Grace Leong is the CEO and partner of Hunter Public Relations, a leading marketing communications practice with offices in New York City, Toronto and London and talent across North America. For the past 28 years, Grace has built her career and public relations agency by providing strategic marketing communications counsel to national consumer brand teams and CMO’s within Fortune 100 companies such as Kraft Foods, Mondelez, Johnson & Johnson, Post Foods, Campbell’s and 3M.
Upon graduation from the University of Delaware in 1988, Grace began her public relations career at D-A-Y/Ogilvy & Mather Public Relations, a top 20 public relations firm. A year later, Grace joined forces with Barbara Hunter to establish Hunter Public Relations. Ten years later, in partnership with four other employees of the firm, Grace purchased Hunter Public Relations upon Barbara’s retirement. Within the first two years under the new management, Hunter Public Relations doubled its billings by adding clients in the wine and spirits industries and expanding the firm’s expertise beyond food and beverages to health, beauty, home care and retail products/industries.
Hunter Public Relations is now the second largest food and beverage-focused practice (by billings) among U.S. public relations agencies and regularly ranked among the top 20 consumer-focused public relations firms in the country. The agency was selected as the consumer agency of the year in 2014 by the Holmes Report and is regularly cited as a “Best Place to Work.” Now part of the MDC Partners network, Hunter PR continues to service Fortune 100 consumer products/service companies across North America and the UK. In 2017, the company proudly added Amazon Retail to its roster of clients.
Education and University Achievement
Grace earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Delaware in 1988 and upon graduation was named both the most outstanding graduate in the study of public relations and the top communications graduate. In 1996, she earned a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
As an undergraduate Blue Hen student, Grace helped revive Delaware’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and led the chapter to two national awards for development and service. In her senior year, she was awarded PRSSA’s Gold Key Award by the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) for outstanding leadership to her chapter.
Public Relations Industry Achievement and Mentorship
Grace has been an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) since 1988. She was elected to the national PRSA Board of Directors in 2001 and also served as the PRSA international conference chairperson in 2004 securing Donald Trump, Al Roker and Larry King as the keynote speakers.
Grace has been an active member of PRSA-NY since beginning her professional career and served on the chapter’s board of directors and in several leadership roles including vice president of membership development and programs. She is currently the chair of the honors and awards committee and also serves as a mentor and judge for professionals seeking their APR distinction.
Grace has won numerous industry awards for her public relations campaigns and service to the industry including Silver and Bronze Anvils, Sabre Awards, Big Apple Awards and, in 2012, the President’s award for individual service to PRSA-NY. In 2016, she received PRSA-NY’s highest honor: the John W. Hill Award from PRSA-NY for lifetime achievement in the practice of public relations. She was named a “Champion of PR” by PRWeek in 2017 and has served as a judge for numerous industry awards and organizations including PRWeek, the Holmes Report and the PRSA.
As a board member of the PRSA Foundation for three years, Grace helped establish communications career center academies, in-school communications and public relations education and career exploration programs for more than 1,700 urban high-school students nationwide. Grace also supports PRSSA and Foundation efforts as a “friend,” providing contributions to the scholarship programs and hosts more than 15 student groups each year at Hunter PR. She has proudly served as a guest lecturer for Iona’s graduate program in PR, in addition to The Fashion Institute of Technology, University of Delaware, NYU and the University of Florida
Grace is also a mentor to dozens of communications students, serving as an advisor to the PRSSA chapters and students at the University of Delaware, the University of Florida, City College of New York and the Fashion Institute of Technology, and provides stipends for dozens of these students to attend the annual PRSSA conference each year. Grace also established an internship program at Hunter Public Relations and has placed more than 75 students in paid positions within Hunter PR since 1995. In recognition of the 25th anniversary of Hunter Public Relations in 2014, Grace established the “Barbara W. Hunter Internship” at her agency, which gives outstanding students from the University of Delaware the chance to begin their careers in NYC thanks to a paid stipend.
University of Delaware Alumni Service
Grace is proud to call herself a Blue Hen and has been actively involved in alumni activities since graduation. She has served as an advisor and financial sponsor to the University of Delaware’s PRSSA chapter for over 15 years and frequently visits the campus as a guest speaker.
In 2009, Grace was appointed to the University of Delaware’s Dean’s Advisory Council in the College of Arts and Sciences and served as its chair from 2014-2016. She currently serves on the advisory board for University of Delaware’s Horn Program in Entrepreneurship within the Lerner College of Business. She helped create the University’s “Cocktails and Conversations” speaker series which features prominent Delaware alumni in a panel discussion environment.
In 2013, Grace was recognized with the University of Delaware’s Outstanding Alumni Award for her ongoing service to the school. Three years later, Grace was named to the University’s Alumni Wall of Fame in recognition of her personal and public service excellence. In doing so she joined a small group of 275 University alumni including revolutionary war heroes, signers of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution and former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden.
Faith and Fundraising
Currently, Grace has been a faithful and active member of the Our Lady of Grace Church Community in Hoboken since 1996. In 2004, she revitalized the church’s youth instruction program and has since served as a head catechist, youth program supervisor and education consultant. In 2011, Grace was awarded the Parish’s St. Paul the Apostle Award for her dedication and service to the church community.
From 2006-2015, Grace served as a board member and chair of the Friends of Elysian Charter School, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for Elysian Charter School. In addition to volunteering as the chief communication officer for the school and the non-profit, Grace led a capital campaign from 2009-2015 which raised over $1 million for new facilities. With these funds, Elysian Charter was able to move into a new state-of-the-art school building in the Fall of 2015.
Grace was raised in Scotch Plains, N.J. and now resides in Hoboken, N.J. with her husband, Todd, and their four teenage children Erin, Matthew, Sara and Anderson. She enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and exploring new restaurants. An avid soccer fan, Grace and her family enjoy traveling to stadiums around the world to see their favorite teams compete.