The 13 most fascinating people (in digital PR/marketing) in 2012

For some reason (read: my wife), I got sucked into the annual Barbara Walters special featuring the most fascinating people of 2011 a couple weeks back. Some of the folks on her list I did actually find fascinating (Simon Cowell, for example). Others, not so much (the Kardashians–are you kidding me? Aren’t they the OPPOSITE of fascinating?).

But, the show got me thinking about our own industry (PR/digital marketing) and the people I find fascinating as we head into 2012. So, allow me to put on my Barbara Walter guise for a moment. I give you the 13 most fascinating people (in digital PR/marketing) in 2012 (in my opinion).

Chris Heuer

The Social Media Club co-founder made a big jump in 2011 when he accepted a job at Deloittle Consulting in the firm’s social business unit. Interesting job–and it might signal a shift in firms other than those in the creative industry (Edelman, for example) trying to make headway into the social business arena.

Peter Shankman

The HARO founder sold HARO in 2012 to Vocus, but worked to hold true to his promise not to change the heart of the popular platform. Β He also got married toward the tail-end of 2011–always a big life-changing moment. So, what will this mean for the serial entrepeneur in 2012? Not sure, but I know it will be interesting.

Kellye Crane

With 16 years as a solo PR counselor, Kellye (at left above) certainly has the chops to blog about the solo lifestyle. But, she took that a big step forward in 2011 when she launched the “Pro Membership”–content only available to “Solo” members (read: paid content). It’s an interesting concept, and with such an engaged solo community nationwide (check out the weekly #solopr chat for more), I’m curious to see where this heads in 2012.

Heather Whaling

Let’s see. In the last two years Heather has: 1) Started a very successful digital PR business in Geben Communication, 2) led the popular #pr20chat, 3) Spoken at numerous conferences and events across the country, 4) live blogged a trip to Haiti after the earthquakes of 2010. I’ve even featured her as “Rock Star” in a previous post.Β I’ll stop there. Point is, in the last two years, this woman has bit off a whole heckuva lot. So I’m eager to see what she takes on in the year ahead.

Matt Dickman

The former Fleishman-Hillard senior vice president made a big jump to rival agency, Weber Shandwick this year. Sure, there’s always agency movement, but this seems like a pretty big move. And, he’s playing a key role for the firm’s “Social Business Innovation” group. I’ve never met Matt, but I’ve followed his blog off and on for years–seems like a very smart guy. And, as he teams up with people like Greg Swan, Scott Meis and Stephanie Agresta at Shandwick, I’m interested to see where they can take Shandwick when it comes to “social business.”

Kristina Halvorson

I know, some of you are saying it right now. Kristina doesn’t work in PR/marketing–she works in content strategy. But, without content, where are we as marketers and PR counselors in today’s world? She’s in! In all seriousness, Kristina’s fascinating to me for many, many reasons. She’s running what appears to be a gangbusters business in Brain Traffic here in the Twin Cities. She just put on one of the more success conferences (not just content strategy conferences) in the Twin Cities last year in ConFab. And, well, she’s just damn funny. I mean, I don’t know Kristina (need to change that, by the way), but if you follow her on TwitterΒ you can get a taste for the snarkiness. And, I’m gleaning all this from merely what I see online. I’m sure there’s much more depth to her in person πŸ˜‰

Chuck Hemann

WGC. Olgilvy. Edelman. Sounds like A-list agency list right? It’s also a list of agencies Chuck has worked for in the last three years. And, in that span he’s also went from a manager of research and online reputation at Dix & Eaton (a mid-sized firm in Cleveland) to vice president of analytics at Edelman, one of the most respected agencies in our industry. I think he’s done OK for himself the last few years. But, what makes Chuck more intriguing to me is his focus: Digital analytics. Go ahead–count the number of people you know that focus on this area? You can’t come up with more than 5, can you? Most can’t come up with 3. Chuck’s a thought leader in an area that has few–and an area that needs more. So, I’m especially interested to see how 2012 pans out for him.

Jeffrey Cohen

I’ve been a fan of Jeff’s work for a while, as one of the founders and bloggers at B2B Social MediaΒ (an area I also have a lot of interest in). But, it’s Jeff’s recent move to Randian6 as a social strategist and decision to publish his first book (The B2B Social Media Book with co-author Kipp Bodnar) that puts him on this list. 2012 proves to be an exciting one for Jeff.

Kevin Hunt

Kevin’s an interesting guy. After starting his career on the news side (including 9 years at local outlet, KSTP-TV), Kevin is now working on the social team at General Mills–a pretty interesting job in its own right. His primary job at GM? Content creation for the company blog (A Taste of General Mills) and a host of other social work including measurement and online engagement. And, did I mention he plays a key role for one of the largest Fortune 500 companies in my hometown? Enough to get my attention for 2012.

Mike Stelzner

In 2009, Michael (the guy on the right above) started Social Media Examiner. Two years later, it’s one of the predominant blogs and online publications in our industry with more than 450,000 readers each month. But, the truth is Michael had to reinvent himself a number of years back. He’s went from the king-of-white-papers (at least in southern California) to the publisher of one of the most well-read sites in our industry. Quite the change. And, having heard his story first-hand at BlogWorld this past fall, I’m even more interested to see what’s next for Mr. Stelzner.

Tac Anderson

There’s a few reasons Tac’s (the fella at left above with Minnesota’s own Lee Odden) intriguing to me. First, I’ve been a fan of his blog for a while now (New Comm Biz). Second, he recently (last summer) took a job heading up Waggener Edstrom’s digital strategies group in London. And lastly, he’s a true geek (and I’m really not). I admire the geeks of the world. Why? To me, if you’re a geek, it means you’re inherently inquisitive. And that means, you’re asking a lot of questions. And that means you’re challenging common perceptions. And that basically means I like how you think. Intriguing–at least to me (and someone I’d like to meet, selfishly).

Adam Kmiec

I’ve long thought Adam was one of the more interesting people on the Twitters. He’s constantly challenging the status quo–and I love folks who constantly go against the grain. Then, take a peek at his resume. 14 years with companies like Fallon. Leo Burnett. Con Agra. And now, Walgreens. And that’s no small job. With more than 8,000 locations across the U.S., Walgreens is our nation’s largest drug store. It’s a huge company. It deals with all sorts of issues and challenges. And Adam’s the leading social voice for the organization. Quite the challenge, but I’m guessing he might be up to the task. Should be interesting to watch this year.

Shelly Kramer

Shelly Kramer (at left above with Adria Richards) is the kind of woman who will get in your face. Put up a fight. Challenge you. And then the next moment, she’ll go out of her way to help you out. At least that’s been my (minimal) experience with her. And, despite how I’ve responded and interacted with Shelly publicly, that’s what I really like about her. Oh, also her Twitter bio (“Luv Milk Duds+Beer”). Oh, and also she’s been a entrepeneur for most (if not all) of her professional career–so, I could probably learn a thing or two from her, too. But mostly, I just find her kinda interesting for no concrete reason. Gotta get down to a Jayhawks game this year so I can finally her (hope she’s not a K-State fan).

Who’s fascinating to you as you look at 2012?

Note: Photos courtesy of jdlasica, CC Chapman, Steve Garfield, Mack Collier, Joshua Kulpa, TopRank Marketing, Ben Spark, Adria Richards and Geoff Livingston via FlickR Creative Commons.Β 

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105 comments on “The 13 most fascinating people (in digital PR/marketing) in 2012

  1. MattDickman says:

    @arikhanson Thanks for the mention, honored to be part of the list! Hopefully our paths cross soon.

  2. BryanPerson says:

    @arikhanson Also noting that Barbara Walters isn’t on your list of 13 … and for good reason!

  3. arikhanson says:

    @BryanPerson LOL

  4. arikhanson says:

    @MattDickman Yep–let me know if you’re ever in Minny to see the WS crew.

  5. MattDickman says:

    @arikhanson Will do, should be up there pretty soon I hope.

  6. KellyeCrane says:

    I like what you find “fascinating,” Arik — most on this list are stretching themselves beyond their comfort zone, and I’m honored to be included. This post has introduced me to a few new folks, and let’s hope the “we’ll see what happens next” questions you pose for each end up with a positive outcome! :-)

  7. BryanPerson says:

    @arikhanson On another note, have you had your annual #HansonSummit yet?

  8. KevinHunt says:

    Thanks for including me on your list, Arik! Honored to be a part of it and I’m glad we’ve been able to connect.

  9. binghott says:

    @KellyeCrane How did I get left off that list?!

  10. chuckhemann says:

    @DavidBThomas Thank you sir…

  11. kjellfish says:

    Fascinating list – many I’d like to get to know as well. I spoke to several at Blog World LA (you included) and was both inspired and grateful for the time everyone took with me and all the other people in line. 2012 will be an interesting year and it will be fun to see how all of these people contribute to it. Thanks for sharing.


  12. prtini says:

    @KellyeCrane Good call on the common thread being “stretching beyond their comfort zone.” I’m flattered to be included in this list, and among such smart, talented people who are pushing the boundaries. Thanks, @arikhanson! (Oh, and I’d say you’re pretty fascinating yourself!)

  13. arikhanson says:

    @BryanPerson Yes–last week! You?

  14. chemann1 says:


  15. chemann1 says:

    Hi Arik –

    Thank you very much for putting together this list and including me on it… Couldn’t be more honored. There are some seriously big hitters on this list. Hopefully I can live up to it in 2012!

    Also, amazing picture choice… Not only is it a year old, but it’s 30+ pounds ago. I’ll remember that. πŸ˜‰

  16. arikhanson says:

    @chemann1 Had to make sure you actually read the post, Chuck πŸ˜‰

  17. arikhanson says:

    @chemann1 Had to make sure you actually read the post, Chuck πŸ˜‰

  18. KellyeCrane says:

    @binghott I don’t know! There are many fascinating people, it’s true. :-)

  19. KellyeCrane says:

    @AmandaOleson Thanks, Amanda — hope you have a happy new year ahead!

  20. binghott says:

    @KellyeCrane There’s always next year. . .

  21. binghott says:

    @KellyeCrane There’s always next year. . .

  22. binghott says:

    @KellyeCrane There’s always next year. . .

  23. tacanderson says:

    Wow, thanks. Flattered to be on your list and to be a geek :)

  24. tacanderson says:

    Wow, thanks. Flattered to be on your list and to be a geek :)

  25. tacanderson says:

    Wow, thanks. Flattered to be on your list and to be a geek :)

  26. pachladis says:

    @chuckhemann nice blurb about you!

  27. AmandaOleson says:

    @kellyecrane My pleasure! Looking forward to seeing all the excellent stuff you do this year! :)

  28. chuckhemann says:

    @pachladis Thanks, Pam! Terrible picture (+30lbs :)) But I appreciate the recognition. That @arikhanson is a good dude

  29. tacanderson says:

    @tgrumm thanks Tara!

  30. pachladis says:

    @chuckhemann down 30 huh? That’s awesome! Happy New Year. Hope 2012 brings you more success!

  31. chuckhemann says:

    @pachladis gracias!

  32. arikhanson says:

    @chuckhemann @pachladis So you include the guy in a list and all he can do is focus on the pic. Sounds very “womanly” to me πŸ˜‰

  33. chuckhemann says:

    @arikhanson @pachladis dude, you know me. πŸ˜‰

  34. thebrandbuilder says:

    @arikhanson @chuckhemann @pachladis Personal brands and all. Always use the right picture or there’s hell to pay.

  35. pachladis says:

    @arikhanson @chuckhemann ahaha I am staying out of this one πŸ˜‰

  36. pachladis says:

    @thebrandbuilder @arikhanson @chuckhemann good point. I hate the photo of me in the latest Inside Business. Not my good side at all. #fail

  37. adamkmiec says:

    @ZachDWest I agree.

  38. sarahevans says:

    Awesome people. Great list! :)

  39. @arikhanson@chemann1 Maybe a bad picture, but that was an awesome party. Allhat, right? Congrats on the 30 pounds. Good list here, AH. Some great folks I’ve known for a while and some newbies to add to the list.

  40. adamsherk says:

    @prtini@KellyeCrane Glad to see you both on this list. Deserved!

  41. rebeccaodell says:

    @jkrameric Wait… @chuckhemann is a @YouToo2012 keynote? Awesome. Hoping I can make it!

  42. craig_wishart says:

    @tacanderson HAHA you are a TRUE GEEK! I really like this list πŸ˜€

  43. YouToo2012 says:

    @rebeccaodell @jkrameric @chuckhemann Hope you can, too. Registration is open. Forms at

  44. YouToo2012 says:

    @rebeccaodell @jkrameric @chuckhemann Hope you can, too. Registration is open. Forms at

  45. jkrameric says:

    @chuckhemann @YouToo2012 Me, too!!!

  46. pachladis says:

    @chuckhemann @jkrameric @YouToo2012 nice! I’m planning to come again this year. Always a good crowd…

  47. jkrameric says:

    @pachladis @chuckhemann @YouToo2012 Theme is Mobile & Measurement so it should be a great conference!

  48. pachladis says:

    @jkrameric @chuckhemann @YouToo2012 nice, is there a registration page up somewhere?

  49. ShellyKramer says:

    @sarahkayhoffman Thanks honey. @chemann is there because he’s #sexy. Don’t you agree?

  50. ShellyKramer says:

    @jenniferwindrum Thanks sugah. In my book, you’re pretty fascinating your own self :))