2017 distinguished alumni Recipient
BA 1992, Communication
Founder & CEO, Henson Consulting, Chicago, IL
For more than two decades, Kathleen Henson has enjoyed a diverse career in public relations and communications, working with some of the country’s most recognizable companies and brands. With unequaled energy, charisma, and drive, Kathleen expertly and instinctually connects people, events and ideas to create big media moments that generate impactful, lasting buzz. Owner of her own national PR firm with headquarters overlooking the iconic Chicago River, Kathleen is constantly and organically growing her infinite, personal arsenal of contacts-which reaches deep into America’s top newsrooms all the way to Hollywood’s elite-to creatively tell her clients’ stories.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Purdue University and former senior leader at Edelman, the world’s leading independent PR firm, Kathleen has worked in public relations and marketing with some of the country’s most recognizable companies and brands. She started Henson Consulting (HC) in 2001 to reinvent the modern agency and to provide clients with strategic counsel, unparalleled creativity and tangible results. HC offers a broad range of consumer marketing and corporate communications support to a wide variety of international, national and Midwest-based clients. Over the years, the firm has worked with blue chip clients including Kraft-Heinz, Mariano’s, The Pampered Chef, Sears Roebuck and Co., International Housewares Association, Lands’ End, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Brown Forman Beverages, Hard Rock Hotels, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Coldwell Banker, The Chicago White Sox, Potbelly Sandwich Works, AMLI Residential, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Allstate and the Allstate Foundation and the U.S. Pistachio Industry, among more than 100 others.
Kathleen aims to always meet or exceed client expectations and still loves the thrill of a great media placement. Her agency generates daily high-profile media hits for clients in a variety of the world’s most reputable outlets including: TIME Magazine, Chicago Sun-Times, NY Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, The Times (UK), CNN International, The Times of India, Business Week, E! News, US Weekly, People, and EXTRA, among countless others.
Kathleen has been featured on NBC’s Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda, as part of its “Happiness” series to discuss her positive outlook on work and life and personal decision to leave the big agency world to found her own agency. She has also been featured in several other media outlets including ABC’s Windy City Live, WGN-AM, and the Chicago Tribune and has been a frequent contributor to industry outlets including PR News, PRWeek and the Holmes Report.
Kathleen has been named one of Chicago’s “Women of Influence” by Michigan Avenue Magazine, was also named the 2014 PR Professional of the Year in Chicago by the Public Relations Society of America, a Top Woman in PR by PR News in 2016, and was honored as a Champion of PR in PRWeek’s inaugural Women in PR award. Her firm has been recognized nationally as PR News’ Small PR Firm of the Year and Bulldog Reporter’s Small Agency of the year, as well as a finalist for PRWeek’s Boutique PR Agency of the year. In 2015, Henson Consulting was named by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the 25 top small-company cultures nationwide.
Giving back is a personal passion of Kathleen’s and she volunteers her time to a number of important causes in Chicago. She served as co-chair of the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago’s Women’s Leadership Council, currently serves on its fundraising cabinet, is on the Board of Directors of Breakthrough Urban Ministries and is an active member of the prestigious Women’s Board of the Joffrey Ballet, where she has co-chaired the fall fundraiser since 2013.
With family always being her top priority, Kathleen is the proud mother of Emily, John Henry, Haley, Brady and Finley. When she gets a moment to slow down, Kathleen is blissfully catching up on reading, cooking and spending time with her mom and dad, who proudly sent her to Purdue.