2015 Rising PR Stars (corporation and association): Kathleen Kirkham, Director of Corporate Communications, Smithfield Foods

Smithfield’s Kathleen Kirkham effectively manages corporate marketing strategy, public relations, media relations and advertising initiatives, as well as agency-partner relationships and community outreach initiatives for the $15-billion consumer packaged goods (CPG) company. Additionally, she manages internal communications for its 48,000 employees across the globe.

She has been charged with creating and implementing strategies to improve the corporation’s transparency and dialogues with key stakeholders, and has helped Smithfield to improve in both aspects. She also ensures the consistent delivery of corporate message across multiple media channels. In this role, she also serves as the spokesperson for the company and facilitates opportunities with media that best align with its messaging strategy.

Kirkham evolved from serving as the community manager for all of Smithfield’s social channels to recently managing a team of community managers who have grown the social communities in collective total by more than 99.7 percent on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn in the past year—with a 366-percent increase in the Facebook community, specifically.

She’s led an evolution of not only responses to critical questions about the company and its transparency, but developed streamlined support for branded programs. She also leads ongoing content creation and drives any corporate brand campaign support through these channels. In the past 12 months, the Smithfield Foods online community has garnered 1.9M organic impressions and engaged more than 136,000 Internet users.