Considered the first lady of public relations and godmother of PRSSA, Betsy Plank, APR, Fellow PRSA, was a trailblazer for the public relations profession and played an integral part in the history of our Society.
A long-time resident of Chicago, Plank earned countless industry accolades. She served as executive vice president of Daniel J. Edelman, Inc. (now Edelman), before becoming director of public relations planning at AT&T and later director of external affairs at Illinois Bell.
Plank achieved multiple firsts for women, being the first to head a division of Illinois Bell, and as president of the Publicity Club of Chicago and PRSA (1973). She was also the first person ever to receive three of PRSA’s top individual honors: The Gold Anvil Award (1977), the Paul M. Lund Public Service Award (1989) and the Patrick Jackson Award for Distinguished Service to PRSA (2001). She was also honored with the Arthur W. Page Society’s Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award.
Plank and fellow past presidents pose at a Past
Presidents dinner at the PRSA International Conference.
In addition to her many personal accomplishments, Plank devoted much of her time to advancing public relations education, consistently and passionately advocating for the profession’s students.
She played a central role in the establishment of PRSSA in 1967, and in 1981, while serving as a National Adviser, co-founded “Friends of PRSSA” (now “Champions for PRSSA”). In 1987, Plank co-chaired a national commission to develop guidelines for an undergraduate public relations curriculum, serving on accrediting teams at several universities and speaking to numerous student groups and public relations classes to enhance education in the field. In 1989, the PRSA Foundation established the Society’s first ever scholarship endowment fund in her name. Since then, the Betsy Plank Scholarship Endowment Fund has helped ensure the availability of public relations education funds for students at more than 40 colleges nationwide.
Her legacy is most visible in the countless PRSSA members and professionals who credit her with taking the time to mentor them throughout her career. Her focus on others led her to become the most individually-recognized woman in the industry, a testament to the value of selflessness in professionalism.