by Karin Tanabe, for Bisnow on Business
Yesterday afternoon the elegant room at the Mayflower Hotel almost burst from charisma overload as PR mavens and the men who love them gathered for the 2007 Washington PR Woman of the Year Award. Washington Women in Public Relations has been honoring a woman for her outstanding leadership since 1990. This year’s winner: Jennifer Wayman, SVP at Ogilvy; and this year’s keynote: grand dame of White House press, Helen Thomas.
Thomas, right, with APCO CEO Margery Kraus. The journalistic gadfly, who got her break covering President Kennedy in 1961, said he was her favorite, then launched into a short description of every president she has covered, and let’s just say it’s a good thing some of those presidents are not around to hear her remarks. She even threw in the fact that Jimmy Carter’s mother jokingly said, “sometimes when I look at my children I wish I had remained a virgin.”
2007 Washington PR Woman of the Year honorees: Jennifer Wayman, Juliette Rizzo, and Karen Doyne. Jennifer focuses on social marketing. Juliette, of the Department of Education, has served as an advocate for people with disabilities; she carried the Olympic torch through downtown Dallas during the Atlanta Games and was named Ms. Wheelchair America 2005. Karen, of Burson-Marsteller, served as Press Secretary to Senator David Durenberger and was a member of The Capitol Steps before entering the very male-dominated world of crisis management.
Queens of Schmooze. Former Washington PR Woman of the Year award winners, from left, Carolyn Tieger, Pattie Yu, Katherine Hutt, Denise Graveline, Beverly Silverberg, Pat Wheeler, Mary Yerrick, and Margery Kraus.
“The social marketing world is where my passion is,” says Jennifer, whose clients include various federal government agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and NIH. The mother of 4 children—8 5, 3, and 21-months—has focused on such issues as osteoporosis, colon cancer, prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, and women's heart health. “The most exciting thing has been working on the Heart Truth campaign for NIH,” she says, noting that heart disease is the number one killer of women. “It has been very gratifying to be involved with a program that has really sparked a national movement.”
Pro bono specialists Lauren Lawson of Goodwill Industries, Gale Curcio of Doorways for Women and Families, and Ogilvy’s Rachel Henderson. “We pick a non profit client every two years and do all their PR for free,” Lauren says. Two years ago the recipient group was Safe Shores, a group serving children who have been physically or sexually abused. This year’s recipient, Doorways for Women and Families, is a non-profit community-based organization providing services to those who are abused, homeless or at-risk. Doorways just opened a brand new home for homeless families. Funded in part by The Freddie Mac Foundation and the Arlington County Government, the house dedication was last week. The group also has a safe house for victims of domestic violence in Arlington.
“We who cover the White House don’t always see the good side of PR,” said Thomas who also noted that presidents don’t often see the good side of the press. “It all started with Washington,” she said, “but I wasn’t around to cover him.” President Ford likened her questions to acupuncture. When USA Today founder Al Neuharth asked Fidel Castro what was the difference between their democracy and ours, Castro said, “I don’t have to answer questions from Helen Thomas.”
Thomas turned positive when it came to women. “Suffragists chained themselves to fences and went to jail for the right to vote,” she said. “It looks better for us now,” she said, noting the nation’s nine women governors, Nancy Pelosi, Condoleezza Rice and of course, the dynamic pros of PR.