It’s that time of year when AdAge and PRWeek start releasing their ‘Who’s Who’ lists. It’s no secret that professionals in our industry have immense clout and influence. They hold the ability to shape people’s values, opinions, beliefs, investments, relationships and ultimately, their decisions. However, who’s to say which individuals hold more influence than others?

From AdAge’s ‘Who’s Who’ to PR Week’s ‘Top 40’ (and many other industry publications), we see countless publicly acclaimed media outlets release lists praising an “it” group. What makes the organization and its reporters who compile these lists qualified to cherry-pick people to feature? Sure, they cover the industry. However, are they experts in marketing or public relations? Do they know every person in the industry in order to make their determination? Do they have a baseline for the standards across cultures in the United States? Who gets added to the pool of candidates and why? Are these people somehow connected to their sponsors? I’m asking for a friend.

Let this all sink in for a moment.

How valid are these lists really and how much weight should be placed on them? This is a legit question because these lists are published for all to admire, benchmark, use as a frame of reference and even for personal comparison.

I say these lists are misleading and drive a false narrative of what a “gold standard” marketer or a communications pro should resemble. I say don’t believe the hype! You don’t need these lists. I say create your own lists. If you did, who would be on it?  Share that list on social media.

The fact is, these lists will continue to exist, however, I encourage you not to seek validation from them, as they are surely not the be-all and end-all. My intent here is not to knock major publications because they are certainly valid and credible. Rather, I challenge you to think broadly and do not let these lists of “who’s who” allow you to undervalue or second guess your ability. Believe in your talent and believe in your greatness. Your journey is unique and that is what makes you bad-ass, as well as list-worthy.   

In a similar sentiment, when it comes to brands and marketers, we tend to see coverage of the biggest names in the industry. In reality, independents and leaders of smaller organizations are often the ones creating the greatest impact within the industry—They simply don’t have the budgets and platform to amplify their work. It’s no coincidence that big name media outlets often praise big name brands, as they’re the ones with dollars to put towards advertising, ultimately boosting awareness among consumers.  

So, what I’m going to do is share my ‘who’s who’ list.   

For Public Relations Excellence, the following people make my list (in no particular order):

  • Heidi Barker, Vice President of Corporate Communications, Carnival Corporation & PLC
  • Robin Beaman, President, Beaman Incorporated
  • Deborah Hyman, Vice President of Global Technology Communications, MetLife
  • Patti Temple Rocks, Consultant and Author
  • Janice Yu-Moran, Director of Public Relations and Communications, Four Seasons Hotel
  • Jetta Bates Vasitatos, Senior Communications Consultant
  • Kim Rudd, President, Rudd Resources
  • David Rudd, Vice President, Rudd Resources
  • Beverly Durham, Principal, BLD Communications
  • Jeff Olson, Vice President of Corporate Communications, Rite Aid
  • Christina Steed, Executive Vice President, Flowers Communications
  • Glenn Eden, Executive Vice President, Weber Shandwick
  • Scott McKee, Chief Communications Officer, Mitsubishi Motors North America
  • Tracy Nguyen Romulus, Chief Communications Officer, Kim Kardashian West Brands
  • Nicole Neal, Director of Marketing & Communications, Cushman & Wakefield
  • Reggie Dance, Senior Vice President, DKC
  • Dionne Williams, Owner, D. Williams Public Relations Group
  • Becca Martin, Director of Internal Communications, Caterpillar Inc.
  • Heather Mitchell, Head of Internal Communications, Nextdoor
  • Phil Zepeda, Chief Communications Officer, Robert R. McCormick Foundation
  • Allison Claybon, Communications Lead, Robert R. McCormick Foundation
  • Heather Oldani, Executive Vice President of Integrated Marketing & Corporate Communications, Dairy Management, Inc.
  • Kris Garvey Graves, Senior Partner, Midwest, Finn Partners
  • Jennifer Belongia-Barak, Marketing and Communications Lead, SAC Wireless
  • Shannelle Armstrong-Fowler, Senior Communications Consultant
  • Lesley Cheers, Director of PR & Communications, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Michael Stern, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Crisp
  • Chanda Rowan, Communications Lead, Nicor Gas
  • Leslie Gordon, Director Communications & Branding, The Walt Disney Company
  • Vanessa Abron, Communications Consultant
  • Roderick Hawkins, Associate Dean of External Affairs and Chief of Staff, Northwestern University
  • Jeri Bingham, Marketing Communications Strategist
  • Greg Dunn, Senior Counselor, Kurth Lampe Worldwide
  • Maisha Pearson, Vice President, Burrell Communications
  • Arron Payne, Account Director, Burrell Communications
  • Julie Ketay, Communications Strategist
  • Brian Griffin, CEO at Vero
  • Steve Johnson, Communications Strategist
  • Carolyn Tucker, Director of Communications & Stakeholder Management, Metra Commuter Rail
  • Tim Russell, Vice President of Community Engagement, WTTW
  • Wynona Redmond, President, Wyn-Win Communications
  • Larvetta Loftin, Founder & CEO, The L3 Agency
  • Traci Daniels, Lead Marketing and Publicity, American Medical Association, Journal of Ethics
  • Tabrina Davis, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare
  • Rashada Whitehead, President & Chief Transformation Officer, KGBERRY
  • Tiasha Stevenson, Vice President, MSLGROUP

For Marketing Excellence, the following people make my list (in no particular order):

  • Manoj Raghunandanan, Global President Self Care (OTC) and Office of Marketing Value, Johnson & Johnson
  • Vivian Nasamu-Odior, Head of Global Integrated Marketing, WhatsApp Inc.
  • Aisha Felder, Senior Director of Consumer Marketing, RJ Reynolds Company
  • Elizabeth Campbell, Senior Director, Cultural Engagement, McDonald’s
  • Vicky Free, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer, Novant Health
  • Craig Williams, President, Jordan Brand, Nike
  • Shaswau Howell, Marketing Director, Wintrust Financial Corporation
  • Derrick B. Ross, Executive Director, McDonald’s
  • Lorran Brown Cosby, Vice President, Digital Commerce, Bacardi North America
  • Carol Hillsman Sagers, Founder, CHS Marketing Consultants
  • Pepper Miller, President, The Hunter-Miller Group, Inc
  • Tom Spaven, Brand Director, Bombay Sapphire, Bacardi North America
  • Matt Kuttan, Multicultural Creative Consultant
  • Edward Bourelly, Vice President of Marketing, Planet Fitness
  • Juan Pena, CEO, Spirits Consulting
  • Luther Harmon, Global Senior Director of Sales and Marketing, Universal Beauty Products
  • Sherman Wright, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, TEN35
  • Ahmad Islam, CEO and Managing Partner, TEN35
  • Mario Flores, Co-Founder, Sportivo
  • Jennifer Sullivan, President, memBrain
  • Simone Ware, Retail Marketing Manager, GlaxoSmithKline Pharma GmbH
  • Tasha Levy, Senior Director, Brand Partnerships, SpringHill Company
  • Felicia Fortenberry, Team Lead, Global Business Solutions, TikTok
  • Joseph Anthony, CEO, Hero Collective
  • Nicole KanKam, Managing Director, Marketing, United States Tennis Association
  • Lena Lewis, Vice President, Customer Experience, Ferrara
  • Martin Nance, Director of Marketing, PepsiCo (Gatorade)
  • Alicia Mosley, Vice President of Marketing, Keebler Brand
  • Aubrey Walker, Creative Director, O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul
  • Kevin Walker, Strategy Director, Fluent360
  • Watchen Nyanue, Senior Vice President, Marketing Partnerships, Chicago Sky WNBA
  • Chris Templeton, Brand Strategist, Qualitative Research and Idea Consultant
  • Will Campbell, CEO, Quantasy
  • Shelly Kaushal, Director, Brand Activation, RXBAR
  • Janice Tennant, Chief Marketing Officer, Wolverine World Wide
  • Tony D’Andrea, Insights, General Mills
  • Conley Fitzpatrick, Chief Marketing Officer, 21Seeds Inc.
  • Stacey Simmons, Senior Director, Brand Solutions, ViacomCBS
  • Max Gallegos, Marketing Officer, McDonald’s
  • Pamela Taylor, Founder, The MAP Group, Inc.
  • Paula P. Sykes, Owner, Sykes Research Consulting
  • Alice Rooks, Managing Principal and Chief Strategy Officer at ASR Group
  • Linda Jefferson, Senior Vice President, Group Media Services, Burrell Communications
  • Detavio Samuels, Chief Operating Officer, REVOLT MEDIA &TV
  • Corey Richardson, Vice President, Cultural Learning & Insights, fluent360

So, who would make your list? Create one then share it!


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