Crossover Stars
Charting the future of public relations
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The Crossover Stars

Influence 100: Introduction & Methodology 
The Profiles | Who Are the 100 & Their Early Years Teams, Budgets & Agencies | The Big Questions & Inspiration | The Crossover StarsThe Rising Stars

Last year, the Holmes Report created a new 'Hall of Fame' category for those communicators whose career trajectory spans beyond communications, marketing and sales into a business function within their organizations. The 'Crossover Stars' have titles that range from vice chair all the way through CEO.  

 

Beth Comstock

Vice Chair 
GE

Beth Comstock’s promotion to vice chair leading GE Business Innovations seemed like an inevitable accomplishment given her career trajectory from corporate communications into broader management roles. Not only is this a groundbreaking achievement for communications, Comstock also becomes the first woman in GE’s history to be named vice chair and joins three other executives who hold the title.

As vice chair, she operates GE Business Innovations, which develops new businesses, markets and service models and drives brand value and partners to enhance GE’s culture. This unit includes GE Lighting, GE Ventures & Licensing and GE sales, marketing and communications. 

She began her career in local television production in Virginia—including a brief time on camera—before making the move into public relations, holding communications and publicity jobs at CBS and Turner Broadcasting before joining GE’s NBC unit in 1993 as vice president of NBC News communications. Comstock was named a GE company officer in 1998 when she became vice president of corporate communications. She was named GE’s first chief marketing officer in more than 20 years in 2003 and also served as president of integrated Media at NBC Universal.

David D’Alessandro

Chairman of the board,
Seaworld Parks & Entertainment

David D’Alessandro was perhaps the prototype for public relations executives seeking to expand beyond the communications function and into the C-suite.
 
Having started his career in the public relations agency business at Edelman (Orville Redenbacher was a client), he made the move to the client-side of the business in 1984, joining Boston-based financial services company John Hancock to spearhead communications. Once there, he expanded his remit to include marketing—masterminding the company’s celebrated “Real Life, Real Answers” advertising campaign and writing “Brand Warfare,” a well-received marketing tome that drew on his experience in PR to present a holistic view of brand-building.
 
He was named president and COO in 1998 and was lead strategist of the firm’s demutualization and conversion to a public company, In 2000 he became chairman and CEO and presided over Hancock’s merger with Manulife, serving as president and COO of the merged company until his retirement in 2004.
 
His current role, chairing the board of Seaworld, provides plenty of opportunity to draw on his PR experience as the company navigates its own crises. In June, D’Alessandro didn't win re-election at the company’s annual meeting Wednesday after a controversy related to incentive payments. The board will determine what happens with his role next.

John Fallon 

CEO 
Pearson 

John Fallon’s trajectory is especially unique — he joined the education company as director of communications in 1997 and within three years was named president. He’s been the company CEO since 2013,  taking on the job of “encouraging all 40,000 colleagues, in 70 countries, to work as one global company.” Before this, since 2008, he had been responsible for the company’s education businesses outside North America and a member of the Pearson management committee. 

In 2003, he was appointed CEO of Pearson’s educational publishing businesses for Europe, Middle East & Africa. Prior to joining Pearson, John was director of corporate affairs at Powergen plc, and was also a member of the company’s executive committee. Earlier in his career, Fallon held senior public policy and communications roles in UK local government. He is an advisory board member of the Global Business Coalition for Education and a member of the Council of the University of Hull.

Juan Manuel Cendoya 

Vice chairman of the board of directors
Banco Santander 

In December of 2016, Juan Manuel Cendoya—longtime head of corporate communications for Banco Santander—was named vice chairman of the board of directors for Santander Spain, an unusual promotion for a public relations executive.

“Our clients know us to be a trustworthy, strong and solid brand, and this a reputation we aim to keep,” according to Cendoya, who led corporate communications and marketing for Santander, one of the few financial services companies that can look back at the global crisis of recent years with any satisfaction, having diversified into emerging economies such as Brazil and via acquisition into established markets such as the US and the UK. 

The bank operated under more than 20 separate names in 2004, but the emphasis since then on building the Santander brand has paid off. Cendoya has played a major role in that, leading the group’s internal and external communications, corporate marketing, corporate social responsibility, institutional relations, economic research and public policy and serving as a member of the bank’s global executive committee. 

Can you share a moment in your career that you recognized PR’s direct impact on business performance?
We have a very broad, strategic approach to PR at Santander as we believe PR has to be a reflection of the bank’s mission, values and behaviours. PR needs to be backed and strongly supported by business performance, not the other way around. When there’s a gap between the message you want to convey and what’s truly happening in the business, it will not work in the long run. I believe PR is strongly linked to reputation, corporate culture and brand building. It is about communicating to our stakeholders what we do and how we do things. Santander’s mission is to help people and businesses prosper and that is what we are building on as a whole throughout the Group. Fostering our corporate culture, led by our Executive Chairman, Ana Botín, is my top priority right now.
 
What are the industry’s biggest challenges and opportunities?
It is not different to the challenges and opportunities other industries are currently facing. The world is changing rapidly. Digitalisation involves a profound transformation in the way people interact and that affects us at the very heart of our core activity: communicating to others. From a more financial industry perspective, digitalization is of course a huge challenge for banks, but also a source of opportunity for future business growth. Banks will definitely be different in coming years, becoming open, financial platforms providing a broad variety of value-added products and services to customers.  I would also say rebuilding the industry’s reputation and enhancing trust towards banks following one of the worst financial crises in history is a challenge we, as a sector, will have to continue to work hard on.
 
How do you handle the unexpected?
Trying to look for ways to expect the unexpected! Putting sound contingency plans in place is essential and having good, strong, engaged teams makes a huge difference.
 
How do you relax?
Doing sport, reading and and spending time with family and friends.
 
Book/movie/TV show/podcast that teaches you valuable lesson about PR?
I love history and have recently watched the series The Crown on Netflix. The first part of the series is extremely interesting from a PR professional’s standpoint.


Pete Marino 

President of Tenth and Blake/Chief Public Affairs and Communications Officer
MillerCoors
Having conquered the agency business—building one of the most creative midsize firms in the US before selling it to Minneapolis-based ad agency Olson—Marino has spent the past four years making the client side of the business look easy. Now he's adding business oversight to his hugely accomplished career, as of September 1, he takes on operational leadership for MillerCoors' craft and import division, Tenth and Blake.

Marino succeeds the retiring Scott Whitley as president of Tenth and Blake. He will continue to oversee communications, a position he has held since 2014. Prior to joining MillerCoors in 2012, Marino led Dig Communications, which he sold to Olson in 2011.

"Pete has consistently brought sharp insight and a commercial point-of-view to his current role, and I know he will also bring incredible energy and great leadership to Tenth and Blake as we look to grow our terrific regional craft brands – Saint Archer, Hop Valley, Revolver and Terrapin – alongside our prestige imports, Peroni and Pilsner Urquell," said MillerCoors CEO Gavin Hattersley in a memo.

Can you share a moment in your career that you recognized PR's direct impact on business performance?
We had a situation many years ago where we were boycotted by a minority group over a troubling that a Congressman from our HQ district was advocating.  We didn't support the bill at all, but were used by the boycott organizers to make a national statement. The business impact was swift and painful. We quickly mobilized and agreed to some provisions to end the boycott.  Upon execution, we made an error and found ourselves in a boycott from the controversial bill supporters.  At that moment, I realized that everything really does communicate and that what we do and HOW we do it has a direct impact on business.  Given the proliferation of social media, that impact has been accelerating.

What are the industry's biggest challenges and opportunities? 
Our biggest challenge and opportunity is to continually develop our creative product.  Everything else can and ultimately will be commoditized, but using creativity smartly, will continue to differentiate our profession and make sure we can continue to add value to our companies.

How do you handle the unexpected?
With as much humor as I can muster and a sense of calm to demonstrate to my team that we can handle whatever comes our way.

How do you relax?
I love to hang out with my family and friends and am blessed that my kids still choose to hang out with their parents. I enjoy playing basketball and golf as much as possible.  An occasional beer helps too.  Luckily we make many delicious beers that I can choose from.

Book/movie/TV show/podcast that teaches a valuable lesson about PR?
The last two books I have read, "Shattered" by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes and "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F!ck" by Mark Manson both teach very valuable lessons about PR and leadership.

If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
running my own simple, profitable and low stress business that required little capital.  Actually, if that existed, I would leave comms and do it in a second.


Simon Pearce

Special Advisor to the Chairman
Executive Affairs Authority Of Abu Dhabi

Entrusted with building and protecting Abu Dhabi’s reputation, Pearce has a big budget and an even bigger remit. He is considered one of the UAE’s most influential officials, particularly close Khaldoun Al-Mubarak, for whom he helped “smooth the communication of the Manchester City Football Club takeover” according to the WSJ.

Since taking on the position in 2006, Pearce has overseen a significant revamp of the Gulf Kingdom’s communications offering, and also plays an important role in key assets such as the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and media initiative 2454. Pearce came to the Middle East role after a varied life in the agency world, including a lengthy stint at Burson-Marsteller, encompassing positions on four continents and - in his last job at the firm - CEO of Australia.

Stephen Forshaw

Managing Director of Corporate Affairs & Managing Director, Australia & New Zealand
Temasek
Singapore
@stforshaw

A political communicator in his native Australia, Stephen Forshaw moved into senior public relations and public affairs roles at Singapore Airlines and Microsoft before becoming MD of public affairs at Singapore-owned investment firm Temasek in 2011. In 2013, Forshaw added operational oversight for Australia and New Zealand to his remit, making him on of the few communications leaders to take on business leadership duties. A high-profile advocate for the importance of communications to an organisation’s goals, Forshaw’s work has often featured an adept ability with social media, evidence of a mindset that is constantly questioning the development of public relations in today’s evolving media landscape. Forshaw has also spoken at length about the need to question your organization, rather than becoming “housetrained.” 

Sue Clark

Managing Director, Europe
SABMiller

In 2012, Clark became that rarity in the PR world, a communications head who moved into the C-suite to become managing director of SABMiller in Europe. A poised performer who once drew the attention of the national media when she decided to remain at work well after going into labour, she had previously headed the brewing giant's global corporate affairs function for nine years, after amassing significant corporate communications experience at Railtrack and Scottish Power. Clark sits on SABMiller’s executive committee, overseeing all of its public relations, public affairs and corporate responsibility initiatives. In particular, Clark is regarded highly for her expertise in understanding reputation. In 2006, she embarked on an ambitious project to define the factors that drive SABMiller’s reputation in its key markets, following that up by creating a specific job function focused on the company’s reputation.