PRWeek Femme Forward: Lori Teranishi

July 28, 2021
By Lori Teranishi
Sunset silhouettes palm trees against a sky from the ocean's surface.

iQ 360's founder and CEO, Lori Teranishi, was featured in PRWeek's Femme Forward, a series that showcases diverse women in the public relations industry. Here, we share her essay on the Pacific Island values that can help guide businesses and communications into the future. PRWeek subscribers can also access the article here.


Back to the Future in Hawaii

When I returned to my home state of Hawaii in 2011, I thought I was returning to my past; instead, I found my future as a communicator with something unique to offer our profession and, perhaps, the world.

Like many who grow up in Hawaii, I went to the mainland for my college education and to develop as a professional. I became a member of Visa USA’s top-notch communications team, chief of staff to Visa’s COO and, finally, a VP with P&L responsibility for a line of business.

After leaving Visa, I founded my own public relations firm based in San Francisco with clients from coast to coast.

Eventually, as a single mom, I felt compelled to return to Hawaii to give my daughter a strong family support network, and a chance to experience the values and spirit of my home state firsthand. My only hesitation was that Hawaii is a relatively small market and I worried business opportunities would be limited.

Now I see that returning to Honolulu was the best move of my life.

We are surrounded by family (I live next door to my sister!); I reconnected with an old high-school friend who is now my husband; and I grew a thriving, multi-city agency whose members share the values long-cherished by people in Pacific Island communities — humility, kindness, a love of nature, a commitment to community and respect for everyone.


“As members of an island community, we do not see ourselves as living apart from those who are different from us; they are, quite literally, our neighbors. Helping one another is deeply ingrained in our culture. Self-serving behavior is abhorred.”


In recent months I’ve had an epiphany — the work I’ve been doing in Hawaii and the way I’ve been conducting business isn’t lagging behind what others are doing on the mainland; in many ways it’s out ahead of them.

Our work involves a mix of environmental innovation, overcoming resistance to change, addressing the rights and concerns of indigenous people, closing the wealth gap and the technology gap, and helping to restructure social and economic systems so everyone has an equal chance at a bright future.

I’ve come to realize these issues aren’t specific to Hawaii; they’re issues the whole world is urgently seeking to address.

For example, the race to embrace clean and renewable sources of energy has been underway in Hawaii for decades. As a community of people living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we view innovations and adaptations of solar-, wind- and hydro-electric power and geothermal energy as essential for our very survival.

That’s why Hawaii has the most ambitious climate mitigation goals in the United States, including being carbon-neutral by 2045. The state is ahead of its 2020 renewable portfolio standard goal of 30%, currently producing 35% of its electricity from renewable sources.

The mounting pressure on business leaders across the globe to address societal, environmental and cultural considerations has been felt here in Hawaii for generations. As a result, Hawaii business leaders play a visible and active role in ad- dressing these needs.

As members of an island community, we do not see ourselves as living apart from those who are different from us; they are, quite literally, our neighbors. Helping one another is deeply ingrained in our culture. Self-serving behavior is abhorred.

Addressing cultural sensitivities is natural to people in Hawaii — we have the most culturally and ethnically diverse population in the United States, and we are majority non-white. Moreover, the Native Hawaiian culture is highly valued and integrated into our education system. Our children learn respect for nature and for each other — cultural hallmarks of the people who lived in this place long before Hawaii was “discovered” by foreigners.

My firm’s discussions with clients frequently touch upon cultural considerations, the environment and the need to create a more just and equitable society. These are a natural element of our work. They are not add-ons or campaigns or reputation-burnishing strategies.

It strikes me that the world’s most pressing business and communications challenges look more and more like those my team has been meeting head-on for the past decade.

Like Asian and Pacific Islanders everywhere, I feel compelled to speak up and say we want nothing more than to share our valuable insight and experience with the world.