When Liz Bracken-Thompson was crowned “Miss Westchester,” at the age of 19, no one knew how prophetic that title would be. A founding partner of public relations and advertising powerhouse Thompson & Bender, the former Miss America contestant has by now had a hand in promoting almost every aspect of Westchester life—from business to education, hospitals to nonprofits.
In her long career, Bracken-Thompson has seen dramatic changes both in the county’s business community and media landscape. When the agency launched in 1987, Westchester’s economy was dominated by Fortune 500 companies, housed in the thriving “Platinum Mile.” On the media front, newspapers, radio, and television were the only press outlets. The Internet didn’t exist.
Today, many of those multinational corporations have their sights set abroad and are less involved in community life; smaller businesses now set the tone here. And social media has exploded into the area once dominated by traditional platforms. Through it all, Bracken-Thompson has managed to stay ahead of the game.
“You have to be adaptable and change with the time, and we have,” she says. “That’s part of what’s kept us successful as a company.”
Note her use of the word “we.” As a businesswoman, Bracken-Thompson stresses teamwork and relationships—with her partners, staff, clients, the media, and marketing community. The Eastchester native began her career at Gannett Company. Starting as a receptionist, she eventually became vice president of marketing for the then-10-newspaper group.
She brought her marketing savvy to help launch the PR firm, joining Dean Bender and Geoff Thompson, both of whom came from the editorial side of Gannett. What began in a small Pleasantville office, billing less than $250,000 annually, has grown into a multimillion-dollar, full-service agency with 15 full-time employees. The client list is as varied as the Archdiocese of New York, the City of Yonkers, First Niagara Bank, and Food Bank for Westchester. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital has been a client for 25 years. If you’ve been to a grand opening, groundbreaking, festival, or high-profile gala in the county, chances are, Bracken-Thompson’s been involved.
Call her ‘Ms. Westchester.’ In many ways, she’s still wearing that crown.
Dress provided by Mary Jane Denzer at the Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, in White Plains