Chicago is No ‘Second City’ When it Comes to PR


Chicago was the epicenter of public relations last week with five major events and announcements.

Bright and early on Thursday, some 25 educators and PR leaders gathered for the first meeting of Plank Partners. The new Plank Center affiliate brings together like-minded individuals who want to make a difference and help empower and advance emerging leaders (Plank’s mission).

“Being a Plank Partner is like being on a board without the responsibilities. No required meetings or duties,” explained Karla Gower, the Center’s director. “People can contribute as much or as little as they want and have time for. They are ambassadors for Plank.”

Next, the Plank Center and Bill Imada’s IW Group hosted a hospitality suite for more than 40 students who engaged in a half day of interactive and fun exercises focused on DEI and networking.

The Plank Center’s Emerging Leaders DEI Summit Thursday afternoon was attended by more than 200 students, educators and PR professionals, who discussed establishing climates of inclusion, belonging and community in their work lives. Challenges, as well as success stories, were shared, and breakout sessions provided opportunities for in-depth discussion and networking.

The busy day was capped off by the Plank Center’s 12th annual “Milestones in Mentoring” Awards Gala.

Viewed as the “PR party of the year,” the six influential individuals honored with 2023 awards were:


  • Maril MacDonald, founder & CEO, Gagen MacDonald, Betsy Plank Award
  • Patrice Tanaka, chief joy officer, Joyful Planet LLC, Legacy Award
  • Jennifer Temple, executive vice president, chief communications officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, John “Jack” Koten Corporate Award
  • Mike Doyle, president & CEO, Ketchum, Agency Award
  • Dr. Alisa Agozzino, associate professor of public relations, Ohio Northern University, Bruce K. Berger Educator Award
  • D’Anthony Jackson, vice president, director of strategy, Ogilvy, Emerging Leader Award

On Friday, The Commission on Public Relations Education celebrated its 50th anniversary by saluting its dedicated volunteers and launching an important new report providing insights for educators and practitioners who are working to advance the PR profession through education.

One of those extraordinary volunteers, Maria P. Russell, Ph.D., was applauded for her years of passionate commitment to the Commission.

The big announcement coming out of the Commission anniversary program was publication of the 50th Anniversary Report – Navigating Change: Recommendations for Advancing Undergraduate Public Relations Education. This is a must-read for educators and professionals who are teaching and hiring students and aspiring young professionals.

The report is the result of intensive collaboration between PR practitioners and educators is vital to the profession’s continuing development. Thanks for leading the way Maria Russell, Elizabeth Toth, Pamela Bourland-Davis, Jim Weiss, David Grossman and Gary McCormick, and many others.

Noting her review of previous Commission reports dating back to 1973, Dr. Toth expressed what many in the room were thinking: “What I come away with is how in the beginning, we were scratching and clawing for legitimacy, reputation, and acceptance by universities. Today, we see in the 2023 Report that public relations education is an accepted part of universities and that our expectations are higher than ever for what we (public relations education) want(s) to achieve.”

Finally, last week also saw the announcement of a new organization exclusively dedicated to the needs of Chicago’s senior-level communications and PR professionals, Communication Leaders of Chicago.

The group informally began 20 years ago by getting together once a year for a holiday-time reception honoring a fellow senior leader. The group operated for the past several years under the umbrella of PRSA Chicago, but recently decided to create its own organization to provide programs that address issues facing senior-level professionals.

The new organization begins with nearly 200 invited members, who will participate in a variety of activities, including networking events, webinars and other programs on issues facing senior leaders.

The Communication Leaders of Chicago honoree at the Nov. 29 invitation-only reception is Julian Green, Senior Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs for the Chicago Cubs.

Another important event is on tap this week as the National Millennial Community visits Chicago, allowing a diverse group of students from around the country to meet with executives from several Chicago corporations. DePaul University’s award-winning PRSSA chapter will participate in the program as well as host a networking session for the group.

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