Marilyn Hawkins

Marilyn Hawkins • Written 11/1/2017

Over the past 35+ year, Marilyn Hawkins, owner of Hawkins & Co. PR, has worked with a diverse group of corporate clients and other organizations. She is a graduate of Washington State University and completed all coursework for a master’s degree in English at the University of Washington.

Before forming her own firm, Hawkins was VP/marketing at The Rockey Co. in Seattle, then the Northwest’s largest full-service public relations and public affairs agency. She began her agency career as VP/public relations at Sharp Hartwig Advertising.

Her areas of greatest professional expertise are marketing communications, media relations, crisis response, employee communications (especially involving labor relations) and corporate story development. Her long and varied list of clients include AT&T, Xerox, The Oregon Community Foundation, Medtronic/Physio Control, The Home Depot, Swedish Health Services, Kimberly-Clark, Associated Grocers, MultiCare Health Systems, EDS, Korn-Ferry International, Asante Health Systems, the John Stanford International School and many others. 

Hawkins is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America and past president of the Puget Sound Chapter of PRSA. She was named the chapter’s PR Professional of the Year in 1999 and received the Jay Rockey Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.

For many years, Marilyn was an active member of the Seattle Chapter of Marketing Communications Executives International. An established teacher and corporate coach, she served five years as an instructor in the University of Washington’s Public Relations Certificate Program.

Today, Hawkins has two professional identities. After many years as a buttoned-down communications consultant in Seattle, she relocated to sunny Ashland, OR, and fell hard for the fast-growing Rogue Valley wine industry. Thoroughly smitten, she “chased the grape” to Walla Walla, WA, in 2016.

She now helps vineyards, wineries, brands/labels, custom crushers and wine regions market themselves effectively, build their reputations and communicate with key audiences. Marilyn serves on the Advisory Committee for the Enology & Vitaculture Program and Marketing Subcommittee at Walla Walla Community College (WWCC), teaches the Writing for Wineries Course at the college and coordinates the Wine Marketing Roundtable discussion group.

Hawkins is a member of the 2017-18 Leadership Walla program, run by the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce and WWCC. For the past four years, she has served as mentor to seniors about to graduate from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at WSU.

Recently, she was appointed to the SE Washington Aging & Longterm Care Council of Governments and is a communications volunteer at The Health Center, a network of school-based health clinics in Walla Walla. She has been a featured speaker at the Washington Winegrowers Conference, the Oregon Wine Industry Sympodium and the Oregon Nonprofit Leaders Conference.

Still closely connected to Seattle, Hawkins regularly meets with a group that she and long-time colleague Cheri Brennan of Alliance Communications (Ed. Note—and now a fellow IMMORTAL) formed several years ago. The PR Indies is made up of two dozen women senior communications pros who share advice, assistance and resources.

An avid golfer and hiker, Hawkins enjoys international travel, literary fiction and all forms of gardening. She is active in progressive politics and is working hard to turn the southeast corner of the state a little “bluer.”


“Mistakes, I’ve made a few. But then again, too few to mention.”

Over three decades in public relations and marketing communications in Seattle, I learned a lot of important lessons and had the opportunity to work with outstanding clients (Penny Taylor, Anita Lammert, Sally Wright, Eddie Pasatiempo, Jim Norman, Sandy Higgins and too many others to mention), plus staff and mentors. Yep, I screwed up regularly; but maybe did some good stuff, too. Here’s a quick trip down memory lane.   


On my very first day at work at Sharp Hartwig Advertising, from the closet I took home what I thought was my Burberry raincoat. Sadly, it was Cynthia Hartwig’s – with her car keys in the pocket. Great way to impress the new boss.

After a somewhat unproductive client meeting, I scribbled what I felt was a hysterically funny conference report assailing a client’s indecisiveness. My assistant (we had such things back in the day) laughingly typed it up and I casually stuffed it in my portfolio. What do you think I pulled out the next time I met with that client? He was, uh, not amused….

Oh, and there was the time I actually said this out loud during a pitch to the Metro Transit client team, while trying to explain the agency had backup staff: “You’ll always know who to call in case I get hit by a bus….”

Speaking of ill-advised remarks to clients.  When the Home Depot client first came to Seattle from Atlanta, I met her at a newly opened store. “Why aren’t you wearing orange?” she asked cheerily. “Well, with red hair, I don’t really look all that good in orange,” I responded. Her sweet Southern retort: “Dearie, around here everyone looks good in orange….”

Once I penned what I believed were lively, appropriately tongue-in-cheek public remarks for a CEO who, well, lacked much of a sense of humor. He delivered my first three bon mots gamely, then said to the very large audience, “Who wrote this crap?!” His communications chief quickly sought out the guilty party.

My agency took on a clearly misguided and under-funded startup during the Dotcom Boom because I thought we “really needed a cool tech client” on our roster. Only made that mistake once – and briefly. And, of course, I bought into the friends-and-family stock offering made by another Seattle startup where a pal worked.  My modest $1,000 investment evaporated to $17 and change within a year or two.


Along with Jay Rockey, in the late 1980s I strongly encouraged Kathleen Fearn-Banks to pursue teaching public relations at the University of Washington. She’s done that very successfully ever since. Oh, and I helped convince Teresa Moore to start her highly successful consultancy focusing on working with nonprofit organizations.

I was able to persuade longtime pal Cheri Brennan of Alliance Communications to follow me as president of the Puget Sound Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.  And what did she and the Board give as a parting gift at the end of my term? A referee’s black & white shirt and a whistle!

Happily, I prompted PR superstar Sue Brush to pursue having Seattle host the PRSA National Conference at the then newish Washington State Convention Center. It was a great coup for our Chapter, all due to Sue’s hard work.

I took to heart the late Pam Waggener’s advice about “The Rule of 5.” The co-founder of powerhouse agency Waggener Edstrom (now WE Worldwide) explained that smart PR people always gave 5 things (contacts, insights, research results, compliments, tips, etc.) to reporters before asking them for anything.

I picked up the phone one day to take a call from the VP/Human Resources at a large hospital about to get a three-week nurses’ strike.  That led to much more work, in part because few PR people enjoy the rough and tumble world of labor relations.

Speaking of new-business calls, wisely I declined the opportunity to sign on with disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding’s legal team – or, years later, to take on the self-proclaimed “world’s greatest Elvis impersonator.”

Getting many significant assignments early on from AT&T Wireless helped prove to other large corporate clients (Home Depot, Xerox, Medtronic Physio-Control and others) that my then fledgling agency could run with the big dogs.

I helped assemble the loose network of women (no, not a network of loose women) who formed the incredible PR Indies. For the last several years we’ve helped each other solve problems, find resources, secure new clients and generally have a great time swapping war stories.

I learned two very important lessons from Mark Hutcheson, the incredibly smart Davis Wright Tremaine attorney with whom I worked closely on many different assignments.  “All conflicts are about power – who has it and who wants it.” And “Never argue with a client more than once about a bill.”

I’ll always be thankful for those wild and crazy guys, Bill Fritsch and Ron Christensen, who gave me and account exec Ruth Ann Burke office space at Christensen & Fritsch (later Cf2GS) from which to launch Hawkins & Company PR.

Probably the best pro bono experience of my career was getting to work closely with the John Stanford International School (formerly Latona Elementary) in Wallingford. The Mayor’s office and Seattle Public Schools’ Bill Southern linked agencies with schools all over the city and our job was to help promote them. You should have been there the day Edgar Martinez, Ichiro, Jamie Moyer, Lou Pinella and other Mariners came to visit. JSIS Principal Karen Kodama had the most amazing “We can do that!” approach to any of the wacky ideas I came up with.