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For nearly two decades, Kathleen Henson has enjoyed a diverse career in public relations and marketing, working with some of the country’s most recognizable companies and brands. With unparalleled energy, charisma and drive, Kathleen expertly and instinctually connects people, events and ideas to create big media moments that generate impactful, lasting buzz.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Purdue University and former agency Senior VP at Edelman, Kathleen decided to reinvent the modern PR firm and start her own, after realizing that “big agency” culture was not conducive to the work-life balance she craved as a new mom. Since founding Henson Consulting (HC) in January 2001 in her suburban basement armed with only a phone, an internet connection and lot of tenacity, the firm has grown exponentially now boasting an impressive 30-plus client roster, new 4,000 square-foot office in downtown Chicago, and a highly-respected reputation in the industry. Kathleen has created a truly unique environment that feels more like a big family than an office, where each employee is given the opportunity to grow, all while producing exemplary results for clients.
MO: How have you reinvented the modern PR agency and why did you think that reinvention was necessary?
Kathleen: I set out to create something that just didn’t exist at the time when I first became a mom. Owning a PR firm, I find that I have the luxury of choosing to pursue only clients that interest and excite our team and, in turn, we get to become true partners in all of our programs and campaigns. I get to do what I love, have quality time with my family and help others in need in the process – all while encouraging my colleagues to pursue that same goal. I’ve always lived by my self-proclaimed motto ‘Act Like You Can’. No one has written the playbook on how to juggle being a busy working mom and PR professional – just started HC in my basement, literally, and my journey led me here. Now looking back, I see how hard work pays off. I have a fantastic busy office in Chicago, great clients, a dynamic team and I am genuinely excited to come to work every day.
MO: Where has your interest and passion for connecting, networking and implementing creative strategies come from? Were these interests and characteristics evident at an early age?
Kathleen: I developed my networking skills at a very early age – as the youngest of four kids I had the luxury of traveling with my parents on business trips from second grade through college. On those trips, I learned early on the importance of finding a common denominator with people to connect with them personally, to look people in the eye and that there is nothing wrong with calling a CEO by his first name – even when you’re seven years old! I grew up fearless when it came to interacting with important people and that served me well in boardrooms at a young age when I was just starting out in PR.
MO: What sets Henson Consulting apart from the competition?
Kathleen: We are an agency that cuts through the bureaucracy and we have a reputation for being very creative. We like to do great work that gets attention and creates business or partnership opportunities for our clients. As we begin a new relationship, we see if it’s a good fit on both sides. We choose to only work with clients that value us as true partners – and, in turn, I think our clients appreciate how hard we work and truly committed we are to their business. We take our clients work very personally and it is obvious in the results we generate.
MO: I loved reading about the new extension of your agency called HC3, can you tell our readers why you thought it was an important addition to your firm?
Kathleen: After having children, I realized that I wanted to do work that was meaningful and that had purpose – even in the area of public relations. I consciously made a decision to try and always incorporate a philanthropic element into all of the brand work we were doing with our clients and we found that to be a very successful strategy. The media are more willing to insert a brand mention when you are also highlighting some important philanthropy or great cause. So, I created HC3 to focus on the triple bottom line: helping people, creating opportunities for brands to still profit, and leaving the planet hopefully a better place. I like teaching my children that you can find meaning in the work you do – no matter what industry you’re in.
MO: Who would your ideal client be?
Kathleen: We really love working with established brands that need fresh thinking. It’s always very exciting to come to the table with a great idea that no one had presented before. We are super motivated by the thrill of coming up with a big idea and seeing it come to fruition.
MO: How do you balance your life between being the president of a successful and growing consulting firm and manage to be a mother to 5 children from the ages 3 to 12?
Kathleen: With five kids and a very busy agency I am often asked “How DO you balance it all?” and I laugh and say I don’t know – I just do. I’ve been blessed throughout my personal and work life with a loving husband, five active kids, and an office full of talented people who make me a better person each day. I just take every day as it comes and remind myself that everything always has a way of getting figured out. And, I never anything for granted and always remain grateful.
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