Edelman names Lisa Osborne Ross as new U.S. chief

It says she will be the first Black woman to lead a major public-relations firm.

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Lisa Osborne Ross

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Edelman, the global public relations firm founded in Chicago in 1952, said Tuesday it has named Lisa Osborne Ross as CEO of its U.S. operations.

The firm said Ross will be the first Black woman to lead a sizable business in the public relations field. She will oversee Edelman’s largest region, covering 2,360 employees in 13 offices.

Formerly president of the Washington D.C. office and later chief operating officer in the U.S., Ross will succeed Russell Dubner, who was promoted to global vice chairman. Edelman said Ross will continue to work from Washington.

The firm said the new leadership will help it innovate and expand into what its global CEO, Richard Edelman, called “bold entrepreneurialism.” It has been researching ways to help clients build trust in their brands and operations.

Ross led the Edelman firm’s COVID-19 task force and has spoken frequently about how to operate during the pandemic. She was involved in starting the firm’s Racial Justice Task Force after George Floyd’s murder last May.

The task force has counseled more than 400 clients on issues involving diversity and multiculturalism.

“The complexity of issues at this time in our world requires a diverse, thoughtful, culturally competent team to deliver counsel. That is what I’ve found at Edelman and what I hope to drive more of as CEO,” Ross said in a prepared statement. “Edelman’s belief that it can create movements that impact the world is what inspires me and draws me to this position.”

In an interview with the publication Ad Age, Ross said she didn’t feel much pressure as the first Black woman to be a prominent public-relations CEO because others will follow. “As a Black person, as a woman, as a communications professional, as someone who believes that you can do well by doing good, this is a wonderful perch for me, because it’s consistent with my values, and it has the resources to execute and the authority to execute,” she told Ad Age.

Ross worked in President Bill Clinton’s administration in policy and issues management, either within the White House or the Labor Department.

She will report to Matthew Harrington, global president and COO. Harrington cited her “empathetic leadership” amid the pandemic and civil unrest related to Floyd’s murder. “She is a champion of our people, and expansive in her ability to provide senior counsel to clients and drive operations,” Harrington said.

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