Betsy Plank: The First Lady of Public Relations

Betsy Plank (1924–2010), known as the First Lady of public relations, achieved a number of firsts for women in the field and acquired international recognition through her 63-year career. Plank was devoted to public relations education and to the growth of the PR industry. She spearheaded the development of the Public Relations Student Society of America and earned the moniker “the Godmother of PRSSA.” She also helped develop guidelines for the national curriculum for undergraduate public relations university courses in 1987. She lectured many public relations classes and mentored a number of students and young professionals during her career, leaving a legacy of giving back through education and guidance to the next generation of PR professionals

Her keen business insight and creativity allowed her to become one of the most influential and respected PR leaders of her era. After beginning her career at a small agency serving not for profit clients, Plank worked for 13 years at Edelman Public Relations, where she rose to become executive vice president. In 1973 she joined AT&T as director of public relations planning, and then moved onto Illinois Bell Telephone Company as director of external affairs.

Plank was a PR pioneer. She was the first woman to be elected president of the Publicity Club of Chicago in 1963 and the Public Relations Society of America in 1973. She was also once of the most honored women in PR, being the first person to receive three PRSA individual honors.

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