Patricia (Patty) Lee Blackburn has more than 30 years of award-winning corporate communications experience, providing strategic, innovative communications and public relations counsel to drive organizational performance. Her career includes senior leadership roles for Fortune 500 companies in the manufacturing, accounting, and banking sectors, where she led global communications, brand and community relations programs designed to enhance reputation, increase employee engagement, and build customer loyalty and shareholder value.
Blackburn’s passion for communications was sparked as a youth working with her church group to assist families in poverty-stricken areas of the South, as well the Navajo Indian reservation. Blackburn was moved by what she witnessed, and wrote about the trips for school papers.
“I felt a responsibility to explain the shocking conditions I had seen to my peers who were as sheltered as I was,” she said, “hoping that my experiences would enlarge their world view and increase their compassion for those less fortunate. That’s why I chose journalism.”
After graduation from Medill, Blackburn freelanced for several magazines, selling articles to Glamour and Mademoiselle. Finding full-time magazine employment challenging to come by, she parlayed her writing and reporting skills into a public relations career at Norwich University, and four years later, entered the corporate world to head up employee communications at Crouse-Hinds. There, Blackburn found that she could still help make a positive difference – even from a corporate office.
Early in her Crouse-Hinds career, the company was targeted for a hostile takeover. The systems Blackburn had implemented helped ease employee unrest, informed the media and smoothed the transition to a “white knight” merger with Cooper Industries. As a result, Blackburn became part of the Cooper team in Houston, Texas advancing to manager of communications and community relations.
At Cooper, she sought to help the company do well while also doing good for its employees and plant communities. She launched the PACE program to provide grants to local vocational schools to help ensure a pipeline of skilled labor for the company.
She launched a nationwide employee competition to honor outstanding volunteer service. In 1984, Blackburn received a Presidential Citation recognizing this program to promote volunteerism.
Among other industry awards, Blackburn received two Gold Quill Awards of Excellence from the International Association of Business Communicators for employee communications at Cooper and for crisis communications during a hostile takeover attempt at Giddings & Lewis, where she worked following Cooper Industries.
Blackburn expanded her responsibilities at Goodrich, Bank of America and McGladrey accounting firm, where she launched the company’s first national charitable cause with Special Olympics. Since then, McGladrey’s golf championship has raised $2.7 million for charities. She also was an early pioneer of integrated marketing communications, working across functions to ensure compelling, consistent messaging, delivered with the greatest return on investment.
Blackburn has enjoyed mentoring and coaching junior colleagues, just as her predecessors did for her
“I enjoy helping younger people advance. I am grateful to the people who supported my career, and I’m proud that I am able to do the same,” she said.
She retired in 2013 as vice president of communications from Ingersoll Rand. There, she oversaw global strategy for all communications, branding and public affairs.
Blackburn continues to provide communications coaching and consulting. She has served for ten years on Medill’s Board of Advisers and is active in the philanthropic community in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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