Cynthia McCafferty, President, Hawthorne Strategy Group

by | Feb 6, 2018

Hawthorne Strategy Group won two Bronze Awards in the “Best New Agency” and “Small Agency of the Year” categories in the 2017 Stars of PR Awards. Bulldog’s 2018 PR Awards are now open, with more categories—and more ways to win—than ever. Enter now!

Length of PR career (so far): 20-plus years. It was B.F. (Before Facebook).

Your most memorable campaign: The first two years of open enrollment for Obamacare (2013-2015), I was working with Get Covered Illinois and Cover Missouri to bring healthcare to millions of people in both states. Not only were we truly able to impact lives, but we collaborated with terrific partners in both states.

Most poignant professional moment: Working on behalf of Home Instead Senior Care, we hosted a series of global round table discussions on Alzheimer’s disease, bringing together people living with Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s caregivers and experts to discuss the role of caregivers. The memory that stands out was the roundtable in London, where one an individual with the disease eloquently spoke about his fears on how Alzheimer’s was going to have a bigger impact on his family than the impact it would have on him.

Biggest complaint about social media: This is more of a concern than a complaint – social media allows people to say things without considering the consequences or impact it might have on others. Nuance, personal connections, and common sense can easily disappear during the heat of the moment.

Best thing about working at your agency: The people, including our four-legged, furry colleagues.

Cynthia McCaffertyMost misunderstood thing about PR: PR can be just as important to achieving your business or organization’s goals as any other function in the company.

Most outrageous client request? Pope John Paul II was coming to St. Louis, and I was part of the team handling the media credentials for more than 2,000 reporters. During the check-in process, a member of the papal media pool asked me to go out and buy him a new tie, explaining he could not meet the Pope without one! The opposite of that request was a high school journalist who received media credentials to be part of the photography pool, who was understandably overwhelmed. However, an amazing, seasoned photographer from Time took her under his wing and made sure she got some terrific shots. She sent us a copy of her college essay about that experience.

What got you interested in a PR career? You could say my career went to politics to potato chips. I started working on campaigns and elections, and then had the opportunity to do some freelance work on behalf of Proctor and Gamble for Olean, and that was my introduction to traditional PR and FleishmanHillard.

Most interesting thing about your job? Without a doubt, it’s the clients and the variety of things our team does to support them—from creating an app for McCormick Place in Chicago, engaging influencers with Business France, to getting CNBC interested in a mall opening in Laredo, Texas. Every day brings something new and different.

Number of meetings you were in last week: Too many to count.

Your nightmare client in 3 words: Unreasonable, unresponsive and unrealistic

Best advice to a PR student: Internships, internships and internships. Nothing compares to real world experience.

Favorite way to de-stress: Walking along Lake Michigan with my dog, no matter the weather, my blood pressure drops after a few minutes

The moment you realized PR is more important than you thought it would be:  When I was part of a team working on global product safety recall. We had literally been working 24-7, and had teams in the office working shifts so we could cover every time zone. At one, very stressful point, my boss who was fond of saying “PR is not brain surgery” looked up and said, “PR is not brain surgery, but sometimes we do save lives.” At that point, as an exhausted, overwhelmed, 20-something, I realized that what I was doing really could make a difference.

Favorite non-work hobby: Cooking. There’s nothing better than an evening spent drinking wine, stirring risotto and chatting with friends.

Last book you read: I just finished Connect: How Companies Succeed By Engaging Radically with Society by John Browne. A really engaging and interesting book that examines the role that business can (and in my opinion, should) play in society—far beyond corporate social responsibility. As communicators, we can be integral to making this happen for our clients.

Cocktail of choice: Gin and tonic.

Your first “real” job: Dairy Queen. I can still make a cone with the Dairy Queen swirl on top!

Childhood dream job: Emergency room physician.


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