I moved to New York in the fall of 2002 hoping, like many do, to find a job that was meaningful and lasting. Armed with a viable resume and an urgent fiscal need to find work, I set up a networking breakfast with the head of something called the Council of Public Relations Firms. The group’s president Kathy Cripps and I talked about the fledgling industry association and the great potential she saw in it. A few weeks later I was hired.
What struck me right away about Kathy was her optimism—about the PR industry, about the Council, about the next big thing. In Kathy’s eyes, most everything was possible. We just had to see it, believe, and then do the work. What’s so hard about that?
Back then there were three of us, and we worked together in a small space that was part of a Midtown office share. Sometimes when walking the hallways Kathy would say, “I can see us taking over this this whole floor some day. We’re going to grow. We’ll need the extra space. Why not?” I found myself doubting her sunny forecasts in the beginning, but I quickly learned that it was well worth getting behind her vision. She wanted to get things done. So we got busy getting things done.
Kathy did more with less than most mortals could. She steered an industry for more than a decade with equal amounts of creativity, strength, conviction, duct tape and chewing gum. She monitored brewing existential threats—regulations, recessions, disruptive technology and the like—while pulling the right levers internally to help more than 100 competitive PR firms find common ground. She served as a steady, clear-eyed leader for every variety of agency: Big, small, analog, digital, flashy and conservative.
During our 13 years together, we accomplished a lot, and I am proud of the position the PR Council has carved out in the industry. We never took our eyes off the ultimate goal, which was to help our members – and by extension all of PR – reach greater heights. Whether it was building strong peer networks across a vast, sometimes quirky industry, creating business standards and management tools, or conceiving and birthing the PR Council in our 2014 re-brand, Kathy always did what was in the very best interests of our members, and the profession.
Kathy loves this industry, and she believes in its future more than anybody I have ever met. I’m proud to have worked shoulder to shoulder with such an exceptional leader, mentor and friend. Thanks, Kathy, for building something meaningful and lasting.