The 2012 Plank Summit on Leadership in Public Relations


Public relations executives and educators came together on November 1, 2012, to learn the results of the largest study of leadership ever conducted in public relations. Eight international researchers presented key findings, and distinguished panelists discussed what the research means for practice, development programs, education and theory.

What Happened

Nearly 4,500 professionals in 23 countries and nine languages recently rated top issues in the field, described how they manage them and how the issues affect leadership, and assessed what needs to be done to better develop future leaders. We had some great presenters, including Jon Iwata of IBM, who opened the Leadership Summit via video. The experts were Roger Bolton, Arthur W. Page Society; Gary Sheffer, GE; Frank Ovaitt, Institute for PR; Dr. Linda Hon, University of Florida; and Prof. Kathy Fitzpatrick, Quinnipiac University. Attendees dialogued on the crucial topic of leadership during an open discussion period, and Rob Flaherty, CEO of Ketchum, summarized the event.

Who Was Responsible

The Summit was held in honor of Betsy Plank, a long-time legend in the field. Sponsors were Heyman Associates, IBM, and The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at The University of Alabama. Research allies included ABERJE in Brazil, the Hong Kong PR Professional Association, and the University of Leipzig, Germany.

The Leadership Summit Team

  • Bruce K. Berger, Ph.D., University of Alabama, and Research Director, The Plank Center
  • Keith Burton, President of Insidedge, GolinHarris
  • Ron Culp, Director, the Graduate Program of PR & ADV, DePaul University, and Chair, The Plank Center
  • Karla K. Gower, Ph.D., University of Alabama, and Director, The Plank Center
  • Mark Harris, VP, Communications, IBM Global Business Services
  • Bill Heyman, President and CEO, Heyman Associates

If you weren’t able to make it to Chicago for the Summit, you can still watch the entire presentation.

The Leadership Summit Part I (1:22:30):  Introductory remarks, The Cross-Cultural Study of Leadership in Public Relations, Part I. Includes Introductory remarks; An introduction to the research team and the scope and importance of the project; Study background and a snapshot of the 4,500 participants; 10 key issues and 4 top issues in the field; Strategies and tactics leaders use to manage the issues; and Links between issues and leadership skills and capabilities.

The Leadership Summit Part II (56:01): The Cross-Cultural Study of Leadership in Public Relations, Part II. Topics include: Developing future leaders; Individual insights and beliefs about leaders and the practice; A glimpse of the BRIC Countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China); and 10 headlines about leadership: what the findings mean.

The Leadership Summit Part III (1:31:30): Panel Session Addressing Study Implications, Suggestions, Next Steps. Topics include Professional practice; Leadership development; Teaching and education; Company development programs; and Research and theory.

The Leadership Summit Part IV (11:22): Rob Flaherty, Senior Partner & CEO, Ketchum, sums up the Summit.

The Summit Conversation

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