Chitra Ragavan

Susan McPherson

Ep. 58 — A shocking loss leads a grieving daughter and budding communications leader to rethink the meaning of human connectivity / Susan McPherson, founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, and author, “The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Relationships.”

When Susan McPherson was 22 years old, her parents were on vacation in Puerto Rico when the unthinkable happened. It was New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1986. Her dad had dropped her mother off at the casino of what then was the Dupont Plaza hotel in San Juan.

At 3:30 pm, three disgruntled employees of the hotel who were embroiled in a labor dispute with the owners, set fire to the hotel, killing nearly 100 people — including McPherson’s mother — and causing hundreds of injuries. It was the most catastrophic hotel fire in Puerto Rican history and the second deadliest fire in U.S. history. The three men who set the fire were brought to justice and received long jail sentences and there were big changes to hotel fire safety laws and protocols.

But it was small comfort for McPherson, for whom the shocking loss of her mother was a profound moment of grief and transformation.

I recently had the privilege of talking with McPherson about her amazing life story and how her parents inspired her to be who she is today. She is the founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, a communications consultancy focused on the intersection of brands and social impact.  McPherson is a super-connector, angel investor, and corporate responsibility expert with 25+ years of experience in marketing, public relations, and sustainability communications. She’s a popular speaker and a regular contributor to high-profile business publications. McPherson also is the author of The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Relationships — particularly relevant in today’s pandemic fueled anti-social world.