Hawthorne Strategy Group builds and protects your reputation in order to achieve your business goals and solve your business challenges.




Whether it is delivering media results or building community partnerships, we have a focus on delivering the results that matter to you. It starts with a strong, clear message and plan. After all, a map doesn’t help unless you have a destination ahead.


It is not just what you do, but people have to understand why. It might be establishing your reputation with new audiences or in new markets, or addressing issues, regardless, clear communications are essential for demonstrating leadership.


The right time. The right message. The right place. Some principles never change, even if the vehicles do. It could be a tweet or speech or both, we know that to achieve results we must consider and employ the right communications tools at the right time.

A Team You Can Trust.

With decades of communications experience, our team is built on a commitment to results and measurement. We bring the best mix of traditional and innovative communications techniques to create a team that will help you achieve your goals.



Communicating during an emerging health crisis: Coronavirus reported in Chicago

February 21, 2020

As the Coronavirus continues to be a hot topic of conversation around the globe, we sat down with Hawthorne president and CEO, Cynthia McCafferty, to discuss the nuances that companies must consider when communicating during an emerging health crisis.

1. What communications strategies can companies use to mitigate panic among their employees when a global health scare like the coronavirus is on the horizon?

First, companies should take the time to prepare for situations like this. It does not have to be a global emergency, a local outbreak of the flu could be just as disruptive and concerning to employees. That said, some important considerations:

Start the conversation. Employees should know how your business is responding to the situation before they have to ask.

Know the facts and do not stray from them. You should never speculate, and certainly not for situations like this that are constantly changing.

Rely on the experts. Your local health department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other organizations offer good resources to address questions.

Be understanding of your employees’ concerns. Someone with a compromised immune system may be much more concerned about traveling. As an employer, you need to have procedures in place to support all of your employees.

Identify alternative ways of doing business. This can be easier for some positions and companies than others, but identify ways that you can continue to do business while also protecting employees’ health. If working virtually is not an option, make sure to have appropriate protocols set up to limit employee exposure. If your company has people in the field, let them know how they can protect their health (and help them do that, for example, if someone has to routinely enter other people’s homes and offices, equip them with gloves, sanitizer, etc.).

2. During an emerging health crisis, how can companies maintain employee trust?

The best advice is to do the right thing. Be honest and transparent, while respecting employee privacy. Employees may begin to speculate or panic, so it is important to explain what your company is doing and why, as well as what your limitations might be. Don’t forget to be realistic and empathetic in your responses.

3. Has anything like this happened in your career as a PR professional? How did you handle it?

SARS in 2003 and H1N1 (aka bird flu) in 2009/2010 immediately come to mind as global health concerns, but the flu kills thousands each year and often prompts closure of schools and other public places. It is important to plan ahead, to be honest and accurate in your communications, and to recognize that when someone (or their family’s) health is at risk, the stakes are high so any communications need to take that into account.

Hawthorne Strategy Group Announces Women Business Enterprise Certification

August 12, 2019

Hawthorne Strategy Group Announces Women Business Enterprise Certification

The certification will open up an array of opportunities to the agency

Hawthorne Strategy Group is pleased to announce it is certified as a Women's Business Enterprise (WBE) through the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), the nation's largest third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women in the US. With the recent appointment of Cynthia McCafferty as Chief Executive Officer and President, Hawthorne is proud to receive this certification and considers this a great achievement and important next step for our team.

Cynthia said of the certification, “We are proud to be a woman-owned business and thrilled about significance of this certification. As the top certifier for WBEs across the country, our WBENC certification will create new opportunities for us in Chicago and across the country.”

WBENC’s national standard of certification implemented by the Women’s Business Development Center is a meticulous process including an in-depth review of the business and site inspection. The certification process is designed to confirm the business is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women.

By including women-owned businesses among their suppliers, corporations and government agencies demonstrate their commitment to fostering diversity and the continued development of their supplier diversity programs. The certification will open new doors for networking, education, and business partnerships, and we are proud of the impact that it adds to our brand.

Hawthorne was established in 2012 and, since then, has grown from a one-person firm to 13 staff members based in the Chicago Board of Trade Building with national and local clients. Today we have a world-class team, providing our clients with best-in-class service. We see the WBE certification as the natural next step in our evolution.

Introducing Our Newest Team Members

Another important step in our evolution is bringing three new members to our team. Please join us in welcoming Lela Olds, Brittany Hill, and Mia Mastandrea!

Lela Olds

Prior to joining Hawthorne as an Account Director, Lela spent several years managing projects related to multi-million-dollar litigation cases at a midsize law firm. She then went on to advance in multiple roles at Burrell Communications working on national communications efforts for the agency’s longest-serving client, McDonald’s. She led media as well as influencer and celebrity relations for all McDonald’s marketing events for the African-American consumer market including the Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour, BET Experience, and ESSENCE Festival. She most recently served as Communications Director for the American Heart Association. When Lela is not tending to client’s needs, she is enjoying her favorite musical acts in and around Chicago, watching sporting events, and spending quality time with family and friends.

Read More Here


Brittany Hill

Prior to joining Hawthorne as an Account Manager, Brittany lived in St. Louis where she worked as an Assignment Editor at the local NBC affiliate television station, KSDK-TV. She coordinated news coverage and assigned crews for daily broadcasts that included reporting of major events across the St. Louis area such as presidential campaign rallies as well as St. Louis Cardinals and Blues sporting events. Most recently after moving to Chicago, Brittany worked at Fishman PR as a Local PR Strategist where she used high-level strategic thinking to gain awareness in local media markets for new franchise business owners across the country. When she’s not working, you will most likely be able to find Brittany exploring the different breweries throughout the city and serving as co-chair for the Chicago Girls Pint Out chapter, a local non-profit craft beer organization for women.

Read More Here


Mia Mastandrea

Prior to joining Hawthorne as a Fellow, Mia gained experience through several strategic communications opportunities.  After her sophomore year at Indiana University, Mia interned for Workspace Digital, a marketing start-up in the competitive technology industry. The following summer, she organized events with IVY, a social and professional networking organization. When she wasn’t planning cocktail parties and summer galas, she was establishing and managing all social platforms for Revere Copper, a 200-year-old copper company. Outside of work, Mia likes to experiment with different workout classes, follow the latest celebrity gossip, and dive into a new book. 

Read More Here

Hawthorne Strategy Group Advisory Board Member, Tom Hoog, Reflects on Life Lessons and the Importance of Being a ‘Truth Teller’ in Public Relations

June 25, 2019

We had the chance to sit down with Hawthorne Advisory Board Member, Tom Hoog, who was in town recently to give the team some insider tips and advice for sustaining a fulfilling public relations career.

Hoog has decades of experience in the public relations sector and has twice as many stories to accompany his impressive resume.  He’s discovered the secret to staying afloat in the ever-changing PR landscape and let us in on a few of his industry secrets.

Hoog’s path to public relations wasn’t always so clear-cut. As a student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the late 1950s, Hoog became increasingly more interested in politics and piloting. His passion for politics was first sparked by John F. Kenney’s presidential campaign, but upon graduating he became a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War. After flying in the Navy for seven years, Hoog returned to civilian life during the anti-war movement and found himself rallying for peace alongside hundreds of thousands of activists across the country. Realizing the key to enacting legitimate change would be through politics, Hoog took his first steps into the political realm when he was hired to work on George McGovern’s presidential campaign.

Since entering into the world of public relations nearly 40 years ago, he has seen the industry change for the better in some aspects and for the worse in others. Newspapers and approximately three television networks were the main sources of information for the public when he first began. Now, there are many more channels to target messages to audiences, such as social media, a wide variety of media outlets, and an array of television stations, some of which are strictly a dedicated news source. While this is great for conveying messages to the mass public, it can also be problematic and lead to unfiltered messages. With the wide variety of communications channels, Hoog offers the following advice:

  • Take “spin” out of our vocabulary as public relations professionals and instead become “truth tellers”
  • Hold ourselves and our clients accountable to tell the truth and not “spin” the story to their liking
  • Read more, especially the book The Road to Character by David Brooks, which perfectly ties back into the conversation of aiming to always remain a truth teller both professionally and personally

For those who are interested in PR, but not in the industry just yet, Hoog suggests gaining a complete understanding of this field now that there are more specialized areas of PR than ever before. Businesses today want you to understand and know their business just as well as they do. In order to climb the ladder, you can no longer be a generalist. You must be an industry specialist and discover your niche.

To succeed in this industry, one must also be able to properly balance life and work. Hoog prides himself on being able to say he’s never worked a day in his life. For him, that has made everything around him more enjoyable because unhappiness at work will find its way into your personal life as well.  Now retired, the balance continues. In addition to traveling the world, stays busy by giving lectures on college campuses and at professional development workshops across the country, in addition to sitting on the HSG board.

As a Hawthorne board member, Hoog is excited about the direction and bright future of the firm, especially in the current industry landscape. Hawthorne has distinguished itself as a premier boutique firm with solid principles and good people to lead the charge, according to Hoog. During his years as President and then CEO of Hill + Knowlton Strategies, he would always encourage his employees to speak up, hold management accountable, and keep them from making mistakes. In other words, be truth tellers.

He now offers that same advice to Hawthorne’s growing staff. As Hawthorne moves forward this year and beyond, the firm will continue to move towards a growth strategy and broaden the firm’s niche while continuing to keep themselves and their clients honest.