50 Game-Changers of PR for 2017

Heather Whaling


Geben Communication

Heather Whaling is a pioneer at developing an effective combination of PR and new technology to drive business success for her clients. Other agencies are just catching on to the capabilities of marrying traditional and digital work together, whereas this is central to what Whaling does and has been doing at Gleben, as the company’s founder and president; the company was developed to support this strategy—Whaling having believed in the power of social media from the very beginning. At Gleben they help to strengthen the industry and deliver impressive results to their clients.

They have social media PR down to a science—for example, they facilitated The Columbus College of Art and Design’s “virtual fashion show” on Instagram, this had never been done before, and they made The Columbus Marathon the first marathon ever to be on Pinterest. These are just some of their impressive accomplishments.

Whaling is brave—she is open to difficult discussions, unafraid to broach controversial topics whether about PR, or issues surrounding women’s role in the workforce, or anything else she is passionate about. She moderated the PR industry’s leading Twitter chat—#pr20chat, otherwise known as PR 2.0 Twitter chat where she engaged in complex discussions about the industry and about the world with other PR professionals.

She advocates for women in leadership—while there are a significant amount of women working in PR—more than many other industries—only 30% hold leadership positions at global agencies. When a male audience member at the 2016 Public Relations Society of America’s International Conference tweeted that a woman had worn “distracting” clothing while presenting, Whaling took to her blog, prTini.com, and her Twitter to respond. Her blog post served as the most shared piece of content from the event which then inspired the conference to include a “women in leadership” track at the following year’s international conference.

Whaling is accomplished in all ways of meaning. She shines brightly and encourages other women to do the same—a very special trait. She inspires her coworkers to reach for better and not fall victim to any of the restraints set by society. She created the progressive program “Geben Loves Family” which provides paid parental leave to employees, and the volunteer initiative, “Give More Grow More.” Her goal with her PR firm is, first and foremost, to give back.

Most Interesting Fact Not Found on Heather's Resume

In the four years since my son was born, Geben has grown from four employees to more than 20. My son’s father and I separated and divorced when he was still an infant, which changed everything. I had to recalibrate and chart a new path forward. Now, as a single mom, I’m raising a kiddo and building a company. I’m really proud of the fact that I can show my son you can have ambitious career aspirations AND be a good parent. It’s not either/or. You don’t have to choose. (You do have to know how to prioritize and ask for help … but it can be done!)

Heather's Advice to His 20-Year-Old Self

Believe people when they show you who they are.

Heather's Profession in an Alternate Universe

If I weren’t in communication, I’d like to have a career at the intersection of technology and social good. We’re making so many technological advancements and we have so much data. I’d love to find more ways to infuse innovation and the entrepreneurial mindset to spark social change.