Speech: Tom Hoog, 2015 Legacy Honoree

KEITH BURTON: I am really honored to be here to provide remarks for our first winner Tom Hoog. I had the pleasure of working for Tom. I remember there was a time on many mornings when you could find him, and I reminded him of this today. In the Garden Restaurant of the Four Seasons Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

He was there entertaining clients and guests who came in for power breakfast. He met his leadership team very often in that location. He sized up new recruits to Hill & Knowlton. And he was always sketching out the future of Hill & Knowlton, the global firm he led here in the US in a much larger way.

He never asked during that period those of us who work with him, what does the client want? That was always in the heart of his thinking but instead, he asked the question, what does the future want? And then he answered it always with a great wit, with wisdom, and what I always felt was a steely determination to do more and to be more.

By surrounding himself with world-class men and women who challenged the status quo of his firm. And by fueling the engine of change with a high-octane mentoring spirit. If you ask him today, he will tell you that he’s loved every minute of a career that has placed him center stage.

National politics with President Bill Clinton and US Senator Gary Hart. As well as working on the presidential campaigns of Senators Robert Kennedy and George McGovern. He’s counseled countless CEOs, the global mayors of our world’s great cities. And served on the advisory boards of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum and the Vietnam War Memorial.

He was named by PRWeek as one of the top 100 most influential public relations practitioners of the 20th century. Honored by the New York chapter of PRSA with the John W. Hill award for excellence in public relations. And in 2004, Tom was chosen by PRSA with a penultimate award, the Gold Anvil.

But he will be the first to tell you, and I’m sure he will tonight. That while he values honors and awards, he strives more for the moments that compel the human spirit. For Tom, success means living the life of your heart by developing other people. Today as in days before his love and his passion is for teaching a new generation of leaders.

At George Mason University, the Wharton School of Business at Penn, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He innovated because we were there with him in 1995 Hill and Knowlton College as a laboratory for young leaders. And he continues to this day, 20 years later, to be the shepherd of that effort.

He’s handpicked hundreds and hundreds of men and women in whom he found light and hope for the future. And he has walked with them, helping illuminate their path for a brighter future. It has been said by a wise philosopher that the unlived life is not worth living.

And I will tell you that Tom has lived his to the fullest. He will tell you that it is important to be interested in everything but focus only on the right things. He’s never far away, I can tell you that in my experience. When I look upon some days he’s in the audience.

He’s on my caller ID. Checking in, all these years later, encouraging, offering to help, and living the life of his heart, through others. Please join me in recognizing our Legacy Award winner, Tom Hoog.


TOM HOOG: One of my theories of management has always been to surround yourself by people brighter than you. Turn them loose and then do your best to take a little bit of credit for what they do. And Keith fits that example totally. Thank you for allowing me to join you tonight.

It’s a great pleasure, first of all, and I’m deeply moved to be honored with this legacy award. And I’m certainly very grateful to The Plank Center for making the evening so special. In a way, all of us here tonight in support of The Plank Center are following in the footsteps of Betsy Plank.

She was a true pioneer in the field of public relations. As the first woman to ever lead the PRSA, she broke the glass ceiling in 1973. And always one of her top priorities through PRSA, through PRSSA, and through all of her civic contributions was advancing the education of students in our field.

She recognized that someday soon, they would become the new generation of leaders in our profession. Mentoring is certainly a major part of that education process. The give and take of the mentor and the mentee relationship helps pass the best insights about what makes our profession so valuable. And through the leadership efforts of The Plank Center in promoting education and mentoring.

I hope we’ll help to encourage everyone in our profession to make mentoring a part of their daily life. And of the corporate culture of every firm in our field. Sharing knowledge is one of the few things in life where, even after sharing, we still have ownership. One of my favorite books on leadership cites three qualities that all leaders must have.

A vision, a love of life, and a willingness to share of themselves. I think that describes Betsy to a T. She had a great vision of preparing students for their future, and for taking on a mantle of leadership. She was a woman who loved life to the fullest, lived it to the fullest, and a woman who created a life of sharing of herself.

She was not a self-proclaimed leader or a mentor. But every action she took defined the words leader and mentor. And how fortunate are those of us who had the opportunity to know her and to be mentored by her. Betsy sought to be remembered for what she gave, not for what she gained.

And the event tonight, once again, is a tribute to her and to a life devoted to making others all they could be. When it comes to mentoring, I’m reminded of a wonderful story of the old sage and the young man seeking to establish a legacy. The young man said he had written his name in the sand.

But eventually the tide came in and the name was gone. The young man then said he had written his initials in a tree. But the tree grew faster in time. And to, again, he lost sight of those initials. And lastly, he carved his initials in a stone or in a rock.

But that too disappeared after a period of time due to wind, rain, and erosion. So he finally pleaded to the old sage for the real way to establish an enduring legacy and to leave your mark on life. And the sage responded by saying. Carve your initials not in the sand, not in the tree, not in the rock, but into the heart of every person you come in touch with.

Do that by treating them with love, respect, and tolerance. That way you will endure forever in their hearts and in their minds. So, in closing, let me extend my thanks again to The Plank Center for this award. And let me offer a challenge to each of us. To carve our initials in the heart of each and every person we come in touch with.

By how we treat them with love, respect, and tolerance. Just as Betsy did and as Betsy would want us to do. Thank you very much. I appreciate being with you.



More from Tom Hoog:


Q&A: Tom Hoog


The Plank Center is committed to developing the next generation of leaders and advancing the profession. It is our honor to recognize six leaders whose commitment to mentoring generates a powerhouse of influence and accelerates success in our profession.

Our question and answer series introduces the 2015 Milestones in Mentoring award recipients.TH Picture 3

Meet Tom Hoog.
Tom Hoog is the vice chairman of Hill+Knowlton Strategies and was selected by PRWeek as one of the 100 most influential public relations practitioners of the 20th century. Spending six years in the military, Tom shares how he developed his mentoring role.

What does it mean to you to be honored with the “Milestones in Mentoring” Award?

It means a great deal. In fact, I spent the first half of my life not grasping the importance of mentoring. It was not until I was at a crossroads, facing the “why me” moment that I realized how fortunate I was, both personally and professionally, to have good mentors. At that moment, I knew it was essential to pay it forward and help others climb their ladders to success. To be honored with the “Milestones in Mentoring” Legacy Award comforts me that I made the right commitment.

When did you first realize you were a leader and a mentor?

Spending six years in the military, one learns, rather quickly, how to be a good follower. In becoming a follower, you have an opportunity to observe leaders in action. At that point, you have several choices to make: either continue to follow or make a commitment to lead.

In choosing to be a leader, one must recognize the importance of mentorship. The choice for me was at a time when I was seeking answers on how my professional journey would unfold.

After realizing the importance of mentoring, I felt compelled to share my good fortune with others. As a leader, you are tasked to create a team who will follow your guidance, offer insight and share knowledge. In return, you’re creating future leaders as well as future mentors.

Describe your role as a mentor.

I don’t think of mentoring as a role, but rather a lifestyle. Being a great mentor is about sharing the information of what you’ve learned along the way and not being apprehensive to share both the good and the bad with your mentee. Share your mistakes, so others will be conscious of the risks when making similar decisions.

One “must-have” characteristic of being a great mentor is to pay it forward. Be open to discuss all viewpoints. And, remember, it’s all right if you don’t have every answer. It’s our duty, as mentors, to provide good questions.

What is your biggest mentoring challenge?

Never be dogmatic. Lead by interpretation. Do share your vision, thoughts and mistakes. It’s up to your mentee to discover and adapt from your thoughts, questions, considerations and feedback.

What advice would you share with new mentors?

Those who chose to be mentors must recognize the commitment that goes along with that title. It’s important to understand your role. Mentoring can be a rewarding experience, but it’s crucial to be open and honest. Stay true to yourself and remember that every one has a different path to success.

What is your advice for mentees (young professionals, students, etc.)?

As a mentee, seek out individuals whom you respect and want to emulate. Ask questions, pick their brains, but also, listen and observe them. You’ve heard the saying, “talk the talk and walk the walk.” Mentees need to learn the difference and learn it early. Seek council from those individuals who succeed at it. You can learn just as much, if not more, from their actions, not just their words.

What inspires or motivates you to be a mentor?

At the end of day, knowing you made someone better just by actively listening, sharing your knowledge and knowing each other is what inspires me to mentor. You cannot begin to determine the size of the impact you can have on someone’s life, but it’s essential to invest in our profession’s future leaders. My mentors had a huge impact on my life, and I hope to have the same impact on other’s lives.

What advice did you receive from your own mentor that you will always pass along to others and why?

My football coach always encouraged his players to go for it and I’m so glad he did. Know it’s impossible to make a mistake before age 30. Learn as much as you can, make connections and do not be afraid to take risks. After age 30, your options begin to narrow.

Know the difference between a dream and a goal. Often, a dream is just a dream. However, a goal is a dream with a timeline. There’s no one right path to success, so take the one that inspires you to be your best and don’t let anything limit you to what life’s all about.

Published: September 3, 2015


More from Tom Hoog:

Tom Hoog, 2015 Legacy Honoree

TH Picture 3

Current Position

Vice Chairman, H+K Strategies


Tom served as President and CEO of Hill and Knowlton/USA from 1996 through 2001. He led the US firm during an era of unprecedented growth, both through the development of its internal resources and through acquisitions. His responsibilities included managing the firm’s 13 US offices; leading its acquisition strategy; developing client strategies; overseeing the firm’s profit-and-loss centers; and redefining the US Company’s corporate culture.

Before he became President and CEO of the US Company, Tom served as Chairman of its Public Affairs practice and as General Manager of its New York and Washington offices. Prior to joining Hill and Knowlton, he founded and served as President of Hoog and Associates, Inc., a Colorado-based governmental affairs firm with offices in Washington, D.C. and Orange County, California.

Tom served on the executive committee and national finance committee for then-Governor Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.He served for five years as Chief of Staff for US Senator Gary Hart of Colorado. Before his Capitol Hill experience, his involvement in national politics had begun with his work for the presidential campaigns of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Senator George McGovern.

Also, Tom spent six years as a naval aviator with the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet.

Other Information

Tom served at the pleasure of President Clinton on the Advisory Board of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. He also served as Chairman of the Wolf Trap Foundation from 2000 to 2002. The Wolf Trap Foundation operates the National Park for the Performing Arts in public/private partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.

He currently serves on the board of advisors of the Vietnam War Memorial. Tom was a founding member of the Glocal Forum Board, an NGO devoted to cooperation among global mayors. He serves on several corporate boards of directors and frequently delivers speeches and leads seminars at universities around the nation. Tom was Chairman of the Counselors Academy of the Public Relations Society of America in 2002 and 2003.

Tom was selected by PR Week magazine as one of the 100 most influential public relations practitioners of the 20th century and in 2003 was awarded the John W Hill Award for Excellence in the public relations profession by the NY Chapter of PRSA.

In 2004, he was honored by the Colorado Chapter of PRSA with their Swede Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award, and in October 2004, Tom was chosen by PRSA as the winner of the Gold Anvil Award, their highest individual honor. The Gold Anvil acknowledges Tom’s professionalism and significant contributions to the public relations field.

More from Tom Hoog:


PR Legend: Tom Hoog


This post is part of The Plank Center’s Legacies from Legends in PR Series that was begun in recognition of the 40th Anniversary of the Public Relations Student Society of America in 2007.Hoog Photo

Former president and CEO of Hill and Knowlton/USA (1996-2001); founder of Hoog & Associates, a governmental affairs firm. Served five years as chief of staff for U.S. Senator Gary Hart. Member of the Advisory Board of the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum and the Vietnam War Memorial. Received PRSA’s Gold Anvil Award (2004); named by PR Week as one of the 100 Most Influential Public Relations People of the 20th Century.

The leaders of tomorrow’s communications profession will have to help their clients and colleagues deal with tougher and tougher problems: ethical, legal, financial and social issues that go to the heart of corporate behavior and civic reputation. To earn trust, public relations executives must live up to the highest ideals of integrity and the most rigorous standard of truth-telling, living up to values epitomized by our profession’s pioneers–people like John Hill and Harold Burson.

Whether they work in agencies or “in-house” in corporate communications roles, practitioners should focus on providing strategic counsel based on solid research, a thorough understanding of corporate operations and public-spirited strategies. Offering candid counsel based on what really counts–a nuanced understanding of what the marketplace wants and substantive knowledge of what our society needs–is the surest way to win, and retain, public confidence.

Most importantly, the leaders of our profession must shun the dangerous “spin cycle” that has corrupted civic dialogue. “Spin” debases the entire process of communications as it seeks to divert public attention from fundamental challenges by resorting to quick-fix, skim-the-surface tactics that are intended to confuse people rather than clarify issues.

As long as public debate remains trapped in a shallow culture of spin, our profession will fail to gain the respect it deserves.

The culture of spin is destructive to our clients, the organizations we serve and our profession. A debased dialogue is not good for corporate credibility, and it undermines clients’ abilities to achieve their goals. It’s not good for consumers, who can’t tell where reliable information stops and spin begins. And it’s not good for our own long-term interests, because allowing public distrust to fester diminishes our credibility.

Tomorrow’s leaders, recognizing that the spin cycle is broken, should insist that the entire culture of spin be discarded.

Fending off substantive challenges to serious corporate concerns will always require candid communications that reflect a transparent and civic-minded corporate culture. Organizations win and retain public trust when they are values-driven organizations, with a humane corporate culture that is profit-oriented yet people-focused. We should remind our clients that the bedrock of corporate behavior should be the highest ethical values– a sense of high standards about how companies should treat their customers, shareholders and employees.

Communicators have an important role to play in meeting this challenge. They, perhaps more than anyone else in the corporate structure, should expunge the term “spin” from their lexicon. They should ensure that the highest value of all–allegiance to the truth–remains the central factor in corporate behavior.

Communicators are in a position to counsel CEOs and executives to elevate their vision. We can help them strengthen their corporate reputations–as well as do some good for society–by encouraging them to match their words with their deeds. We can exhort them, in the words of one great corporate leader, Michael Capellas, to “do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do.” And in helping clients recognize that they must fulfill broad-minded civic responsibilities, we can live up to our own ambition to elevate public trust in our profession.

The future leaders of our profession must reaffirm our role as counselors of corporate behavior, keepers of corporate reputation and guardians of corporate integrity. It’s a tall order and it requires the highest professional standards, But I feel confident that our next generation of leaders will be up to the task.

Hoog Sig
Published: 2007

More from Tom Hoog:


Ron Culp Receives PRSA Gold Anvil


On November 8, 2015, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) awarded Ron Culp, Fellow PRSA and board member of The Plank Center, with the Gold Anvil Award for Lifetime Achievement in Public Relations. The Gold Anvil is the Society’s highest Individual Award. It is presented to a PRSA member and public relations practitioner whose accomplishments have made a major contribution to the profession.

Throughout his rich professional career, he has been a true servant leader. Ron’s developed hundreds of great men and women in our profession during his corporate, agency and academia leadership roles. He exemplifies the ethical, transparent and devoted practitioner. He’s never too busy to mentor a professional colleague, counsel a young leader or to respond to the development needs of a student.

Those listening to Ron’s acceptance speech were educated on the importance of mentorships and how we all can pay it forward to “support a stronger public relations profession.”


12188937_1025162334172360_1637779770697776133_nI am humbled and proud to receive this incredible award. I first heard about the Gold Anvil shortly after joining PRSA when I began my first job in Corporate America at Eli Lilly & Company in Indianapolis—site of next year’s conference. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it was even remotely possible to be standing here with this beautiful award in this setting with many, many friends. There are lots of others in this room and many more in this profession who are very deserving of this award, but none could be more proud than I am at this very moment.

I owe this recognition to both loving what I do and being lucky enough to have worked with many great teams and mentors throughout my life. One of those mentors has been along for the ride for the past 47+ years since we met in a sophomore year journalism class. Hence, my first bit of advice today: Find yourself a great editor, a trusted confidant and a best friend. I did. Say hello to my wife, Sandra Culp.

Sandra and I love history—she loves the real stuff, mostly all things England. I prefer the history of this great profession of ours. Now, I didn’t know Howard Chase, but I wish I did. He received the very first Gold Anvil shortly after he helped found PRSA in the year I was born. A reporter turned agency guy before joining corporate America and eventually landing in academe. Sounds familiar! Howard coined the term “issues management.” Like all of us, Howard Chase had many mentors, including Ivy Lee, one of the forefathers of public relations. How cool is that?

Besides my due diligence on Howard Chase, I was compelled to study the entire list of prior recipients and was surprised that I actually knew 37 of them, remarkably almost half. And many played significant and/or cameo roles at various times during my career–names such as John Paluszek, Al Golin, Harold Burson, Tom Hoog, Fred Cook, Judy Phair, Cheryl Procter-Rogers and Ray Kotcher. Let the record show that I thank each and every one of them for their ongoing support and friendship over the years.

Sadly, two other friends and mentors who received Gold Anvils are no longer with us, but I cannot discuss my career without mentioning the valuable influence they have had on me.

I’ll begin with the late, great Dan Edelman who “adopted” me when I moved to Chicago some 30 years ago. Dan and Ruth Edelman opened their world to my wife and me, and helped drive home the importance of family, hard work and paying it forward. I learned much from Dan, although I could never fully appreciate he and Ruth’s passion for Wagner operas, which they graciously invited us to often.

Another important person I met shortly after arriving in Chicago was the 4′ 10″ bundle of energy named Betsy Plank. I was a bit intimidated by this little powerhouse of a woman. After all, I was a fairly new kid on the block and she already had amassed multiple firsts during her career – first woman in senior management at Edelman, the first woman to head a division of Illinois Bell, and first woman president of both the Publicity Club of Chicago and PRSA. She also was the driving force that created PRSSA. That unto itself was a legacy of significant note.

As Betsy was prone to do, she quickly detected that I was a fellow “believer” in paying it forward. I quickly became a member of her extended family – just like many of you who knew her.

Later, when I already was overcommitted with extra-curricular activities, I knew I had to find time to help Betsy with her goal to start the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Over the past 10 years, I have quietly departed most other boards in order to devote more time to helping carry out Betsy’s vision for the Plank Center—to build bridges between the profession and academia, to encourage and celebrate mentorship, and to conduct research that helps support a stronger public relations profession.

I also share Betsy’s commitment to the future of our profession, the future that looks increasingly brighter thanks to the dynamic young people I’ve been meeting over the past two days at PRSSA.

Betsy and Dan and other great PR leaders understood that mentorship comes in all shapes, titles, sizes and colors. The best mentoring relationships happen organically. They are not forced. That’s why most formal mentorship programs are long on good intentions, but short on results. If you love what you’re doing, those relationships will find you. And take it from me, it’s magic when it happens. I have experienced that magic and I hope to continue doing so. I hope you are all doing the same in your careers. We must all pay it forward to continue to advance this great and important career choice of ours.

I’m, indeed, proud of this great profession—a profession that I thank each and every day for allowing a small-time boy from Remington, Indiana, to exceed his wildest career expectations.

More from Ron Culp:

The Summit Conversation

Read what others thought about the Plank Center Leadership Summit as it was happening.

Follow Us