New York – (September 22, 2016) – The PR Council’s Critical Issues Forum (Forum) kicks off today with 250+ industry leaders debating the transformation of the communications profession. Taking place at the esteemed IAC Building in New York, this year’s Forum called “House of Comms,” aims to evoke much of the intrigue and tension its TV series namesake is notorious for.

“Each year, at the Critical Issues Forum, top communications professionals come together not to pat ourselves on the back, but to shake ourselves up and challenge all our assumptions,” said Christopher Graves, PR Council Chair, and Global Chairman at Ogilvy Public Relations.

“We were years ahead on issues such as content marketing and influencer marketing—but we didn’t fear giving indigestion to those who drank a bit too much of the Kool Aid,” said Graves.

This year, Graves warns, “we will challenge our own existence.”

This year’s Critical Issues Forum features:

  • The profession formerly known as PR (what’s becoming of us?)
  • Chief Strategist of the Clinton campaign
  • A big-data-meets-psychology firm working for a variety of clientele
  • How virtual reality and wearables will create opportunities for communicators
  • Will Watson turn us into superhuman communicators (or replace us)
  • When CEOs become social activists
  • Can warmth, competence and loyalty survive the digital cold?

Join us as we explore what this transition means to our industry, and what’s at stake if we don’t get it right.


Critical Issues Forum Agenda:

Communication Lessons from the Election: We’ve never been here before

Joel Benenson, Chief Strategist, Hillary Clinton; CEO, Benenson Strategy Group

Andrea Saul, Former Mitt Romney Aide; Policy Communications, Facebook

Steve Schmidt, Past John McCain Chief Strategist; Vice Chair, Public Affairs, Edelman

Don Baer, Worldwide Chair & CEO, Burson-Marsteller (Moderator)


The Profession Formerly Known as PR: Transforming the PR business model

Fred Cook, CEO, Golin; Professor, University of Southern California

Ron Guirguis, CEO US Operations, MSLGROUP

Sara Kalick, General Manager, SYPartners

Jackie Stevenson, CEO, Brooklyn Brothers

Christopher Graves, Global Chairman, Ogilvy PR, PR Council Chair (Moderator)


Watson & the Super Humans: What cognitive computing means for the future

Stephen Gold, Chief Marketing Officer, IBM Watson

Christopher Graves, Global Chairman, Ogilvy PR, PR Council Chair (Moderator)


Creating Loyalty in the Digital Age: How do brands earn + keep loyalty?

Thomas Fishman, SVP, Audience Engagement, MTV

Chris Malone, Author, The Human Brand; Managing Partner, Fidelum Parters

Barri Rafferty, Senior Partner & CEO North America, Ketchum (Moderator)


Into the Holodeck: What the Future of Comms Looks Like

Katrina Craigwell, VP, Global Director Marketing Innovation, GE Digital

Jamie Pallot, Co-Founder, Emblematic Group

Billie Whitehouse, CEO, Wearable Experiments

Christopher Graves, Global Chairman, Ogilvy PR, PR Council Chair (Moderator)


The Numbers Game: How big data is winning through personalized campaigns

Alexander Nix, CEO, Cambridge Analytica

Christopher Graves, Global Chairman, Ogilvy PR, PR Council Chair (Moderator)


CEO ACTIVISM: the risks and the rewards

Franz Paasche, VP, Corporate Affairs, PayPal

Tommy Stadlen, Co-Founder, Polaroid Swing & Co-Author Connect: How Companies Succeed by Engaging Radically with Society.

Alex Thompson, VP, Communications & Public Affairs, REI

Leslie Gaines-Ross, Chief Reputation Strategist, Weber Shandwick (Moderator)



The PR Council is the trade association of America’s leading communications and public relations firms. Its membership represents the premier global, mid-sized, regional and specialty firms across every discipline and practice area. The Council’s mission is to advocate for and advance the business of communications and public relations firms by building the market and the value of firms as strategic business partners. For more information about the Council, visit