‘40 Under 40’: Plunging into PR

Leigh Lehman’s journey towards public relations was one of chance. “Honestly, I fell into it,” she said. After obtaining a job as a PR student worker for a dean on campus during her sophomore year of college, Lehman, who later went on to graduate in 2009 with a master’s in strategic public relations, was responsible for promoting school groups and student services in on-campus publications and local outlets. Thinking back to these opportunities, she wrote, “There was something about telling those interesting stories and connecting groups and causes with the needs of students that stuck with me.” This experience was one which steered her towards PR.

Her resolution ended up being a great decision, as Lehman was recently recognized by PR Week, the highest accolade in the industry, as one of their “40 Under 40” for 2017. 

Reflecting on achieving this distinction, Lehman’s first comments were, “It was and remains surreal. As a PR person, I’ve always felt we are background people. We’ve done our job well when we don’t have to become a focus. I think we are one of the most important parts of the team, but don’t need to be front and center. So to be acknowledged for that work and garner attention for it, is different. But I’m appreciative and thrilled to be recognized by my peers and the industry.” 

PR Week lauded her as having “a reputation for her commitment to clients.” Her dedication is also recognized in how she has approached her career. After graduation, she joined Current Marketing as an assistant account executive and quickly worked her way up the corporate ladder to become a director. According to PR Week, she transformed “[into] an invaluable thought leader and client counselor [working] on some of the agency’s most high-profile projects.”

What has been particularly important to her is the type of clients she has had the chance to manage. “I’ve been fortunate to work with brands that care about supporting causes,” Lehman said. “The one that consistently stands out, though, is working with Glad to support One Warm Coat, a nonprofit that provides coats to anyone in need, free of charge. Through Glad to Give, we were able to generate thousands of donations across the country, during a time of year when people needed coats the most, while also showing Glad as a brand that stood for something. We made a direct impact to help improve peoples’ lives. There’s something pretty amazing to be able to say ‘that’s part of your job.’”

This impact doesn’t come easy; it demands preparation, dedication and tenacity. According to a colleague, “Leigh steps up for the big assignments, both in volunteering to take them on and in delivering incredible client experience and impactful results.”

Remarking on why PR matters not only to her but to the world right now, Lehman said, “As editorial rooms shrink, there are fewer people to investigate and seek out stories. PR has an opportunity to fill that void and bring attention to things that otherwise would go unseen because of diminishing resources. I think that just means we have to become smarter in how we tell our stories. I believe that a good story will always win. Let’s welcome that challenge. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be as fun!”