As we near the end of Black History Month, I’m sharing a tribute to one of Kansas City’s very own national public relations pioneers.When I was president of the Kansas City chapter in 1999, there was a decidedly diminutive exquisitely dressed “older” African-American woman at the PRISM awards I had not met before. I asked someone who it was. I was about to give a speech, and the only thing I can honestly recall was the response, “oh, that’s Inez Kaiser.” I went up to give my “all-important” speech and the moment to meet Inez was lost. I don’t recall seeing her again.
Fast-forward 22 years later. I was attending the Museum of Public Relations 5th Annual Black History Month event as the guest of speaker Cheryl Proctor-Rogers, APR, Fellow PRSA, past chair of PRSA and a noted PR Business Strategist/Executive Coach. Cheryl not only knew who Inez was, she celebrated her as one of the black pioneers of the public relations profession in her presentation, “Why History Matters: Making the Case for Storytelling.”
I learned that night and subsequently: Inez Kaiser was born in Kansas City, Kansas in 1918. She worked 20 years for the Kansas City school district before entering public relations. She started Kaiser & Associates in Kansas City, and she was the first African-American woman to own and run a public relations firm with national clients in the U.S. She was the first African-American woman to join PRSA nationally. She was also the first African-American woman to join the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. She wrote a guest column for the Kansas City Star, “As I See It” and a syndicated column, “Fashion Wise and Otherwise” to help other African-American woman and promote pictures of women of color. She was a counselor to presidents Nixon and Ford – but as noted by her son voted for Obama! The list goes on.
She was an extraordinary national trailblazer that is one of Kansas City’s own.
Inez Kaiser passed away at 98 years old in 2016. I started my own woman-owned firm in Kansas City in 1998. I know how hard it is to start a business as a woman, but to start a business in 1957 as an African American woman? I’m glad I got to know her story, but regret I never really met her. We have so much to thank Inez, but as a woman who started a business in Kansas City, I have much to be thankful to for this incredible woman and so many woman entrepreneurs before me – black or white or of any color. And that was a point also made in Cheryl’s presentation – these pioneers are a significant part of our history –certainly our public relations history — and should be celebrated.
Thank you Inez and thank you Cheryl-Proctor Rogers, APR, Fellow PRSA and the Museum of Public Relations, for calling attention to Inez Kaiser’s enduring legacy. Lastly, thank you to the Greater Kansas City Chapter of Public Relations and Norita Taylor, APR, GKC-PRSA Immediate Past President for joining me and others in moving the celebration of Inez forward.
Note: An earlier version of this post appeared in the GKC-Kansas City blog. If you knew Inez Kaiser, please email Lea-Ann Germinder, APR, Fellow PRSA at Lgerminder@germinder.com or Norita Taylor, APR, at email@example.com.