PR News has named CooperKatz CEO, Anne Green, to its 2015 list of Top Women in PR – a list of 77 powerhouse honorees who have made waves in the industry. The accolade celebrates women who have boldly navigated crises, developed brand messages, protected brand reputations and shown fearless leadership in their daily work – all of which Anne has accomplished.
The CooperKatz team asked Anne to share her thoughts on being named a Top Woman in PR, her career and the industry as a whole. In this Q&A, Anne reflected on the defining moments of her career and offered wisdom to young women who are in the early stages of their careers.
On behalf of the entire CK team, congratulations on being named a Top Woman in PR by PR News! We’re so proud to have you as our CEO! How does it feel to be named among other female powerhouses in the industry?
It’s an honor to be recognized in this way. There are scores of talented senior women in our industry, working both in agencies and on the client side. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many inspiring female leaders over the years. So it is special to be named to this list.
What were some defining moments in your life and career you believe molded you into the PR maven and leader you are today?
The first and most foundational was stumbling upon the application for the Harold Burson Summer Internship program at Burson-Marsteller while in college. I was a liberal arts major who, at the time, knew nearly nothing about this profession — and also had zero sense of personal identification with the idea of “business” or being a “business person.” Ironic that I’m now a CEO, right?
I was intrigued by the internship description (and even more intrigued by the generous stipend). I applied and scored one of the 10 open spots. And that small moment changed the course of my whole life. That summer opened my eyes to the dazzling breadth of the field, and in particular, the intellectual challenge of working on the agency side with a range of dynamic clients.
While at Burson-Marsteller both as an intern and a full-time account exec after college, I encountered many strong, intelligent women who were natural leaders. The very top of the organization at that time was all men. But the senior women in the ranks just below them were powerful, supportive and fully inspired me.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says women make up 63% of public relations specialists. Why do you think PR is a female dominated industry?
This has been a long-debated topic with no one answer. But there are clearly large forces at work here. From a macro perspective, gender norms in our society have tended to nudge (or, in some cases, full-on shove) men and women toward different professions. Things are less like that today; but let’s not fool ourselves that these undercurrents have disappeared. Far from it.
To be somewhat reductive (which you kind of have to be, at times, to dig to the root of these kinds of issues), I feel the concept of "communications" has, from a legacy perspective, been viewed as a soft field. And “soft” fields tended to be coded, overtly or implicitly, as “women’s work.”
It takes very human skills to create dialogue and understanding between different groups or individuals. This is no zero-sum game; no simple “win / lose” scenario. There is both art and science to persuasion, to connection, to engagement. In our current business and social context, these skills are valued more than perhaps ever before. The open flow of information has shifted the power dynamic away from “command and control” as a marketing approach. The bottom-line, mission-critical need to elevate brand engagement, communications, reputation and affinity has never been more patently obvious.
It will be interesting to see how the balance of our industry continues to shift over time, as the way our work is seen / valued also shifts. But it’s not just about gender imbalances in PR. The industry is also deeply challenged relative to overall diversity. And as our society becomes more diverse, our goal must be to attract people of many backgrounds, races, ethnicities and perspectives to this field.
What advice do you have for young women starting their careers in public relations or any industry?
Find your voice and your personal sense of power. This is not about dominating. But it is very much about establishing a presence — so that when you enter a room, when you sit around a conference room table, when you speak up, people take notice. I always say to our young people, and especially our young women: what I want most for you is for clients to say to themselves, “I am so glad this person is on my team.” That builds over time. But a great deal of it comes from what you are able to project from the inside.
Secondly, people have all kinds of reactions to the concept of “leaning in.” Some love it. Some are offended. I’ll leave it to others to debate its deeper implications or merits. But to me, the metaphor is an apt one — in that it’s about being “all in.” Giving yourself with passion to your work, to your life, to your interests. Demonstrating fire, engagement and enthusiasm. Being fully present. That is the kind of person others want to work with. And it’s the kind of person who becomes a natural leader.
Which female leaders do you admire and why?
There are too many from history as well as from current day to name! I really could not make a short list. But I will share one anecdote from the world of entertainment. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the singer Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics on television in the early 1980s. She was such an immense and powerful presence. She totally reshaped expectations of what women should or could be. It felt like being struck by lightning. It just opened my mind to a whole different level of female power, as well as a totally fresh view of the “performance” of being a woman in our society.
What do you feel are the key characteristics of a strong leader?
I talked above about finding your voice and your presence, and coming from a place of power that is not dominating. But I also think great leadership requires immense openness, empathy and vulnerability. To be truly open to those around you, in all ways, is difficult but essential and immensely rewarding in all ways.
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