the future for pay TV cable services?
The industry is certainly undergoing tremendous disruption, but strong brands will continue to thrive.
What keeps you excited about working in PR?
Every day is different. And the smart and curious and passionate people I work with are a tremendous source of energy for me.
How do you relax?
Daily exercise, reading, playing drums, trying to make my teenage daughters laugh without embarrassing them.
Favorite sports team?
I have two. The Boston Red Sox and the Thunder, my daughter’s travel soccer team.
A nice Sicilian Nero d’Avola. Planeta is my favorite; reminds me of family.
This will age me, but I don’t care. Led Zeppelin and The Doobie Brothers. Classic rock is my go to, and what I play when I bang my drum set.
Which three people, living or dead, would you like to host at a dinner party?
All trailblazers: my long-deceased grandfather, Giuseppe, the only brother to leave Sicily and start a new life in America. I was a young boy when he died and I am close with my family in Sicily; I have so many questions to ask him. Jackie Robinson. Paul McCartney.