The PR industry doesn’t give an award for “Thought Leader of the Year,” but perhaps it should. Company execs (or their PR reps) who’ve done a masterful job at expressing important ideas and exerting positive influence ought to be recognized, particularly if the individual used traditional and digital media to change opinions or spur others to action.
We’ve therefore compiled our own list of those figures who stood out as thought leaders in 2014.
Jeff Bezos. As the Amazon honcho himself put it in a recent interview with Business Insider, “I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.” He’s not afraid to take a risk, or to learn from failure, and in 2014 Bezos expanded boldly into “traditional” media by buying the venerable Washington Post, among other ventures. And when did you ever expect to say the words Jeff Bezos and Golden Globes in the same sentence? This year, Bezos’ Amazon TV greenlit the bold new series “Transparent” which took home top honors at Sunday’s Golden Globes.
Malala Yousafzai. The survivor of a brutal attack for attending school in Pakistan, the 17-year-old activist for female education and youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate has transformed herself from victim to inspiration. A blogger since the age of 11, Malala is also a savvy speaker and author, leveraging her fame to continue fighting for women, children and education.
Bre Pettis, co-founder of Makerbot. Though Pettis recently stepped down from his role as Makerbot’s CEO, he launched a new initiative with Stratasys, the company that acquired his startup for $403 million just a few years after Pettis and two friends started the company in the Brooklyn equivalent of a tiny garage. Makerbot quickly became a standard-bearer for the future potential of the technology, thanks to the charisma and media prowess of Pettis.
Pope Francis. The Roman Catholic Church’s first Latin American pontiff has charmed the world, it seems, ever since taking the papal seat in 2013. From his decision not to live in the grand papal apartments, favoring more humble accommodations, to his groundbreaking statements and actions regarding the poor, birth control, homosexuality, and other issues of the day, Pope Francis has managed to walk the fine line between maintaining integrity and commitment to the faithful while conveying compassion and a progressive spirit in outreach toward non-Catholics. No wonder he has such high approval ratings!
Sophia Amoruso. For a community college dropout who founded the $100 million Nasty Gal online fashion empire, 2014 was an eventful year. Her book, #GIRLBOSS, a combination memoir and motivational business how-to, became a bestseller, but the eight-year-old company suffered from slowing growth and laid off 10 percent of its workforce. Amoruso has also just stepped down from her position as CEO but something tells us this is all fodder for more interesting reflection and thoughts to share with her audience.