PR Executive of the Year

Rita Cooper Lee

SVP, Communications

WGN America

It’s no secret that WGN America has rapidly become a force in television following a re-launch marked by a string of original series garnering critical and audience acclaim. Leading press strategy, media relations, talent strategy and events is Rita Cooper Lee, who since 2013 has deftly shepherded WGN America’s brand and perception to its current lofty heights. The palpable buzz around several WGN originals including “Manhattan,” “Outsiders,” “Underground” and “Salem” all traces back to Cooper Lee’s unique organizational and management skills. In fact, she managed to launch Underground and Outsiders within six weeks of each other, and they still ended up setting WGN viewership records. Consider her planning for Underground, which dramatizes the role of the Underground Railroad in aiding escaped slaves in the 1800s: Cooper Lee worked hard to get the word out to organizations and events that could amplify the buzz, including the National Civil Rights Museum, Essence Festival, National Association of Black Journalists Conference, DuSable Museum of African American History, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Comic-Con, NAACP, Sundance Film Festival, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and yes, several megachurches. In addition, she even got Underground screened at the White House, including a panel discussion with the cast and creative team live streamed at And by the way, Cooper Lee drove WGN’s first-ever Emmy campaign for its first original series “Manhattan,” which went on to win the net’s first Emmy. Cooper Lee has turned WGN into a household name among critics and audiences—and we hope this small recognition does the same for a well-deserved PR executive.

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