By: Tom O’Connell
Congratulations are in order for former PRSA Detroit President Mary Henige, APR, as she was recently elected to the PRSA College of Fellows. The ceremony was held at the Induction Dinner of the College of Fellows on Saturday, Oct. 22 at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art during the 2016 PRSA International Conference.
“I feel it’s the pinnacle of the profession,” Henige said. “It represents my on-going dedication to advancing our profession and mentoring students and new professionals.”
PRSA Detroit President Don Tanner believes it’s a great honor for Mary, and our chapter. “Mary exemplifies the consummate public relations professional,” he said. “She is someone who strives first for perfection for her employers/clients. At the same time, she has remained dedicated to giving back – mentoring and supporting students and next-gen professionals. And, she continually seeks to raise the bar on her own career. If anyone is deserving of being a PRSA Fellow, it is Mary Henige.”
On its website, PRSA describes the honor: “The College of Fellows is an honorary organization within PRSA comprised of more than 350 senior practitioners and educators, each of whom has left a significant footprint on the public relations profession. Election to the College, which was created in 1989 as part of a PRSA initiative focused on the future of public relations, is considered the pinnacle of a professional’s career. College members are seen throughout PRSA and the profession serving in Chapter, Section and national leadership positions, mentoring students and professionals, teaching, and engaging in professional practice.”
“They only accept those who are service oriented,” Henige said. “The expectation is that you are going to continue to serve and advance our profession.”
Her journey to this honor began when Henige earned a bachelor’s degree in speech communications in 1986 and a master’s in organizational communications and public relations in 1993, both from Wayne State University.
Professionally, she spent 30 years in a variety of communications leadership positions at General Motors. Henige led GM’s social media and digital communications team for nearly six years, beginning just prior to the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy, in June 2009. She hired the first social media community manager at GM and built the team, winning several awards. She spent 11 years in marketing communications overseeing the media launch of two dozen vehicles. Other positions include leading the executive communications team, which wrote for and supported the C-Suite; legal and safety communications; and media relations for the design, research and development, and engineering staffs.
After GM, Henige founded Magnetica Communications LLC, in Dec. 2015. Her consultancy specializes in counseling CEOs and senior leader teams on social engagement; strategic and organizational communications; branding; and reputation support during crises. Her primary clients are the Archdiocese of Detroit and Simon Group Holdings, which includes Atlas Oil Company.
Henige said the process for becoming a Fellow is not easy. “I spent 40 hours on my application,” she said. “It’s an arduous process, a lot of work, but rewarding nonetheless.”
While the challenge of chronicling every month you have worked in communications and detailing your top achievements and community involvement (among many other items) can seem daunting, Henige said it was worth it. “The process allows you to reflect on your career.”
Being a mentor is a role Henige takes very seriously. She has been the Professional Advisor to the Wayne State PRSSA chapter since 1993. She said this involvement also helped inspire her to become a Fellow. “For WSU students it is good for them to have someone as an inspiration and to know they too one day could become a Fellow,” she said. “I thought I should do it for WSU, my chapter, my roots.”
“When we give back, a lot of good things come back to you — it truly has in my case,” Henige said. “It’s an incredible blessing – I am glad I did it. It’s hard work – not to be taken lightly. It gave me a chance to look at the first chapter of my career – and prepare for the second.”
Henige said she has admired professionals who are Fellows throughout her career, and it is “amazing” to have access to them. “I was a bit ‘star struck’ at the induction dinner to be among so many PR legends.”
“I feel incredibly blessed on so many levels. I am truly appreciative of everything Wayne State and PRSA Detroit Chapter have done for me.”
PRSA Detroit Members Who are Fellows:
Jeffrey R. Caponigro, APR, Fellow PRSA
Mary T. Henige, APR, Fellow PRSA
Sandra M. Hermanoff, APR Fellow PRSA
Bruce MacDonald, APR, Fellow PRSA
Kelly Rossman-McKinney, APR, Fellow PRSA
Tom O’Connell is President-elect of PRSA Detroit and manages Michigan as Senior Account Executive at Business Wire, a Berkshire Hathaway Company