Renee Wilson became president of the PR Council last month after a long career in a variety of agency roles–most recently as chief client officer at MSLGroup. In this Career Capsule Renee Wilson discusses her early jobs and how they influenced her career.
Before I even knew what public relations was, I was seeking out activities that would shape my future career choice. I guess you could say that PR is in my DNA. As president of my high school class and editor of the school newspaper, I learned that I enjoyed being an organizer, a communicator and tackling important issues. A watershed moment came when I wrote an editorial in the paper about the school’s plans to move the bake sale to a low traffic area. That would simply not stand on my watch! (We won. Crisis averted). I was also fortunate to have a guidance counselor savvy enough to recommend public relations as a possible career.
In college, I was Secretary for Rutgers University’s PRSSA chapter, wrote for the school paper, and was inspired by a great professor, Todd Hunt, who opened my eyes to working at an agency.
Perhaps the most PR-based thing I did in college was serving as President and Rush Chair for my sorority. I realize now that what we were doing was really conducting an ongoing PR campaign. We were “selling” the sorority’s brand to recruits; we did extensive work in the community and supported an important cause through service and fundraising, all which contributed to enhancing the sorority’s reputation.
At that point I knew I wanted to work in public relations, and I was 100% focused on getting a job at a Manhattan PR agency – so much so that in my senior year I moved my classes to night so I could intern at Hill & Knowlton, New York during the day.
My first full time job was at Ketchum where I split time between account work and office secretary. (When you start on the bottom rung of the ladder, you appreciate the climb that much more.) After a couple quick stops, I landed at Hill & Knowlton, where I was assigned to London for four years. I can’t say enough about working internationally. It’s such an amazing professional experience. Today I would advise young people if they have an opportunity to work abroad, do it, especially if it’s in Asia where the growth in the PR industry has been spectacular.
Once back in the States I moved over to MSLGroup where I ran the firm’s Procter & Gamble portfolio for nine years. It’s a real bonus when your core values are aligned with your work, and working with P & G and its practice of purpose-driven communications provided that for me.
I’m a strong advocate of paying it forward and finding purpose in the things we do. I sit on the advisory Council of the Young Women’s Leadership Network Schools, which provides a single-sex educational choice for predominantly low-income students who will be the first in their families to attend college. Working with this group is extremely rewarding.
In January I began serving as president of the PR Council, the U.S. trade association for public relations firms. This job appealed to me for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is purposeful work. I believe strongly in this discipline and the great work being done by our firms. I want to help companies and clients understand the power of PR. As an industry body, we also have an obligation to find ways to make our profession more diverse. This is a great business, and it can provide someone with a fulfilling career. I would like to see more people from different ethnicities have an opportunity to experience it, and importantly, to help make our industry stronger and even more powerful.
-Ketchum (3 years)
-Pollock Communications (2 year)
-Fleishman Hillard (1 year)
-Hill & Knowlton (7 years)
Director, Marketing Communications Practice; Global Food and Beverage Leader
Director, UK Lifestyle Marketing Division
-MSLGroup (12 years)
Global Chief Client Officer
President, North America
President, Northeast Hub; Global Director, P&G
Managing Director, New York
Deputy Director, New York | US Director, P&G
Director, Strategic Services and Innovation; P&G Household Care Unit Leader
* Served as president of the 2014 PR jury for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity (a career highlight) as well as on the 2011 PR Jury.
–PR Council (2016 – Present)