I had the special privilege to introduce a long-time friend and PR legend, Ann Barkelew, at this week’s Plank Center “Milestones in Mentorship Awards” in Chicago. Following are excerpts from my remarks about this amazing woman:
“Mutual friend and former Target CMO Bob Thacker sums it up best when he says: ‘Ann is what every brand wishes they were if they came to life.’
“Ann’s personal brand was built during a career that spans teaching, government, corporate and agency positions where her cool, calm and collected style gained her the respect and admiration of co-workers, bosses and friends.
“Beginning her career as a popular high school English and journalism teacher in the Midwest, Ann eventually was discovered by the Los Angeles County Office of Education and she helped them through many thorny issues. Based on her effective handling of school closings in California, Ann was recruited to the top PR job at Munsingwear to help the underwear and shirt maker communicate the closing of several unprofitable plants.
“It didn’t take long before Ann was discovered by Dayton Hudson Corporation, now Target. During her dozen years as Dayton Hudson’s vice president of corporate public relations, Ann took a new head of PR at Sears (me) under her wing. Rather than viewing him as a competitor, Ann freely offered wise counsel about the nuances of retail public relations. She shared contacts and opened doors that helped him greatly during his 10 event-filled years in retailing. And for that, Ann, I will be forever grateful.
“From Dayton Hudson, Ann moved to Fleishman Hillard where she opened the agency’s Minneapolis office which further expanded her mentoring palate.
“Maril MacDonald says Ann is as smart and as generous as she is elegant. No one will argue with Maril when she says that just like Betsy, Ann is a Grand Dame of our industry.
“Ann’s ‘giant wing span’—as Fleishman colleague Rich Jernstedt describes it—is wide enough for hundreds of family, friends and colleagues. Rich says Ann’s never-ending list of interests, community commitments and accomplishments might suggest her clock has more than 24 hours—another characteristic of great mentors.”