There’s a case to be made that with social media playing a more prominent role in the marketing mix, more and more full-service marketing communications firms are going to be led by people who come from a public relations background rather than the advertising realm. But for now, that’s still very much the exception rather than the rule—which is one reason Carmichael Lynch president Doug Spong’s success stands out and why he was an obvious choice for one of this year’s Outstanding Individual Achievement SABRE Awards.

Spong joined Carmichael Lynch in 1990—after serving as senior vice president, managing director at Colle & McVoy Public Relations—to found the ad agency’s first public relations department, and quickly grew Carmichael Lynch Spong into one of the largest PR operations in the Twin Cities and one of the most respected midsize firms in the country.

Carmichael Lynch Spong was notable for several areas in which it emerged as a leader.

First, it is pound-for-pound the most award-winning public relations firm in the country. Its creative work for clients such as American Standard, Cargill, Jack’s Link Beef Jerky, Martek Biosciences, Rapala, Rubbermaid, Sherwin-Williams and Trace has been recognized with 57 Silver Anvils and 38 Bronze Anvils from the Public Relations Society of America and more than 20 SABRE awards. And in recent years, CLS has been Midsize Agency of the Year by both The Holmes Report and PR Week.

Second, the firm has earned a reputation as one of the industry’s best employers. In recent years, Spong’s drive to create “a culture of performance addicts” has earned CLS a permanent place on our Best Agencies to Work For list, singled out both for its investment in professional development—its HeadRush training program would be the envy of many larger agencies—and its unique culture, fostered by social events such as the annual O’Gong Show, a St. Patrick’s day “talent” showcase.

Third, Spong has been extremely active in the wider public relations community. He was a founding member, board director and treasurer for the Council of Public Relations Firms and also served as president of the Minnesota chapter of PRSA. Just this week, he was the recipient of the Donald G. Padilla Distinguished Practitioner Award from the PRSA Minnesota chapter.

Fourth, Carmichael Lynch Spong has also been a leader in the corporate social responsibility arena, with a gold LEED-qualified workspace, energy supplied through wind credits, zero landfill waste through recycling and composting, commuter incentives, and use of recycled materials in its building products and office furnishings—all of which supports its claim to be the greenest agency in America.

Despite such a distinguished professional career, Spong says his proudest achievement is that his oldest child is graduating from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism with a degree in strategic communication. Christopher Spong is looking forward to a career in the PR counseling business and says he was inspired by "the unwavering passion for what my dad does and the intellectual and creative challenges that drive him everyday to succeed on behalf of his firm and clients."

As a result of those achievements and more, Doug Spong is one of a very select handful of PR practitioners who can claim to have led a $350 million creative-driven advertising, digital, experiential and PR agency, and a worthy recipient of The Holmes Report’s highest individual honor, which will be presented at our annual SABRE Awards dinner at New York’s Cipriani restaurant on May 10.