PCI CEO Jill Allread Receives Public Relations Society of America’s Distinguished Leader Award
When reflecting on his many years of success, tennis great Andre Agassi said that the greatest applause one could get would be applause from their peers. In late November 2022, members of the Public Relations Society of America Chicago Chapter gave its newest Distinguished Leader Honoree, Public Communications Inc. (PCI) CEO Jill Allread, a standing ovation.
The prestigious award honors PR professionals who have curated exceptional careers and demonstrated tremendous leadership and service to the profession. The award, often a culmination of decades of service, recognizes only the best of the best – world-class professionals who provide not only superb communications counsel, but also meaningful contributions to the world around them.
During his introductory remarks, PCI president Craig Pugh spoke of Allread’s passion for public relations and dedication to deploying her abilities to lift up other individuals, organizations and businesses.
“I have lost count of the number of PR professionals – and CEOs and heads of healthcare organizations, higher education, conservation organizations and other nonprofits – across the U.S. who cite their time with Jill – as a colleague, as a client to whom she provided executive coaching or as a friend – as pivotal to their own career advancement,” he said. “But what many who know her admire about Jill is that which is unwavering: her integrity, her honesty, her principles, her values.”
In her remarks, Allread spoke on PR practitioners’ “superpower” to use communications to make the “positive, purposeful changed needed in our world.” She shared stories about the long-shot opportunities PCI championed and the successes that resulted for clients including Howard Brown Health, Holy Family Church and Chicago’s Museum Campus. “I thrive on getting involved and making a difference, particularly with causes related to children, conservation, and social justice. It began when I was a newspaper reporter and then editor with a curiosity and drive to serve the public good,” Allread said
Before leaving the stage, Allread encouraged industry leaders to think bolder and broader and embrace a new generation of PR professionals. “As senior leaders, we are obligated to share our wisdom and counsel. And more importantly, we need to push open doors for the next generation of practitioners with their own unique skills, perspectives and passions,” she said.
“Don’t expect them to look like us, think like us, or be like us. They have new ideas and unique talents that can continue evolving our profession. We need to listen to them and learn from them and work together. Avoid allowing an ‘us vs. them’ in our workplaces. We need to work together.”
Allread ended her remarks with a challenge to the audience made up of family, friends, colleagues and peers: use the PR superpowers to make changes that make an impact and mentor others to do the same.
Allread is CEO of Public Communications, Inc., one of the largest, women owned, nationally certified LGTBQ Business Enterprise public relations agencies in the country. Prior to her time at PCI, Allread served as the Brookfield Zoo’s first Director of Public Affairs. Prior to that, Allread worked as a daily newspaper reporter and city editor.
She has received numerous awards and recognitions including named as one of Chicago Business Journal’s “Women of Influence” and recognized among Chicago Notable LGBTQ Executives and Chicago Notable Marketing Executives, and received Publicity Club of Chicago’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Allread serves on several nonprofit boards including Openlands, the International Crane Foundation, Girls in the Game, and Illinois Nature Preserves Commission.
Previous PRSA Chicago Distinguished Leader honorees have included the who’s who of major public relations agencies: Harold Burson of Burson-Marsteller, Al Golin of Golin/Harris, David Senay of Fleishman-Hillard, Marcia Silverman of Edelman Chicago, and Michelle Flowers Welch of Flowers Communications Group.