Public Relations Leadership Forum – Chicago

Register Here

Co-sponsored by the Arthur W. Page Society, the Institute for Public Relations and the PR Council, the Public Relations Leadership Forum is an intense two-day seminar for high-performing, mid-career communications managers at Global 1000 companies and public relations firms.  The Leadership Forum’s major objective is to develop outstanding future leaders of public relations and communications, and to provide networking opportunities where upwardly mobile professionals can learn from national leaders in the field and from each other.

The event begins at noon on Wednesday, May 3 and concludes by 2:45 p.m., Thursday, May 4. To enhance discussion, networking opportunities and learning exchange, the event will be restricted to 30 registrants.

The all inclusive registration fee of $1,950 includes tuition, an extensive set of seminar materials, a welcome networking reception and dinner Wednesday evening, plus lunch on Wednesday and breakfast and lunch on Thursday.  Individual participants are responsible for their travel to Chicago and for hotel lodging.

All Public Relations Leadership Forum cancellations must be made in writing and are subject to cancellation charges. This policy is necessitated by the limited enrollment restrictions placed upon the size of each Leadership Forum session. Although refunds will not be available for cancellations after April 22, 2017 organizations will be permitted to send a qualified substitute.

For two or more attendees, please contact Jenn Moyer for a discounted rate at (+1) 352-392-0280 or

Who Attends?

Each year the Public Relations Leadership Forum attracts some of the brightest and best developing leaders in public relations and corporate communications. Representatives of the following organizations have attended previous Leadership Forums.

Public Relations Firms: 360 Public Relations LLC, Airfoil PR, APCO Worldwide, Behan Communications, Biosector 2 – CCC, BlissPR, Brunswick Group, Burson-Marsteller, Capstrat, Chandler Chico, CJP Communications, Cohn & Wolfe, Cooper Katz, CRT/Tanaka, Davies Public Affairs, Dix & Eaton, dna13, Eastwick Communications, Edelman, Edward Howard & Company, Environics Communications, FleishmanHillard, Gagen MacDonald, Gibbs & Soell, Golin, Hill & Knowlton, Ketchum, Linhart McClain Finlon, Manning Selvage & Lee, M Booth & Associates, Makovsky & Company, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, Padilla, Peppercomm, Porter Novelli, The Powell Group, Prosek Partners, Purple Strategies, rbb Public Relations, Revive Public Relations, RF|Binder, Toni Torres PR, Spectrum Science Communications, SunStar, Text100, Trone Public Relations, Tunheim Partners, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, Weber Shandwick and Weisscomm Partners.

Corporations & Other Organizations: Abbott Laboratories, Allstate Insurance Company, Alticor, American Red Cross, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Arco Brands, ArvinMeritor, AT&T, Avery Dennison, AXA Equitable, Bank of New York Mellon, Baxter International, Best Buy, BP America, Capital One, Cargill, Charles Schwab, ConAgra Foods, Cordis Corporation, Corning Incorporated, Covidien, Delta Air Lines, Digital Platform, Discover Financial Services, Discovery Networks Central Europe, Duke Energy, Edward Jones, Entergy, Ernst & Young, Exelis Geospatial Systems, Exelon, Fannie Mae, FedEx, Fidelity Investments, Frito-Lay, The Gap, General Electric, General Motors, Genomic Health, GM Healthcare, Harley-Davidson, Hartford, Hess Corporation, Heineken, Honeywell, Humana, IBM, Ingersoll Rand, Irvine Company, ITT Industries, Johnson Controls, Johnson & Johnson, Kaiser Permanente, Kraft Foods, Lockheed Martin, Lundbeck, Mars, Inc., McKesson Corporation, MetLife, Mosaic, Nationwide, Navistar, Nextel, Northwestern Mutual, Oneok, Otterbox, Pearson, PepsiCo, PG&E, Phillips 66, Praxair, Prudential Financial, Public Service Electric & Gas Company, Quaker Oats, SAIC, Siemens, SAS, Shell Oil Company, State Farm, St. Paul Travelers, Texas Instruments, Sunoco, Symantec, Tellabs, Tennessee Valley Authority Unisys Corporation, United Nations Foundations, United Technologies, UPS, USAA, USG Corporation, Waste Management, WCG, Wieck Media and Wyeth.

Registration Includes

The all inclusive registration fee of $1,950 includes tuition, an extensive set of seminar materials, a welcome networking reception and dinner Wednesday evening, plus breakfast and lunch on Thursday. Individual participants are responsible for their travel to Chicago and for hotel lodging.

Group discounts are available. Please contact Jenn Moyer at or (+1) 352-392-0280

Program Schedule

Wednesday, May 3

11:45 a.m. – Registration and Networking Lunch

12:15 p.m. – Welcome and Introductions

12:45 p.m. – 2 p.m. – Enhancing the Role of Communications in the C-Suite: How to Effectively Integrate What We Do With Other Corporate Functions presented by Jim Spangler, Vice President & Chief Communications Officer, Navistar, Inc.

2:15 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. – Gaining Influence in Public Relations and Corporate Communications: The Strategic Role of Leadership presented by Bruce Berger, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of Alabama and Director, The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations

3:30 p.m. – Networking Break and Visit to the Golin Bridge (a connected network of newsrooms in more than a dozen languages across five continents)

3:45 – 5:00 p.m. – Opportunities & Challenges Building a Diverse & Inclusive Communications Workforce featuring a panel moderated by Renee Wilson, President & CEO, PR Council. Panelists include Glenn Eden, Executive Vice President, Weber Shandwick, Mike Fernandez, CEO, U.S., Burson-Marsteller, Soon Mee Kim, Executive VP/Global Diversity and Inclusion Leader, Porter Novelli, and Kristena Lucky, Senior Vice President, Edelman.

5:15 p.m. – Offsite Reception and Dinner at Mike Ditka’s Chicago at 100 East Chestnut Street.

Thursday, May 4

8:30 a.m. – Networking Breakfast

9 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.– Unconventional Career Advice From a PR Agency CEO presented by 
Fred Cook, CEO, Golin and Head, Annenberg’s Strategic Communication and
 Public Relations Center, University of Southern California

10:15 a.m. – Networking Break

10:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. – Employee Engagement and Organizational Success presented by Maria Gemskie, Consultant, Gagen MacDonald and Greg Carlisle, Consultant, Gagen MacDonald

12:15 p.m. – 1:25 p.m. – How McDonald’s Effectively Introduced All-Day-Breakfast: A Case Study Report on PR Week’s 2017 Campaign of the Year  Katherine Wojtecki, Executive Bridge Director, Golin and Josh Rangel, Digital Director, Golin

1:15 p.m. – Stretch Break

1:25 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. – How to Effectively Lead Today’s Modern Corporate Communications Function Stacy Sharpe, Senior Vice President, Strategic and Consumer Corporate Communications, Allstate

2:30 p.m. – Closing Comments and Adjournment

Note: The Public Relations Leadership Forum will conclude no later than 2:45pm, Thursday, May 4

Instructional Team

Bruce Berger recently retired as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama where he also served as Director Emeritus of The Betsy Plank Center for Public Relations Studies in the College. Widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts on the topic of leadership in public relations and corporate communications, Dr. Berger earned his Ph.D. in Communication in 1999 at the University of Kentucky. Prior to entering academia, Professor Berger was a public relations professional and executive for 20 years including 14 years with the Upjohn Company and six years as the senior public relations officer with Whirlpool Corporation. Dr. Berger’s leadership in innovative employee communications programs have received considerable national recognition including the Big Apple Award from the PRSA New York Chapter and a PRSA Certificate of Commendation, for the company’s employee communication initiatives. He also is the recipient of an Inside Public Relations All-Star Award for communication leadership and development of The Whirlpool Management Journal. Dr. Berger is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society and has been extremely active in various other professional organizations including the Institute for Public Relations, PRSA and several academic societies. He also serves on the editorial review boards of several leading academic journals.

Greg Carlisle is a consultant at Gagen MacDonald. is an award-winning communications professional with more than two decades  of experience helping companies develop creative and impactful internal and external communication strategies to motivate employees, execute strategy and drive change. Greg is a firm believer in linking all marketing and communication activities to business objectives. His broad expertise includes both  development and execution in branding, employee communications, public relations, event planning  and digital marketing. At Gagen MacDonald, Greg has led organizational transformation engagements that focus on creating aligned and effective leadership teams, and engaged and motivated employees for clients including Pfizer, Phillips 66, USAA , Praxair, and DuPont. Prior to joining Gagen MacDonald, Greg was VP of Marketing and Communications for Hudson Highland Group, Inc., a global staffing and recruiting firm with operations in more than 25 countries.

Fred Cook is Chairman of Golin and Director and Professor of the Strategic Public Relations Center at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. He has been with Golin since 1986. Fred architected the agency’s new model, g4, which integrates strategy, creativity and engagement into one seamless package that is delivered to clients. He is also committed to ensuring that GH provides a rewarding, challenging career for the best PR professionals in the business. During his tenure at Golin, Fred has managed strategic planning and brand marketing campaigns for companies such as Nintendo of America, Visa, Southwest Airlines and He has orchestrated public affairs and handled crisis management programs for BAX Global, The Walt Disney Company and Toyota. He has also developed research-based brand positioning campaigns for Yamaha, Walt Disney Imagineering and Weyerhaeuser. In addition, Fred has developed numerous international public relations programs for clients such as the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board, Air New Zealand and Canon. Fred is a trustee of the Institute of Public Relations, and a former board member of The Council of Public Relations Firms. He is also a member of The Economic Club of Chicago, The Executives’ Club of Chicago, Public Relations Seminar and The Arthur W. Page Society.

Mike Fernandez is CEO, U.S. with Burson-Marsteller. Prior to joining the firm he served as chief communications officer for five large U.S.-based corporations across diverse industries, including financial, technology, consumer goods and services, and health care. Most recently, he led global corporate affairs at Cargill, the world’s largest privately held company and one of the world’s leading producers and marketers of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. During his six-year tenure, he was responsible for communications, brand and marketing services, government relations, and corporate social responsibility. Before joining Cargill, Mike was chief communications officer for four Fortune 500 companies, including State Farm Insurance, ConAgra Foods, Cigna and US West. He also held various global marketing and communications roles at Kodak and also served as Press Secretary to U.S. Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, where at age 23 he was the youngest U.S. Senate Press Secretary ever and only the second Latino to serve in such a role. Mike has been listed on PRWeek’s Power List of the top 50 PR professionals in the U.S., and the Holmes Report’s Influence 100 list of the top 100 PR professionals in the world. He serves on the boards of trustees of both the Institute for Public Relations and the Arthur W. Page Society. Mike was inducted into the PRWeek Hall of Fame in 2015. He also has received the Institute for Public Relations’ Alexander Hamilton Medal, the Hispanic Public Relations Association’s first Pioneer Award, the PRSA Foundation’s Paladin Award and the Plank Center’s Milestones in Mentoring Award. In 2014 his Cargill team won PRWeek’s Global Program of the Year Award and in 2015 Fortune magazine listed Cargill among 50 “Change the World” companies that are making a positive impact on the world. Mike graduated with a B.A. in Government and M.S. in Accounting from Georgetown University.

Maria Gemskie is a highly skilled communications professional by trade, yet her clients and colleagues know her as an expert problem solver and a passionate business evangelist. Throughout her career, she has drawn on her strategic communications expertise to help firms achieve their business objectives and strengthen relationships with stakeholders within the company and throughout the community. Consistently recognized by senior leadership as a forward-thinking, motivated team leader and player, her core competencies include internal communications, executive visibility, crisis communications, media relations, and industry thought-leadership. Having worked with leading public and private companies in a variety of industries, Maria has deep experience helping executives address the complex communications challenges facing high-profile organizations. Prior to joining Gagen MacDonald, Maria was Director of Communications at William Blair & Company, a premier global investment bank and asset management firm where she shaped the firm’s communications vision to drive strategy and enhance business performance across investment banking, private wealth, and institutional asset management.  Understanding the importance of equipping the firm’s professionals with compelling and consistent brand messaging, Maria created William Blair’s first-ever value propositions and launched the firm’s Front Line Insights thought leadership/PR program. As Vice President of Corporate Communications at MF Global Holdings, she was credited with translating the corporate vision into a highly effective communication and thought leadership strategy. Her efforts included managing the transition of the chairman and CEO, resulting in articles in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Business Week, Forbes, and Fortune. During her 10-year tenure at the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), Maria played a major role in successfully guiding CBOT through a transformative period in the company’s history. She drove the change communications efforts for CBOT’s demutualization, initial public offering, and highly publicized merger with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). Maria began her career on Capitol Hill, where she honed her skills and discovered her career path while serving as communications director for the U.S. Congress. Maria holds a B.S. in Public Affairs, with a major in Management, from Indiana University.

Sarah Jackson is the Communications and Marketing Manager for the Institute for Public Relations. She has worked with the Institute for two years helping to provide research that matters to the practice through our website. She is the editorial director of IPR’s Research Letter, an email that reaches 11,000 and showcases the most relevant research to the field of public relations. She has helped Dr. Don Wright with the leadership forums for the past three years. She has a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Florida.

Soon Mee Kim is executive vice president and Global Diversity and Inclusion Leader for Porter Novelli, an international public relations consultancy. She views diversity and inclusion as both moral and business imperatives. Her objective is to weave diversity and inclusion into the fabric of all that Porter Novelli does, in order to see more clearly, understand more fully and create more magnificently. A dreamer and a doer, Soon Mee drives purposeful action internally within the agency, as well as for a broad range of clients. A 25-year communications agency veteran, she is a proven leader and creative problem-solver with a passion for innovation and impact. Previously, Soon Mee held leadership roles within Porter Novelli’s Technology Practice and as a managing director. She was also a principal of a leading technology boutique agency, later acquired by Hill & Knowlton. Her forte is in uncovering and articulating the reasons why people should care about complex issues, systems and technologies. Formally and informally, her favorite roles are that of mentor, coach and student.

Kristena Lucky is a Senior Vice President in the Consumer Marketing Practice with Edelman. She is lauded for delivering best-in-class integrated marketing programs to Edelman clients. In her current role, she leads the BUSH’S Beans business– a fully integrated earned, digital and social account. She also led the Kimberly-Clark Child Care business—contributing to the development and execution of the largest consumer program for the Pull-Ups® Brand. Kristena has contributed to numerous new business efforts due to her astute business sense. Over the course of her long career she has developed and executed leading edge integrated marketing programs for many Fortune 500 companies leveraging channels such as experiential, public relations, shopper promotions, digital, social and advertising to engage with consumers and motivate them to take action. Prior to joining Edelman in 2012, Kristena was a Vice President, Group Account Director with Burrell Communications.  In that capacity, she ran the Lilly Diabetes and Walt Disney World accounts where she developed and executed engagement marketing and PR programs – driving double-digit agency revenue growth. Kristena also managed consumer marketing programs for McDonald’s, Comcast, American Airlines and Toyota while spearheading new business development.

Josh Rangel is currently the Director of Social Media in the consumer marketing practice at Golin. He provides strategic social media counsel for developing on-target holistic digital programs across a variety of paid, owned, earned and shared mediums, as well as community management and content development oversight. His experience includes, influencer marketing initiatives, real-time engagement execution, strategic digital media partnership implementation and new product launches. In the past 9 years,  he has worked for a multitude of food, beverage and CPG brands, including McDonald’s, Unilever (Klondike, Fruttare, Magnum Ice Cream, Breyers, Popsicle, Lipton, SlimFast), Burger King, PepsiCo, Bacardi, Coors Brewing Co. and Purina.

Stacy Sharpe brings the iconic story and voice of Allstate to life as senior vice president of Strategic and Consumer Corporate Communications in Corporate Relations. In her role, Stacy helps tell Allstate’s story of transformation and growth by leading communications for Allstate’s CEO and chief financial officer and the Allstate Personal Lines, Allstate Financial and Allstate Investments organizations. She also builds Allstate’s external character and voice by managing the company’s media relations strategy. Amplifying the voice of Allstate has been a theme for Stacy in her 20 years with the company. Before her return to Corporate Relations in 2013, Stacy was field vice president of Allstate’s Capital Region, where she helped lead and build the company’s insurance operations in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia. Prior to joining the Capitol Region’s leadership team, Stacy was vice president, Federal Affairs, responsible for making sure Allstate’s voice was heard on Capitol Hill. In this role, she shaped, advocated and advanced Allstate’s public policy interests and addressed the need for critical industry reforms that affect the lives of consumers. Stacy also cultivated significant brand awareness for Allstate’s commitment to safe teen driving. Before Stacy’s time inside the Beltway, she served as assistant vice president, Reputation Leadership, where she created and championed Allstate’s reputation strategy, which strengthens the internal and external voice of the company today. From 2004 to 2008, Stacy was the communications director for the chairman, president and CEO of Allstate. She played a lead role in crafting and driving Allstate’s story by integrating and overseeing public relations and corporate communication strategies, including workforce, media, government and investor communications. Prior to serving the CEO, Stacy supported strategic communications for numerous Allstate businesses, including Allstate Financial, Allstate Protection and the independent agency business. Earlier in her career, Stacy also led college recruitment in Human Resources, developing the college relations strategy and redesigning the corporate internship program. She began her career at Allstate in 1995 as a management trainee at Allstate Life Insurance Company. Stacy serves on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Urban League and on the Chicago Advisory Board of Facing History and Ourselves. She is a 2007 Fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago and 2004 Minority MBA Next Generation of Minority Business Leaders winner. Stacy was named in The Hill publication’s 2011 list of Top Corporate Lobbyists. She is also a member of the North Shore chapter of The Links Inc. and is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Catalogue for Philanthropy – Greater Washington D.C. Stacy holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Jim Spangler serves as Chief Communications Officer for Navistar, Inc. Spangler joined Navistar in this role in June of 2011, and is responsible for leading the company’s Corporate Communications department. With more than 25 years experience in the communications industry, Spangler has held a variety of positions including nearly 12 years with Tenneco, where he served as vice president of global communications and was responsible for corporate positioning, communications strategy and policy, executive communications, employee communications, media relations and public relations. Before joining Tenneco, Spangler was director of global public relations and media relations for Arthur Andersen. He spent nearly eight years at Amoco Corporation in roles of increasing responsibility within the company’s Public and Government Affairs group. Spangler began his career as a reporter at City News Bureau of Chicago. Spangler holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Illinois. He is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society and the Public Relations Society of America.

Renee Wilson was appointed the third PR Council president in January 2016. Her primary responsibility is to advocate on behalf of the PR Council’s 100-plus member firms, and the overall profession. Previously, Renee spent eleven years at MSLGROUP, most recently as a member of the global board of directors; and as the firm’s Chief Client Officer, serving as liaison with senior clients and the agency’s international client engagement program, which she created. She was also the President of MSLGROUP in North America from 2012 – 2014. Prior to MSLGROUP, Renee spent four years working in London for Hill & Knowlton. During this time she managed the EMEA communications for brands within Kellogg’s and Johnson & Johnson. Renee was president of the 2014 PR jury for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and served on one other Cannes Jury in 2011. She is a regularly featured speaker at various international conferences and most recently presented at the United Nations International Women’s Day Conference, SxSw Social Good Hub, ColorComm and espnW 2015. A Cannes lion award winner herself, Renee’s teams have won more than 25 awards for exceptional, breakthrough work. A long-standing advocate for diversity, she sits on the Advisory Board for the Young Women’s Leadership Schools of NYC and is a member of the NY Women in Communications. She earned a B.A. in Communications and Spanish from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @reneew.

Don Wright is the Harold Burson Professor and Chair in Public Relations at Boston University’s College of Communication, the world’s first degree-granting institution in public relations. He is one of the most published public relations scholars in the areas of ethics, employee communication and social media, and is an internationally known professor, author, speaker, researcher, advisor, and corporate communications consultant. In addition to teaching, conducting scholarly and applied research, and lecturing in more than 30 countries on five continents, Professor Wright has worked full-time in corporate, agency and university public relations, and has been a communications consultant for more than three decades. PR Week magazine has recognized him both as one of the Top 10 public relations educators in the United States and as one of the “15 Leading Lights” in US public relations. He is a long time member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Public Relations (IPR) and from 1989 through 2012 he served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Arthur W. Page Society. He is a past president of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) and is a past chair of the IPR Commission on Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation. Dr. Wright was the founding Editor of PRSA’s Public Relations Journal, the world’s first quarterly open-access peer-reviewed electronic research journal, and is now editor of the Research Journal of IPR. He is an active consultant in public opinion research, employee communications, organizational ethics, professional development as well as management and structure of the corporate communications function. He holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of Minnesota.

Hotel Accomodations

There are number of hotel options within easy walking distance of the new Golin offices in The Hancock Building at 875 North Michigan Avenue between Chestnut Street and Delaware Place. Listings below includes the room rate (not counting taxes) currently posted for the nights of May 3, 2017. Please note in some cases the room rates are based on rooms purchased via the discount hotel service

One Block From The Hancock Building

The Four Seasons Chicago, 120 East Delaware Place, $555, Tel: 312-280-8800

Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, 20 East Chestnut Street, $325, Tel: 312-324-4000

Westin, 909 N. Michigan Avenue, $365, Tel: 312-943-7200 (Directly across street from The Hancock)

Whitehall Hotel, 105 East Delaware Place, $279, Tel: 312-944-6300

Tremont Hotel, 100 East Chestnut Street, $239, Tel: 312-751-1900

Raffaleo Hotel, 201 East Delaware Place, $220, Tel: 312-943-5000

Two Blocks From The Hancock Building

The Drake Hotel, 140 East Walton Place, $265, Tel: 312-932-4626

Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel, 163 East Walton Place, $310, Tel: 800-621-8140

Three Blocks From The Hancock Building

Sutton Place, 21 East Bellevue Place, $260, Tel: 312-266-2100

Four Blocks From The Hancock Building

The Peninsula Chicago, 108 East Superior, $475, Tel: 312-337-2888

Mile North Hotel, 166 East Superior, $235, Tel: 312-787-6000.

Conrad Chicago, 521 North Rush Street, $255, Tel: 312-645-1500


Dr. Don Wright
Harold Burson Professor and Chair in Public Relations
College of Communication, Boston University (Tel: +1-617-306-4006)

Sarah Jackson
Communications Manager
Institute for Public Relations (Tel: +1-352-392-0280)