In the midst of a significant leadership transition, global communications firm Edelman secured the top honor at the ANA Multicultural Excellence Awards. As the company basks in the glow of their recent achievement, the departure of its first Black CEO, Lisa Osborne Ross, casts a sweet-then-bitter shadow on the celebrations.
Edelman, in collaboration with Dove and other notable agencies, claimed the “Best in Show” accolade for their evocative “Cost of Beauty” campaign. The campaign highlighted the negative implications of toxic beauty content on social media platforms for youth mental health. This recognition at the ANA Awards seemingly underscores Edelman’s commitment to creating impactful and socially relevant campaigns.
However, almost a month before this triumphant win, the communications giant was in the news for a different reason. Lisa Osborne Ross, the first Black CEO of Edelman, took an unexpected leave of absence, as reported by Axios. The departure raised several eyebrows in the industry, given Ross’s transformative leadership and her trailblazing journey as a Black woman leading a global firm.
In a heartfelt update shared on her LinkedIn page post-ANA Awards, Ross officially announced her departure from Edelman:
“After taking a leave of absence last month, I’ve made the decision to leave Edelman. In a note I shared with my colleagues this morning, I said just how proud I am of all that we’ve accomplished in our almost six years together. I thanked them for their partnership and confidence, and wished everyone the very best in work but especially, in life.”
Ross’s statement reverberated with sincerity and gratitude. Her dedication to the values instilled by her alma mater, Marquette University, was evident as she recalled their motto, “Be The Difference.” This ethos has not only guided her tenure at Edelman but continues to steer her professional journey.
Ross further added, “It has been a great honor to Be the Difference with so many passionate and talented colleagues, clients, friends, and leaders. I look forward to the many ways we will continue on this change-making journey.”
The communications industry has keenly felt Ross’s influence, which is evidenced by the outpouring of support she has received since her leave of absence. As Ross put it, “I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support expressed by members of my various communities over the past few weeks, especially cclj. I appreciate you all deeply, and I can’t wait to reconnect, reflect, and experience joy with all of you in the coming months.”
“I have always admired you so much – your strength, intelligence and poise inspired confidence and made us want to be the best we could. Thank you for leading us through such a challenging time with grace. We’ll miss you,” Laura Goldman, chief strategy officer at Mustache, a Daniel J Edelman company wrote on LinkedIn.
Amanda Schmidt, former Edelman Chief People Officer, who is now global chief people officer at Cision wrote, “Lisa Osborne Ross so much gratitude for your leadership and the incredible bravery you’ve demonstrated during your time as CEO. Your legacy of courage and grace will continue to inspire all of us for a lifetime.”
Lisa Osborne Ross’s departure from Edelman is certainly the end of an era for the firm. As Edelman steps into a new chapter post their ANA Awards victory, the industry will keenly watch Ross’s next move.