When You’re the Only Woman in the Room: Lessons from the First Female CCO


Free Virtual Event: On-Demand Video


Event Overview


Join a unique panel discussion exploring the rise of women in PR, focusing on the life and career of Marilyn Laurie, the nation’s first woman CCO. The panel will feature Dick Martin, author of “Marilyn: A Woman in Charge,” (to be published in September); Prof. Karen Russell, Univ. of Georgia; Prof. Pat Ford, Univ. of Florida, and Prof. Denise Hill, of Elon Univ. Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications, will moderate the panel. The panel will explore how students and professionals can learn from Marilyn Laurie’s example, in reputation management, crisis communications, leadership and ethics.  We will also discuss the progress women have made in the industry since Marilyn’s time, and what the future holds for women, in agencies, corporations and academia.

With Appreciation to Our Sponsors…



Deirdre Breakenridge

CEO, Pure Performance Communications

Deirdre K. Breakenridge is CEO at Pure Performance Communications. She’s a career-long storyteller and media expert, helping brands and professionals to ignite energy and engagement, lead pressing conversations and grow their influence in the market. Deirdre has worked with senior leaders and organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, JVC, Kraft, Nasdaq, NBA Events & Attractions and the Public Relations Society of America.

Deirdre is the author of six business books sharing stories and advice to navigate changing consumer behavior and an evolving media landscape. Her most recent book, “Answers for Modern Communicators,” was published by Routledge. Her seventh book, Answers for Ethical Marketers, will be released by Routledge in January 2021.

For 15 years, Deirdre has taught PR and social media courses, online and in the classroom for NYU, UMASS, Rutgers, and Fairleigh Dickinson University. She took her passion for teaching to LinkedIn Learning, and as one of their instructors, she has developed eight video courses on PR and marketing. Deirdre has been blogging at PR Strategies for over 10 years and she’s also the host of the podcast, Women Worldwide, which is celebrating its 5th anniversary in 2020.




Dick Martin

Author, “Marilyn: A Woman In Charge”


Dick Martin writes about public relations, marketing, and ethics. He has authored four books for the American Management Association and articles for such publications as the Harvard Business Review, Chief Executive, and the Journal of Business Strategy. Capping a 33-year career with AT&T, from 1997 to 2003, he was Chairman of the AT&T Foundation and executive vice president responsible for the company’s public relations, employee communications and brand management worldwide. The Holmes Report called his first book, Tough Calls, one of the 5 best PR books published in the first decade of the 21st century and “by far the best book about the realities of working in corporate communications for a large American corporation.”

He is a frequent speaker to business groups and has conducted ethics workshops for the Institute of Public Relations, the Arthur Page Society, Rutgers University, and other organizations. He co-authored Public Relations Ethics: How To Practice PR Without Losing Your Soul, with Donald K. Wright, chair of the public relations department of Boston University’s College of Communications.

Most recently he wrote a biography of Marilyn Laurie, his predecessor at AT&T and the first woman to become a policy-making officer at a Fortune 10 company. Marilyn: A Woman In Charge will be published by the PR Museum Press on September 8, 2020. Martin  was one of the first recipients of the Arthur W. Page Center’s Award for Integrity in Public Communication.



Pat Ford

Senior Advisor, Burson-Marsteller & Professional-in-Residence at the University of Florida



Patrick Ford is a senior advisor for Burson-Marsteller and serves as a Professional-in-Residence at the University of Florida for the 2017-18 academic year. In 2012, Pat became Burson-Marsteller’s vice chairman and chief client officer, following six years of driving extraordinary growth in North America as Burson’s regional president and CEO. He also served as chair of the firm’s Asia-Pacific region for nearly three years (2012-2015).

Mr. Ford specializes in corporate reputation management, senior executive communications, media strategy, and issues and crisis management. His clients over 26 years at Burson-Marsteller have ranged from world-class companies in industries as diverse as automotive, energy, express delivery services, financial services, food and beverage, management consulting, technology, and telecommunications, and also government clients in the U.S. and Asia.

Before joining Burson-Marsteller, he served as vice president for external affairs at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, one of America’s leading policy think tanks, in Washington, DC, following a brief career as a journalist.

Mr. Ford serves on the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Public Relations, an international organization that supports PR research and education, and the Board of Directors of The LAGRANT Foundation, whose mission is to increase the number of ethnic minorities in the fields of advertising, marketing and public relations. He also is a member of the Advisory Board of the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications at Hampton University. In 2014, he received the prestigious Milestones in Mentoring Legacy Award from the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at the University of Alabama.


Dr. Karen Russell

Associate Professor at University of Georgia




Karen Miller Russell is Jim Kennedy Professor of New Media and Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor, teaching public relations and media history and advising the college’s Integrated ADPR master’s program.

Dr. Russell studies media history with an emphasis on public relations and is interested in qualitative research, such as ethnography and case studies, on PR. She is the author of two books, “Promoting Monopoly: AT&T and the Politics of Public Relations, 1876-1941,” and “The Voice of Business: Hill and Knowlton and Postwar Public Relations.” She has published articles in the Journal of PR Research, Public Relations Review, Business History Review, Communication Yearbook, Journal of Political Marketing, American Journalism, and Journalism and Communication Monographs. She served as editor of the Journal of Public Relations Research from 2009 to 2015.

Dr. Russell teaches public relations core courses in both the undergraduate and graduate programs, with a particular interest in social media, globalization, and corporate social responsibility initiatives. She also teaches media history and is a member of the UGA graduate faculty. Dr. Russell is a former PR writer for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, former PR specialist for the American Camping Association and former photography and publicity assistant for Common Wealth Development.



Dr. Denise Hill

Assistant Professor at Elon University’s School of Communications


Denise Hill is an assistant professor at Elon University’s School of Communications, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in strategic communications. Dr. Hill is a former chief communications officer with more than 30 years of corporate communications and public relations agency experience.

Before joining Elon University, Dr. Hill was vice president of corporate communications and public relations at Delhaize America, the U.S. operation of global Fortune 500 grocery retailer Delhaize Group. She previously held chief communication officer positions at Quest Diagnostics and a business unit of Wyndham Worldwide. In addition, she served as a vice president of communication at Novartis Pharmaceuticals and Cigna. She started her career at a Carl Byoir/Hill+Knowlton public relations agency in Philadelphia.

In addition to her Elon University teaching experience, Dr. Hill was an adjunct instructor of corporate communications and public relations at New York University. She also taught communications at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in communications from Temple University, and a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her academic research focuses on public relations and social change, how public relations was used to help marginalized groups in the United States gain civil rights, and African American public relations pioneers.

Dr. Hill is a member of the board of directors of the Public Relations Society of America. In addition, she is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society, where she serves on the new member liaison subcommittee. Dr. Hill is a member of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the American Journalism Historians Association, and an advisory board member of The Museum of Public Relations. She also serves on APCO Worldwide’s International Advisory Council as a member of its Corporate Communications Strategies subgroup. Dr. Hill serves on the board of directors of Easterseals of North Carolina and Virginia, and she chairs the organization’s development and communications committee. She is a former member of The Seminar, the premier organization of chief communication officers. She also is a former member of The Executive Leadership Council, the preeminent organization of African American business executives.