By Mila Osorio and Chris Lopez
Oscar Suris is no stranger to how hard work, determination, and a willing spirit can aid one in defying the odds.
Statistically, few Hispanics and Latinos reach the highest levels of corporations in the United States. This Cuba native, however, has not only headed global communications for a Fortune 100 company but has served C-suites at two other Fortune 100 companies. He currently serves as President of Edelman’s New York operation, overseeing about 800 employees.Oscar’s journey began in Gainesville, Florida. Entering his undergraduate studies in journalism at the University of Florida, Suris eventually shifted to finance during his sophomore year-A decision he acknowledges may come across as strange. His rationale? Oscar was ahead of the game.
After a summer internship following his first year in college, he was given the opportunity to get published with a byline. Already writing for his college’s newspaper, he challenged himself and expanded his horizons by shifting to finance. He went on to become a journalist for the Orlando Sentinel and The Wall Street Journal. His career pivoted from covering finance and business news to public relations, taking an offer at AutoNation Inc. as Director of Corporate Communications. Oscar also held senior roles at Ford Automotive, Wells Fargo, and Edelman’s sibling company, Zeno Group.
His ability to transition across agencies, industries, and positions and apply his various experiences to any situation creates valuable insights transcending industry. Some of his key career themes are as follows:
- Reinvention: “It wasn’t so much inspiration as necessity,” says Suris on his move from journalism to public relations. “I had hoped to become a newspaper publisher.” Formerly in the newsrooms at The Orlando Sentinel and The Wall Street Journal, Oscar was given the opportunity to start a career in Corporate Communications when the publisher for The Miami Herald retired in 1999, as Oscar was serving as his executive assistant. “I never looked back.”
- Societal Acumen: A concept Oscar began speaking about in the wake of the pandemic, Societal Acumen, references the convergence of business and societal issues. “Communicators must understand that societal landscape if they are going to be effective counselors in the face of such challenges.” Suris calls for communications professionals to stay knowledgeable about socio-political issues impacting those in the workforce like climate change, systemic inequalities, and gender issues. “Communications professionals who are not curious about these issues come to the table with serious gaps in their ability to influence and counsel.
- Up for the Challenge: At the beginning of 2022, Suris was appointed President of Edelman New York. He runs a profit-and-loss operation for the first time in his career. Rather than shying away from this new experience, Oscar welcomes it. “I’ve found it invigorating as a challenge because it calls upon me to be more strategic and to draw more from the business acumen I gained over my career.”
While Oscar made a name for himself against all odds and cultivated a decades-long career with prominent themes of growth and innovation, he never left behind the driving force of his efforts: His pride in his Cuban heritage. Instead, Suris carried this integral aspect of himself into the organizations with which he fostered connections. For example, during his years at Wells Fargo, Oscar represented the organization on advisory boards like UnidosUs and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Additionally, he served as chair of one of Ford’s many employee resource groups: Ford Hispanic Network Group (FHNG). When asked about ERGs and their role in the D&I, Oscar said, “They offer support, refuge, and resources to people of difference – things that were not in abundant supply when I began my career.”
Room for Growth:
- Taking Risks: While Oscar acknowledges the industry has made great strides in regard to D&I, he believes more people in leadership positions need to take a chance on diverse hires. “Every hire and promotion involves a leap of faith. Those leaps need to occur more often whenever the opportunity to fill a job or promote someone occurs.”
- Esteem: “The industry needs to see itself as equal with other professional services – Legal, Finance, HR, Government Relations, etc. PR has more influence and power than we recognize.”
When asked what excites him most about the future of PR and communications, Oscar said, “It’s always changing. And it’s highly relevant to our lives and world. We can make a difference, and that’s something most people want in their daily lives. I feel privileged.”
In his advice to those just beginning their careers, Suris kept it sweet and simple: “Read. Be curious. Network. Never hesitate to ask for help.”