40 Under 40: The diverse faces of the next generation of PR leaders

PRWeek’s most popular honorific program increases in significance year after year because it holds up a mirror to the values shaping a profession that has never been more important.

40 Under 40 honorees Pam Goldstein, Xochitl Hinojosa, Domonique James, Justin Knighten and Dreena Whitfield all cut their teeth in politics.
40 Under 40 honorees Pam Goldstein, Xochitl Hinojosa, Domonique James, Justin Knighten and Dreena Whitfield all cut their teeth in politics.

The inspirational individuals on this year’s PRWeek 40 Under 40 list represent a fantastic bellwether for the future of the PR industry.

Not for nothing is it the most trafficked piece of content we produce on an annual basis. It is one of my favorite PRWeek brand extensions. But it’s also bittersweet because frankly we could easily have chosen 200 PR pros for this list, such is the talent and quality contained in the submissions of those who don't make the final 40.

It bodes well for the industry and this talented, diverse group of PR professionals are the next wave of leaders. One of them — IHOP's Candice Jacobson – has already graduated to the annual PRWeek Power List, published earlier this month.

As with the Power List, there are several 40 Under 40 honorees who cut their teeth in politics and are now deploying those skills of agility and street smarts on behalf of brands, corporations and agencies, including McDonald’s Pam Goldstein, Bully Pulpit Interactive’s Xochitl Hinojosa, Politics with Purpose’s Domonique James and WhitPR’s Dreena Whitfield.

Other themes I noticed as I reviewed the profiles of each of these inspirational communicators paint a picture of the modern PR pro: yoga, health and wellbeing, fitness and martial arts, giving back, sending the elevator back down for younger generations and an authentic commitment to diversity that goes way behind talking the talk and well into walking the walk.

This next cohort of leaders is not going to accept the status quo that perpetuates inequality in any context. They are passionate about what they do, but also about ensuring that they, and everyone they encounter, lives a fulfilled life brimming with opportunity. They are already superb mentors and role models. They are curious and inquisitive about the world around them and ardent travelers.

What they are definitely not are smile and dial merchants, spin doctors or purveyors of dark arts intent on peddling disinformation and conspiracies. They are change-makers determined to communicate in an authentic manner that leads to positive changes in behavior and real business results on behalf of the brands, organizations and corporations for which they work.

With the world now placing its faith in business to step up and fill the trust gap, lead on social issues and provide a work environment employees can buy into and believe in, the PRWeek 40 Under 40 2021 honorees are exactly the cohort of inspirational leaders we need if the profession is to help CEOs and C-suites deliver on these difficult agendas.

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