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On the Case With…

Each month, as part of “The Business Case for Public Relations,” PRSA asks an industry leader to reflect on his or her career and make a “business case” for public relations.

More from “On the Case With…”

On the Case With Kirk Stewart

May 1, 2015

Kirk Stewart
Kirk Stewart

Kirk Stewart is the founder and CEO of KTStewart, a firm focused on enhancing value for 21st-century organizations through integrated corporate communications campaigns.

He has nearly 40 years of experience in both corporate and agency public relations and previously served as global chief communications officer at Nike, chairman and CEO of Manning, Selvage & Lee (now MSLGroup), and executive director at APCO Worldwide.

Stewart was recognized as one of the 15 most influential leaders in public relations by PRWeek, named an agency management all-star by INSIDE PR and received the distinguished journalism alumni award from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

He is a member of PRSA and the Arthur W. Page Society and a trustee of the Institute for Public Relations, and serves on the PRSA Foundation Board and the Conference Board’s Council on Corporate Communications Strategy. Stewart holds a bachelor’s in political science and a master’s in public relations and journalism from the University of Southern California, where he was also a PR instructor for six years.

“Continued convergence of all forms of media, even higher levels of required transparency, increased importance of diversity of experience and thought for all practitioners, and understanding how all of the data that’s available to us today can be simplified and used to develop critical insights,” are some trends that Stewart sees on the horizon for the PR profession.

And regarding what’s top of mind in the corporate communications sector right now, he says: “Gaining a better understanding of the skills and talents required for CCOs to be a critical member of the management team in today’s world.”

Kirk Stewart

Childhood ambition: 
To be an attorney — thank goodness that didn’t happen.

Current livelihood:
CEO at my new firm

What changed:
I had quit law school and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I spent the day with Kenneth Owler Smith, who headed the PR sequence at the University of Southern California. He inspired me to get my master’s degree in journalism and public relations. And as they say, “the rest is history.”

First public relations job: 
AAE at Burson-Marsteller in Los Angeles

What you know now that you wish you’d known then: 
How much fun this profession is and the amazing experiences you have that you never thought you’d ever have in a lifetime.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received: 
“Work hard and enjoy what you do,” from my dad.

Greatest professional accomplishment: 
Helping Nike go from being the poster child of the anti-globalization movement to one of the most socially responsible companies

If you weren’t in public relations, you would be: 

A high school or college basketball coach

Desired legacy: 
That I treated people with dignity, respect and a sense of fairness

Make a “business case” for public relations: 
In today’s communications environment, organizations that desire a competitive advantage in the marketplace have no choice but to be fully engaged with every one of their critical stakeholders. No one is as well positioned to build that engagement than the chief communications officer.


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