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Area public relations professional named best communicator

Cole Buergi received recognition from the PRSA Madison Chapter earlier this month

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May 17, 2023

GREEN BAY – Growing up in Green Bay, graduating from Southwest High School, attending college at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB) and now working six blocks from his childhood home – you could say Cole Buergi – vice president of business development at Leonard and Finco Public Relations – is a hometown guy.

“I’m proud to live in Green Bay, Wisconsin,” he said. “People ask me, ‘why do you live here?’ Well, we have four seasons – it’s beautiful here. It’s a great community. It’s pretty well interconnected and people care about each other.”

Setting a foundation
While pursuing his degree in mass communications with an emphasis in public relations (PR) at UWGB, Buergi began working as an intern at both On Broadway and Leonard and Finco – two positions he said eventually led to part-time roles after graduation.

When the position at Leonard and Finco transitioned into full-time, Buergi said he also continued his work with On Broadway, this time as a member of its board.

Buergi said pursuing a career in public relations always seemed like a good fit for him.

“I’ve always been an outgoing person – I have that type of personality,” he said. “The marketing field, and public relations specifically, fits my personality and what I like to do.”

Buergi said he’s always been fascinated by the ability to share stories and hopefully influence people in a positive manner.
“And make some mark in the world and for the companies we represent,” he said.

Buergi furthered his education – obtaining his master’s degree in business administration from Lakeland University in 2009.

Communicator of the Year
Earlier this month, Buergi’s continued efforts throughout his career were recognized by the Madison Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America – naming him Communicator of the Year.

The recognition is presented by the chapter annually to a businessperson, educator, politician or other community leader who effectively uses public relations and/or communications skills in the performance of their responsibilities.

Buergi said it was “mind-blowing” he was selected for the award.

“I mean, there’s a lot of great communicators in our region,” he said. “So, it is an honor to receive that.”

Although Buergi said he doesn’t do what he does and work as hard as he does to be recognized, he said it’s good to recognize people who are doing the work and making a difference.

Cole Buergi was named the Communicator of the Year by the PRSA Madison Chapter earlier this month. Submitted Photo

“I try not to include myself in that, because that isn’t what I am trying to accomplish, but people need to be aware of when they’re doing something exceptional,” he said. “It’s a good incentive for folks who want to do better and work hard.”

Maintaining a high level of ethics, Buergi said, is a tried and true standard of the PR world.

“In the communications world, there’s a lot of misinformation out there… so whether you do PR for individual companies or are part of an agency, always make sure you’re doing it ethically and responsibly,” he said.

It’s something, Buergi said, he’s always prided himself on.

Making an impact
Over the years, Buergi said he has worked on several impactful projects – such as the Lambeau Field renovation project, EAA and the TransCanada: Bison Pipeline.

He said working on the amount of collaboration required from several different industries and states for the pipeline project was a rewarding experience.

“The coolest thing was there was a core team of about 60 people that worked on this,” he said. “They were from all different backgrounds and walks of life. So, to see them all work toward a common goal and the energy they all brought – that was incredible.”

Buergi said in the Northeast Wisconsin region, “It’s pretty easy to make great things happen.”

“Just the overall work ethic is much different than other areas of the country,” he said. “And the nice thing is to see all the changes (that have happened over the years). It’s been amazing seeing the growth and progress (of the area) since I was a child.”

That growth and progress is something Buergi said he has seen in the public relations sector as well.

“When I started (in the industry), we had fax machines,” he said. “We had computers, but we didn’t have computers like they have today. Actually, we would use a typewriter for labels. And we had dial-up internet.”

Some of the bigger game changes industry-wise, Buergi said, were definitely the launch and rise of social media.

“That really changed how communications folks do their jobs,” he said.

Buergi said with that, he saw a flip-flop of how the industry aligned.

“PR kind of used to be an offshoot of marketing,” he said. “But to me, it has kind of flipped where now PR and the need to communicate to your audience has become a more essential element than just general marketing. And it’s become about what matters to your audiences much more than it has before.”

Buergi said the true game change with social media is “you have direct and can have immediate feedback from your audience.”
He said most of the time that can be great, but occasionally, “it can be very problematic.”

“Social media does so many great things, but it also creates opportunities for companies to ‘step in it,’” he said. “In those situations, they can often get heated feedback from audiences. And unfortunately, it isn’t always just their audience. When something goes bad on social media, it usually pulls in people from around the world who have a voice they want to share. And those are the things that can be dangerous elements of utilizing social media.”

Buergi said the industry has had to create solutions when those situations happen.

Giving back
Serving on the On Broadway board was just the beginning of Buergi’s volunteer work.

“For a while, I was on the Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors,” he said. “I also served on one of the Brown County United Way’s committees. I was on a committee for Downtown Green Bay, Inc. for a couple of years. And I also served on the UWGB Phoenix Board for 10 years.”

Currently, Buergi said he serves on the board of directors for the Greater Green Bay Chamber and its economic development team.

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