5 Ways Internal Communicators Can Take the Bull by the Horns in 2022

5 Ways Internal Communicators Can Take the Bull by the Horns in 2022


Be proactive about pursuing (or stopping) these initiatives to improve the impact, focus and quality of your work in the coming year. 

Mike Klein, Founder, #WeLeadComms 

At this time of year, it’s commonplace to read about the upcoming year’s top trends and likely changes.

But having been writing about and working in internal communication since the late ’90s, the annual ritual of forecasting the trends for the upcoming year has become a bit hackneyed. Partly, this is because annual trends are largely beyond the control of internal communicators. More to the point, this has been because IC folks have resisted taking matters into their own hands.

[FREE GUIDE: Cut-Through Comms That Drive 100% Engagement]

So, this year, I’m proposing something new: five things that would make a difference if internal communication leaders were to actually step up, take matters into their own hands, and share their experiences once having done so.

1. Bust the hybrid hype, and grab hold of the remote revolution.

There’s been a ridiculous amount of talk about “hybrid,” “hybrid working” and even “hybrid business models.” In reality, “hybrid” is a shade of gray between two very black-and-white approaches – having people based in physical locations (“office-based”) and having people based outside of one’s own physical premises (“remote”).

Continue reading here…

How Communicators Can Maximize Vaccine Mandate Messaging

How communicators can maximize vaccine mandate messaging


As companies prepare to comply with the White House’s new measures to control the virus, comms pros should prepare for bumpy months ahead. An expert shares how to excel in this fraught environment.

Sally Ann O’Dowd, Accenture

President Joe Biden recently announced a series of proposals to combat COVID-19 more rigorously, including a rule requiring organizations with 100 or more employees to mandate that workers get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

DeNesha Tellis, CEO of The Tellis Group and a Ragan Consulting Group affiliate consultant specializing in executive and leadership communications, explains the essential role that department managers play in rolling out corporate messaging around the mandate.

1. Communications teams at companies across the country are developing plans and messaging about the new mandates. What role do department or business unit managers play in spreading the word?

Communications leaders should consider the Biden Administration’s mandate as they would any significant change that occurs inside an organization, and apply the same foundational change management principles and strategies that you typically rely on.

Continue reading here…

How Communicators Can Influence the Conversation on Equity

Paul Merchan, Senior Vice President, Client Relationships, Peppercomm

While the world is still a long way from being at peace, today, September 21, we recognize United Nations International Day of Peace. This carries even deeper significance after what we’ve been through with the COVID-19 pandemic; and true to this, the theme this year is Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world.”

“Recovery” means different things for different people. For millions, it literally means recovering from COVID. For others, it’s recovering from the mental and financial strains the pandemic has inflicted. But “recovery” can also be a misnomer for marginalized communities – those that were hit disproportionately hard during this time. For those groups, there will only be recovery and peace if we level the playing field. 

Often, we may overlook or downplay the role that strategic communications can have in helping to drive greater equity in this world. However, we should all remember that communications is at the heart of true empathy and compassion and is what galvanizes change. Professionals in this area have the ear of business leaders who are making critical decisions to not only ensure their public-facing messages demonstrate inclusivity, but also to take action to expand their diversity efforts. Keep in mind our influence doesn’t have to come in the form of a groundbreaking, multimillion-dollar campaign. It can start with little steps, such as these below:

  • Eliminate the idea of color blindness. People used to think that being color blind was a good thing – it meant that we didn’t “see race or color.” But we’ve learned that this has the opposite effect, often alienating and marginalizing individuals. People in my industry have been talking about this for years. We’re at the forefront of the news cycle and have seen various articles over the years (like this one from The Atlantic) discussing how damaging it is to ignore a person’s visibly distinguishing characteristics. We should celebrate people’s differences, rather than sweep them under a rug.
  • Accept that white privilege is real. This might be difficult to admit, but our racial reckoning as a society needs to be uncomfortable. As a Latino professional in the business world, I’ve had experiences in my career where colleagues or clients who don’t know me well have tried to talk “at my level” but really sounded like they were talking down to me – especially because they don’t speak to others in that way. Example can include, “Thanks, man,” or “I hear you, bro” when you clearly haven’t reached that level of familiarity. This may not be done on purpose, but it is an example of white privilege and how it can be unwittingly yielded in a way that can make a person of color feel small. 
  • Speak to a broader audience. Idiomatic expressions abound in today’s workplace, and while they’re usually witty and well-received, it’s possible that not everyone is going to understand them. Although I was born in this country, I grew up in a Spanish-speaking household; many of the only idioms I heard at home don’t translate well into English. Not every person grows up hearing, “That’s par for the course” or “Let’s hit this one out of the park.” This point is especially critical for organizations with a global footprint. When you get used to the fact that not everyone is familiar with the same phrases you use in casual settings, it becomes much easier to speak to your audience. 

These steps may not solve for “world peace,” but making these small changes in our approach can lead us to developing greater understanding for each other and slowly help us reach true equity in both business and society as a whole. 

Paul MerchanAbout the Author: I’m a Senior Vice President, Client Relationships at Peppercomm, which I’ve called home for a little over a decade. In this role, I act as a trusted counselor for clients in financial services, tech and B2B, working closely with marketing leads to coordinate brand messaging and media strategy. My current clients include: Advent Capital Management, AXA Investment Managers, Arconic, Sharp B2B and Weiss Multi-Strategy Advisers. I also assist our Chief Marketing Officer in our own agency marketing efforts.

Having started at Peppercomm as an intern, I gradually worked my way up through media and client relations job roles. Notable clients I’ve worked with along the way include: Whirlpool, EY, Valspar, Nikon, Pershing and Wilmington Trust. For EY, I helped expand their efforts to use social media and digital marketing, successfully promoting their annual hedge fund survey for many years.

I’m proud to be a part of our burgeoning digital marketing team, working on ad campaigns via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google Ads. In addition, my work involves developing employee engagement strategies for clients.

I was born and raised in Brooklyn by Ecuadorian parents. As a result, I’ve used my fluency in Spanish for professional translation and interpretation, while also bringing a global perspective to my clients. I went to school at the City College of New York and Hunter College, both here in Manhattan, where I obtained my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I now live in North Carolina with my wife and four children, two of whom are twins!


National Press Club Communicators Lunch and Learn: Meet the Energy Media

Thursday, August 19 from Noon to 1 PM (ET) 

Virtual Event

From a Texas deep freeze to President Biden’s ambitious clean energy agenda, now more than ever journalists are having to decipher complex energy issues for their audiences.

On Thursday, August 19, from noon to 1 p.m., the National Press Club’s Communicators Team will host a Lunch & Learn program featuring six journalists for a conversation about the unique challenges today’s energy beat presents, and how PR professionals can best assist them throughout the newsgathering process.

The discussion will be moderated by NPC member Kate Tillotson, the communications manager at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which represents more than 900 electric co-ops across America.

About the Panelists

Zack Colman is a climate and energy reporter at Politico in Washington, D.C. He previously covered climate and energy issues at E&E News, The Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Examiner and The Hill. A former Knight Science Journalism fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bill Lane Center for the American West fellow at Stanford University, he holds a master’s degree from the University of Illinois, Springfield, and a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University.

Rachel Frazin is an energy and environment reporter at The Hill in Washington, D.C. She has also written for the Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Beast and the Tampa Bay Times. Rachel graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She’s originally from Florida.

Timothy Gardner is an energy correspondent at Thomson Reuters in Washington, D.C. Among things he covers are climate, nuclear power and proliferation, coal and sanctions. He previously worked for the company in New York, reporting on oil markets, the uptick of climate shareholder resolutions at major energy companies, and the formation of the U.S. Northeast’s carbon market. He graduated from Franklin & Marshall and New York University.

Josh Lederman is a correspondent for NBC News based in Washington, D.C., covering climate change, U.S. politics, and national security. Prior to joining NBC News, Josh was a White House reporter for The Associated Press from 2013 to 2017. A native of Tucson, Ariz., he holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and a bachelor’s degree from The George Washington University.

Ivan Penn is an alternative energy reporter at The New York Times in Los Angeles. Previously, he covered utility and energy issues at The Tampa Bay Times and The Los Angeles Times. He also worked at The Miami Herald and The Baltimore Sun, where hewas an investigative reporter and covered government, politics and criminal justice. A native of Washington, he graduated from the University of Maryland.

Pippa Stevens is a markets reporter at CNBC, focused on all things energy. In addition to tracking the daily moves in the oil market, she covers renewables as well as the growing ESG investing movement. She previously worked as a production assistant at Fox Business. A Manhattan native, Pippa holds a bachelor’s degree in Classics from Princeton University.

What Communicators Need to Know About Mental Wellbeing — Mental Health Awareness Month 2021


Tressa Robbins, Vice President of Customer Onboarding, Burrelles

“You Are Not Alone.” That’s the tagline for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) campaign this year. NAMI is focusing on the healing value of connecting in safe ways, prioritizing mental health and acknowledging that it’s okay to not be okay, which seems especially apropos during the pandemic. 

If you spend much time on social media or listen to podcasts, you may already be aware that May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM). The goal is to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and help reduce the stigma surrounding those issues. 

Mental health defined

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is a state of wellbeing in which an individual “can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life.” 

Mental health is more than the “absence of a mental illness”—it’s essential to your overall health and quality of life and affects emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. 

In the U.S., anxiety disorders are the most prevalent form of mental illness, followed by major depressive episodes, post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and schizophrenia. 1

The public relations-stress connection

Public relations work is one of the most stressful jobs in America, according to CareerCast. It seems each year, PR ranks in the top 10 on this annual survey (along with our journalism brethren).

As I wrote last October, under ‘normal’ circumstances, PR pros are masters at juggling priorities and performing in stressful situations. However, the pandemic brought on additional stressors to already demanding jobs. When stress is never-ending, it’s as though your body and mind are in constant fight-or-flight mode. The human body isn’t designed to maintain this mode constantly—this is when it can impact overall mental health. 

As communicators, you know that communicating is critical and that tackling an issue directly is best practice, but are you applying to your own wellbeing and mental health? What about those who work for you? 

Mental health affects physical health (and vice versa) 

Mental health is an integral part of overall health. It also affects physical health, and can lead to a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and even negatively impact life expectancy. 

For example, anxiety and depression often manifest as sleep disturbances — either sleeping too much or not enough. Sleep disorders can cause physical and emotional fatigue, irritability, poor memory recall, and real tangible pain (muscle tension, headaches, stomach issues, inflammation). 

One thing that’s often overlooked is that it works both ways. Chronic physical medical conditions contribute to a higher risk of depression and anxiety. Scientists don’t fully understand the direct correlation; nonetheless, the connection is there.

By the numbers

Millions of people (adults, teens and children) struggle with a mental illness each year. In communications-related industries (marketing, PR, advertising) mental health and wellbeing account for a significant amount of lost productivity at work. It also directly impacts key performance indicators (KPIs) and business outcomes. 

  • In 2019, more than 51 million adults in the U.S. experienced some form of mental illness — that’s one out of every 5 adults. 2
  • Depression and anxiety disorders alone cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity each year. 3
  • Mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year. 4
  • Mental health is cited as the main reason for over half (51%) of calls to the NABS support organization, followed by low mood and confidence (20%) and work pressures (16%) in the U.K. 5
  • 42% of global employees experienced a decline in their mental health since the pandemic started. 6
  • A post-pandemic survey of leisure and business travelers found 70% of U.S. respondents expressing concerns about stress. 7
  • Over 9 million U.S. adults with mental illness also experienced substance abuse in 2019. 8
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the suicide rate has increased by 35% in the last decade. 9
  • In 2020, the number of people seeking help with anxiety and depression skyrocketed with a 62% increase over 2019. 10

Promoting Wellness

Organizations and companies help themselves by promoting wellness among their employees. While I’ve read a multitude of advice from various ‘talking heads,’ NAMI breaks it down to three primary areas: 

  1. Provide easy access to healthcare and services—health insurance that provides benefits for mental health conditions, employee assistance programs (EAP), wellness programs or incentives, telehealth access, clear policies.
  2. Check-in on your teams—encourage open dialogue, ensure privacy and confidentiality, educate, schedule regular check-ins one-on-one and collectively.
  3. Encourage movement—exercise, brief walks, yoga, going outdoors, stretching, meditation, dance. Science shows the mind and body are intimately connected.

Where to go from here

One of the best resources I found for (non-HR) business leaders and employers is the Working Well: 2021 Global Wellbeing Survey—developed and conducted by Aon in partnership with IPSOS, a leading global market research company. The report arms you with current statistical findings and offers advice for organizations to support wellbeing initiatives, tackle historic mental health stigmas, and foster resilience and diversity. 

One of the most prominent points the report makes is that wellbeing requires a strategy. It shows that although 82% of companies globally consider employee wellbeing a priority, many firms lack a wellbeing strategy in their culture, talent acquisition and performance objectives. Of the 87% who have wellbeing initiatives in place, only 55% have a strategy. 

For individuals, in addition to NAMI, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offers some great tips for self-care to help you manage stress and when to seek professional help. They also have a series of wellness toolkits and articles called Your Healthiest Self

Normalize the conversation

We can end the stigma of mental health conditions by normalizing the conversation surrounding them. Stigmas are born of negative stereotypes and misconceptions. Doing nothing only encourages this misguided, negative behavior. Educating yourself, getting the facts, choosing your words carefully, and positively supporting others are all ways you can help create an opening for discussions and normalize these conversations.

I especially like Dr. Wendy Troxel’s analogy in a recent Wall Street Journal article. The clinical psychologist and senior behavioral and social scientist said, “If you wait until a major stressor hits to try and bolster your mental health, it’s like trying to inflate your life raft while you are already drowning at sea.” 

In the spirit of the NAMI MHAM initiative, let me reassure you that you are not alone! Like many other industry professionals, I struggle to maintain my mental health and keep depression and anxiety in check. Last year, when Burrelles’ benefits manager sent out information on our insurance provider’s mental health benefits, I took a cursory glance and moved it to a saved folder. However, about two weeks later, I felt myself spiraling, so I decided to go back and re-read the information. While I’ve half-heartedly tried other apps only to delete them later, I decided to download the suggested app (Sanvello) and give it a try. (Note: I’m not advocating one solution or app over another.) And I do find some comfort in the daily “How are you feeling today” check-ins and weekly questionnaires to gauge where I’m at and the suggestions it offers. Of course, reading and understanding guidance is much easier than putting it into practice!I recently read an article by a marketing firm co-founder where he encouraged readers to not fear the stigma and not be afraid to take a look in the mirror and decide if you want to see changes in yourself. Or to simply reach out to someone and check on their wellbeing. I couldn’t agree more!

About the Author: Tressa Robbins is a B2B strategic communications leader with years of diversified business, communications, public relations, social media, content creation and management experience. She is currently vice president of customer onboarding at Burrelles where she manages and performs new customer onboarding of major/enterprise accounts. Tressa has long been active in public relations and regional business groups including PRSA, having previously served the St. Louis Chapter in multiple roles including past president. She also served as the 2015 PRSA Midwest District Conference Chair and was named St. Louis PR Professional of the Year in 2019. She is a Champions for PRSSA member and is professional advisor for the Southeast Missouri State University PRSSA chapter. As a long-time remote worker, she enjoys life in the southeast Missouri Ozark foothills with her husband and two dogs. 

 Connect with Tressa on Twitter and LinkedIn, or through her website.

¹ https://www.nami.org/mhstats

² https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt29393/2019NSDUHFFRPDFWHTML/2019NSDUHFFR1PDFW090120.pdf

3 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(16)30024-4/fulltext

4 https://3drst5yt38x3lxeal2br6hlp-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/94/2020/09/Navigating-A-Mental-Health-Crisis.pdf

5 https://www.marketingweek.com/brands-support-marketers-mental-health/

6 https://www.qualtrics.com/blog/confronting-mental-health/

7 https://www.smartmeetings.com/meeting-planning/reports-surveys/133147/survey-travel-stressful

8 https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt29393/2019NSDUHFFRPDFWHTML/2019NSDUHFFR1PDFW090120.pdf

9 https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide

10 https://www.mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america


(Reprinted with permission from Burrelles.  This article originally appeared on Burrelles’ blog, https://burrelles.com/mental-health-awareness-month-2021-what-you-need-to-know/)

Now What? – Can Communicators Help Restore Confidence in Our Public Institutions? (On-Demand Video)

Free Virtual Event: On-Demand

Hosted by: The George Washington University

Graduate School of Political Management

Master’s in Strategic Public Relations



These two high profile panels will tackle the communications challenges communicators and the media have faced this  year, including the impact of Covid-19, the resulting economic upheaval, and the 2020 election.

Our panelists, consisting of both practitioners and journalists, share experiences and offer specific recommendations to adopt in the new year to help restore order and confidence amongst the public in our public institutions.

(Moderator:  Lawrence J. Parnell, Associate Professor & Program Director, Masters in Strategic Public Relations – GSPM, Adjunct Professor – School of Business, The George Washington University)

Panel One – Lessons from Insiders

This panel includes communications professionals with government and association experience.  They share their best practices and lessons learned as we focus on issues of transparency, accountability and a commitment to public service and association members.  


  • Scott Thomsen – President of National Association of Government Communicators
  • Chelsea Ritchie, Head of Digital Advocacy at International Copper Association
  • Anne Rancourt, Communications Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health
  • Scott Widmeyer, Founding Managing Partner, Finn Partners and Chief Strategy Officer/Washington

Panel Two – The Media Perspective

This panel includes working members of the media, covering Washington DC from the White House to leading government agencies. They discuss their relationships with communications professionals working within both the government and associations sectors.    


  • Joe Lockhart, White House Press Secretary under President Bill Clinton
  • Margaret Talev, Axios’ White House and Politics Editor
  • Brian Karem, Senior White House correspondent for Playboy
  • Rear Admiral John Kirby, USN (ret), CNN military and diplomatic analyst

Watch On-Demand Video

About Our Speakers

Panel One

Scott Thomsen – President of National Association of Government Communicators

Scott Thomsen is the director of communications and public affairs for the Ventura County Fire Department. He has more than a decade in government communications after working for news organizations around the country, including The Orange County Register and The Associated Press. He currently serves as president of the National Association of Government Communicators, which is dedicated to recognizing, developing and advocating for excellence in government communications.


Chelsea Ritchie, MPS, Head of Digital Advocacy at International Copper Association

Chelsea Ritchie keeps her thumb on the pulse of Washington politics. The native Southern Californian has spent the past eleven years in Washington, D.C., working with prominent public figures, associations, nonprofits, manufacturers, Am Law top 20 Law Firms, and Fortune 100 Firms. She has worked on some of the most notable Supreme Court decisions and Congressional issues, such as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the extradition of Chen Guangcheng to the United States, and Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

As a consultant and federal lobbyist, Chelsea has elevated her client’s success by specializing in public affairs to incorporate traditional government relations along with public relations, grassroots, and digital components. Currently, Chelsea works with the International Copper Association to influence copper’s role in legislative and regulatory matters for global policymakers.


Anne Rancourt, Communications Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health

Anne Rancourt is the communications director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Prior to joining the NIDA team in 2020, she worked at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases where she led communications on HIV, allergy, and immunology for Dr. Anthony S. Fauci. In her career at the National Institutes of Health, Ms. Rancourt has also served as the communications director for the Office of Research on Women’s Health and at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, where she led media for The Heart Truth campaign. Before coming to NIH, Ms. Rancourt was a Presidential Management Fellow in the Office of the Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services, where she directed communications strategies on the Department’s $167 billion Recovery Act investment. She has also worked in brand management, behavior-change campaigns, and marketing on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She began her career as a journalist at The Washington Post and NBC News. Ms. Rancourt has a bachelor’s degree in English from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in strategic public relations from George Washington University.


Scott Widmeyer, Founding Managing Partner, Finn Partners and Chief Strategy Officer/Washington

Scott Widmeyer has a 35-year record in providing strategic counsel to scores of decision-makers, from presidents to governors to chief executive officers to union leaders. From working as a newspaper reporter to running major media operations for national campaigns, Widmeyer knows how to get results for his clients. His track record of successes in education, health care, politics, campaign finance, LGBTQ issues, technology, trade and other public policy matters illustrate his impact as a “change agent” in things that matter most to America.

Clients regularly turn to Widmeyer for advice on economic development issues, marketing strategies, coalition building and crisis management. He founded Widmeyer Communications in 1988, building on a career in newspaper reporting and serving in major communications positions for five highly respected leaders — former President Jimmy Carter, former Vice President Walter Mondale, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, the late Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro and the late American Federation of Teachers president Albert Shanker. In 2013, Widmeyer Communications became a Finn Partners company.

Scott is active in many civic and philanthropic causes. He currently serves on the Boards of the New York City Leadership Academy and the Contemporary American Theater Festival. In addition, he chairs the George Washington University National Council for Media and Public Affairs and is vice president of the Education Writers Association. Until 2016, Scott served on the board of the LGBT Community Center of New York.

And, for three years in the early 2000s, he chaired the LGBTQ Victory Fund, the leading political action committee and training organization in the US for gay candidates. Scott also was a member of the GLAAD board for several years.  In 2007, he was named a David Rockefeller Fellow, a highly coveted one-year program of the New York City Partnership. As a corporate member of the Partnership, Scott and his firm are involved in a number of top priorities related to education, diversity and technology.


(Moderator) Lawrence J. Parnell, M.B.A.

Lawrence J. Parnell, M.B.A. is an award winning Public Relations professional and academic who is an Associate Professor and director of the George Washington University Master’s in Strategic Public Relations program. He has served in this role for 12 years and has built the GW Master’s program into one of the best known and admired programs in the US. Professor Parnell also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Strategic Communications at the GW School of Business.

He also operates Parnell Communications, a strategic communications and leadership training advisory firm. In this role he advises government, corporate and non-profit organizations on executive development and strategic communications.  

Prior to coming to GW, he had a successful 32-year career in the private and public sector. He has worked in government, corporate and agency settings and in national, state and local political campaigns. He was recognized as PR Professional of the Year (2003) by PR Week and was named to the PR News Hall of Fame in 2009. The GW Master’s program was named the “Best PR Education Program” for 2015 by PR Week

He is a frequent author and speaker on communications strategy, crisis and issues management, leadership skills and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at industry conferences and universities around the world. He is quoted often on communications management and crisis communications by the national, business and trade media. 

He is the co-author of a leading public relations textbook – “Introduction to Strategic Public Relations – Communicating Effectively in a Socially Responsible World” from Sage Publishing. In its first year, (2018) the text was adopted by over 30 leading undergrad PR programs across the country. The second edition of the text, titled: “Introduction to Public Relations” was published in October 2020 by Sage Publishing.  He also contributed as a co-author of a chapter on CSR in the book “Nation Branding and Public Diplomacy” (Peter Lang Publishing) published in 2017.  He is active on Twitter at @gwprmasters and on Face Book and Linked-In under his name. 

Panel Two

Joe Lockhart, White House Press Secretary under President Bill Clinton

Joe Lockhart is perhaps best known for his service as White House Press Secretary under President Bill Clinton from 1998 to 2000, during which time he managed daily press briefings, provided senior counsel to the President, and managed communications through the President’s impeachment proceedings. Long-time White House correspondent Helen Thomas called him “a straight shooter,” and “one of the best it’s been my honor to work with;” Susan Page at USA Today found Lockhart “direct, well-informed and trusted;” and former CBS White House correspondent Peter Maer said “if Joe Lockhart knows anything, it’s how to control a narrative.”

Lockhart developed his knack for steering the conversation during his early career as an award-winning journalist, political strategist and public-relations consultant. Lockhart held posts as Assignment Editor at ABC News, Deputy Assignment Manager for CNN, and foreign producer reporting on the Gulf War for Skye News. He served as a press secretary for the presidential campaigns of Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis, an aide to Senator Paul Simon, a senior advisor to the John Kerry campaign, and an Executive Vice President at Bozell Sawyer Miller, where he advised a range of high-profile corporations and institutions on media relations and political strategy.

Lockhart is the founding partner and managing director of the Glover Park Group (GPG), a Washington, D.C. communications strategy firm. Under Lockhart’s leadership, GPG earned a reputation for providing its wide range of corporate and non-profit clients (including Microsoft, Visa and the National Football League) with agile crisis management, astute public affairs, policy, advertising and marketing counsel, and cutting-edge opinion research.

In 2011 Lockhart was named Vice President of Global Communications at Facebook, just as the rapidly-expanding enterprise was preparing to go public. Lockhart helped the company mitigate initial public backlash to its IPO, take ownership of its story, and refortify its brand.

In 2013, Lockhart returned to GPG, where that vision payed immediate dividends, in the form of a major expansion and move to a new headquarters. At GPG, he spearheaded the National Football League’s response to a series of public challenges. In 2016 the NFL named Lockhart Executive Vice President overseeing Communications, Government Affairs, Social Responsibility and Philanthropy. A graduate of Georgetown University, Joe is a native of New York City, New York. Find Joe on Twitter: @joelockhart


Margaret Talev, Axios’ White House and Politics Editor

Margaret Talev is Axios’ White House and Politics Editor. She oversaw 2020 election coverage. She is a CNN analyst and contributor to “Axios on HBO.” She is the former senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, covered Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump and is a past president of the White House Correspondents‘ Association.




Brian Karem, Senior White House correspondent for Playboy

Brian J. Karem is an award-winning journalist, author, speaker and recognized defender of the First Amendment. Karem currently serves as the senior White House correspondent for Playboy. He is also the host of Just Ask the Question, a podcast featuring conversations with informed individuals about politics, current events and pop culture. He is also a frequent guest on CNN and other networks.

Karem has worked in both newspaper and television as an investigative journalist covering politics, crime, refugee issues, and state and local news. His work experience includes America’s Most Wanted (producer and correspondent); People magazine; Fox News; NBC News; and the Courier-Journal, among others.

Karem has received multiple awards for his work, including the prestigious Pieringer Award and the Freedom of the Press Award, and was recently nominated as “Journalist of the Year” by the Los Angeles Press Club.

Throughout his career, Karem has been a champion of free speech and vocal advocate for freedom of the press. He has testified in support of a federal shield law numerous times before state legislatures and is the founder of the “First Jailbird’s Club,” a group of 13 reporters who went to jail to defend a confidential source and who have toured the nation to rally for a federal shield law.

Most recently, Karem successfully filed a lawsuit against the Trump White House for suspending his credentials for a month, citing First Amendment and Fifth Amendment violations. The suit named President Donald Trump and White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham as defendants. He won the suit and has also successfully defended against two appeals.

Karem is a member of the White House Press Corps Association and the National Press Club and serves as immediate past president of the Maryland-Delaware-D.C  Press Association.


Rear Admiral John Kirby, USN (ret), CNN military and diplomatic analyst

Rear Admiral John Kirby, USN (ret), is a CNN military and diplomatic analyst and most recently served as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. Kirby appears regularly on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer and across all of CNN’s programming providing analysis on issues related to the U.S. military, defense, foreign affairs and diplomacy.

Prior to joining CNN, Kirby had a 29-year career with the United States Navy, joining after college and eventually retiring as Rear Admiral in 2015. In 2011, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta appointed Kirby to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Media Operations. Two years later, after serving as the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Information, Kirby was chosen as Pentagon Press Secretary and became the first uniformed officer to hold the position. Following his military career, Kirby returned to government to serve as the Spokesperson for the U.S. State Department. Soon after, he was appointed by then-President Obama to take on the role of Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Public Affairs, a title he held until the end of the Obama administration.

Kirby is from St. Petersburg, Florida, and holds a B.A. in History from the University of South Florida, as well as an M.S. in International Relations from Troy State University and an M.A. in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.


Ghosting Communicators – A Halloween Tale


Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM 

You email someone you know in a business context – a communications professional – and you don’t hear back.

The mind starts spiraling down the path of alternatives. Are they are ignoring you? You did something wrong? Are you being an annoyance? Are they are too busy to respond? Did the email get caught up in spam? Are they on vacation? Could they have caught COVID? Are they in the hospital or worse?

You need to decide. Do I follow up or give up? Do I get annoyed? Do I think the worst or the best? Do I put on my Halloween costume, party like it’s 1999, and move on?

Hold on a moment. Aren’t communicators supposed to communicate?

If you send an email to someone you believe you have a relationship with, about something that would only take a minute or two to acknowledge, and you don’t receive a response, that really rankles. Especially, when it’s a communicator.

Of course, this assumes there’s alignment between what we think is important and what the ghoster thinks is important. It rarely is. It also assumes that those we are engaging aren’t drowning in email.

While it’s never a bad thing to give the benefit of the doubt to ghosters or to ask ourselves, is what I am sharing or the request I am making adding value or noise, there’s no doubt a little courtesy and communication goes a long way.

Ghosting is in part a response to the overwhelming amount of communication – wanted and unwanted – we receive.

But we should also be real here. There are corporate communications departments that choose to ghost reporters. And, there are individual communicators and professionals who find it easier to ghost than to engage.

In explanations of why people ghost in their personal communications, one of the common themes is ghosting is an immature response to an uncomfortable situation. It’s easier to shut down, than respond. There’s a potential excuse – if I believe the person I’m communicating with cannot handle the truth, do I want to share it?

In a work context, we cannot respond to every email. But, applying the simple mantra of treating those with whom we have relationships in the same way we would want to be treated is at the core of being professional.

Being honest and direct with others is invaluable because it saves time for both parties. We’d all rather hear a “no” or “no interest” than nothing at all. Most of us can handle the truth. In fact, truth does set us free. And, frankly it is more efficient for all concerned.

We are all on career and life journeys. The most respected people I know and seek to emulate are those who take a minute to respond, who give a minute or more to others to help them on their paths.

This Halloween, don’t be a ghost.

CommunicationsMatch™ offers communications & PR agency search tools and resources that help companies find, shortlist, and engage communications, digital marketing and branding agencies, consultants and freelancers by industry and communications expertise, location and size. The site has 6,000 agency and professional profiles in areas including: crisis communications, public relations, internal communications, government affairs, investor relations, content marketing, social media, SEO, website development, photography and video. Prior to founding CommunicationsMatch, Locke held senior corporate communications roles at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley, and Deutsche Bank and founded communications consultancies.  
















What Communicators Need to Know: Media Relations During COVID-19

Sandra Fathi, President, Affect

When a major disaster hits, whether it’s COVID-19 or another event that puts people, property and businesses in peril, it’s often difficult to understand the best path forward to approaching the media. Although companies may have information or announcements that can benefit the public, there is a sensitive line between providing helpful and valuable information and being seen as trying to profit on the back of a tragedy. It’s important to understand when, how and with what type of information to approach the media as well as employees, customers, and other stakeholders. In this article, we’ll examine the current media climate and help communicators evaluate how and when to approach the media with crisis-related, and non-crisis-related messages to ensure a receptive audience and productive approach.

Understanding the Crisis

Having worked in this industry for more than 20 years, I’ve seen my share of crises. Some we anticipated – like Y2K or Hurricane Sandy. Others, we did not – 9/11 and the 2008 dot-com tech bubble. Coronavirus is somewhere in between. For those with global clients or business operations, you may have heard the soft warnings coming out of Asia late last year or early in January. However, COVID-19 seemed to only hit crisis levels in the U.S. media, as of last week. No matter what the crisis is, understanding its immediate and long-term impact will help you navigate the media landscape. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is this a human or economic tragedy, or both? Whenever we are dealing with severe physical injuries and loss of human life, it is a much more sensitive time than economic impact alone. Certainly, in the current crisis, we don’t know who may be grappling with a devastating situation of themselves or a loved one with a severe reaction to the virus or just overall anxiety around the potential gravity of our circumstances.
  • Is this an acute crisis or ongoing event? In an acute crisis, it may be best to wait until the event passes or the media cycle has moved on. However, if it is an ongoing event, such as we are facing now with Coronavirus, your business may need to move ahead with plans in order to ensure business continuity.
  • Is this a local, regional or global crisis? Does it impact all markets/sectors/segments of society or is it limited? At the moment, no one is immune to the effects of Coronavirus, which makes it a unique, global crisis that impacts every walk of life and every market segment. However, it has impacted certain sectors more, such as travel and hospitality, while others less, such as cybersecurity. Depending upon your company’s industry and target audience, the media may be more open to covering non-crisis-related stories.

    Anticipating Media Reception

    Prior to pitching your news, it’s important to take the temperature of the media landscape in order to determine receptivity to your message. This can also help you guide your executive team to understanding what can and cannot be achieved from a communications standpoint during a crisis. A few actions you can take include:

    • Conduct a quick media audit. Just taking a look at the headlines on some of your target outlets or publications will give you a good indication of the percentage of news that is crisis- or non-crisis-related. If you review the home page of a publication’s site and you see that more than 50% of the news is crisis related, you still have 50% of reporters writing about non-crisis news. Try to evaluate the types of topics and stories they seem most open to.
    • Monitor journalist queries and social media sites. Free services like HARO and Qwoted allow journalists to send out requests to PR people for leads and sources for stories. We are still seeing ones that are not Coronavirus-related at the moment. In addition, if you are connected with or follow journalists on social media, many of them will share the types of stories they are working on or sources they are seeking.
    • Ask. There is nothing wrong with asking journalists, especially those you may work with on a regular basis, if they are open to non-crisis stories at the moment. Be human about it – ask about them, their health, their family and if they are impacted. Many journalists are also freelancers these days and they may be concerned about their own livelihood. A word of support and understanding can also go a long way to building a relationship for the long-term.

    Evaluating Company News & Value

    During normal times, it’s important to be able to look objectively at a company’s message and evaluate its ‘newsworthiness’ before approaching the media. However, sometimes management, stakeholders or even regulatory requirements dictate the need for specific press releases or media outreach even when communicators would typically advise against it. During a crisis, it’s all the more focus on relevant, valuable and timely news.

    • Provide educational insights, unique perspectives or informed predictions related to the crisis. If your company has the ability to educate the public on an element of the crisis, provide insight into how customers or consumers are grappling with pertinent issues or you may have access to proprietary data that can help identify trends or movements in your industry or market — these are valuable news stories for the press. In the current COVID-19 crisis, people want to know how companies are faring in China now that it seems to be on the downslope of the viral infections, while others who have yet to feel the full impact might want to know best practices to prepare their businesses.
    • Share your company’s plan to help your employees, customers, community or your own business through this challenging time. Media want to help others overcome a crisis by reporting on best practices from other companies. Perhaps, your organization can pivot its resources to assist in crisis mitigation – from restaurants offering food for the homeless, seniors or those in quarantine to videoconferencing services offering free access to K-12 schools, there are thousands of companies doing good even in the worst of times.
    • It’s not the time for a hard sell. During a crisis, there will still be companies and media outlets that are forging ahead with business as usual. They are planning next month’s product launches and next week’s publication. Media need non-crisis-related news to fill those pages and that airtime. We just need to tread with caution and be mindful of the toll of the crisis at large. I’ll never forget in the early afternoon of September 11th when the whole world was glued to the TV trying to comprehend the magnitude of the day’s horrific events, I received a call from a local car dealership to let me know about a sale on the new models. Needless to say, I was so infuriated that I still think about it every time I pass that dealership and I have never set foot in there since.

    For every business, this is an especially challenging time and one in which public relations may be one of the few lifelines to sustain their business and drive demand for products and services. We have to consider both the immediate and long-term needs, of our organizations as well as the media and the public, when conducting outreach. In any crisis situation, there is tremendous fear and uncertainty, but there is also an opportunity to demonstrate compassion, humanity and leadership. This applies to working with media as well as within your own organization, your customers and your community.

    Written by Sandra Fathi, President, Affect. This article originally appeared in Business Wire’s blog on April 1, 2020.
    If you need any assistance on COVID-19-related crisis communications, Affect is offering limited crisis services free of charge to assist organizations in need.

    How Businesses Are Handling the Crisis the COVID-19 Pandemic (Free Webinar)

    Free Webinar: Friday, March 20th @ 12 p.m. ET

    How Businesses Are Handling the Crisis the COVID-19 Pandemic (Free Webinar)

    Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., APR, President and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations and Steve Cody, co-founder and CEO of Peppercomm and IPR Chair, will discuss the results of their new co-branded study that surveyed 300 communication executives and senior leaders to find out how their companies were faring in the COVID-19 pandemic.

    This session will discuss findings of how important the communication function is during this crisis, the most-trusted and suggested sources, how prepared communicators are for the crisis and its impact on the business, and which stakeholders they are most communicating to about changes and updates. The session will also give advice to business leaders about ways to tackle issues surrounding COVID-19.

    COVID-19: How Businesses And PR Agencies Are Handling the Crisis (On-Demand Video)

    On-Demand Video


    About the Event

    The session will discuss what businesses and public relations agencies are doing to fight against COVID-19 and resulting panic, and gives tips for navigating these uncharted waters. The session will also feature the results of a new study by the Institute for Public Relations and Peppercomm that surveyed 300 communication executives and senior leaders to find out how their companies are managing communication both externally and internally in the COVID-19 pandemic.



    Steve CodySteve Cody, Founder / CEO, Peppercomm | @RepManCody

    I’m a comedian, climber and dog lover, but not necessarily in that order.

    I am also the founder and CEO of Peppercomm, a fully-integrated strategic communications firm headquartered in NYC, with offices located in San Francisco and London. In that role I’m responsible for everything from implementing strategy and counseling clients to leading business development and bringing new products and services to market. In short, I do everything but clean windows.

    My biggest passion is helping others. I derive immense satisfaction from mentoring students, guest lecturing at the universities who are brave enough to invite me to speak, and helping fellow mid-life marketing communications professionals who have lost their way in life. There may be hope for us yet.

    I am the current chairman of the Institute for Public Relations, a longtime member of the Arthur W. Page Society, a member of the advisory councils of the College of Charleston and the University of Florida, and was named one of Northeastern University’s 100 most successful alumni. I have also co-authored “What’s keeping your customers up at night? which was published by McGraw-Hill in 2003 and has put thousands of readers to sleep over the years.

    I’m proud to say that I’ve used my love of stand-up comedy to raise more than $100,000 for countless charities. I’m just as proud to see Chris and Catharine, my two children, grow up to become successful professionals. I’m confident the family tradition will continue with my grandson, Adrian Joseph “A.J.” Cody. May he outperform us all.


    Adele CehrsAdele Cehrs, CEO / Founder, When + How Agency | @AdeleCehrs

    Heralded as a crisis communications expert, by the Wall Street Journal Adele Cehrs has worked with high-profile clients like Vice President Joe Biden, the CEO of Lockheed Martin Marillyn Hewson and the owner of the Washington Monumental Sports Ted Leonsis.

    As a well-respected entrepreneur, Adele was recently recognized as a “business wonder-woman” by the Washington Business Journal.

    She has also spoken at the United Nations and her talk was broadcast on United Nations Television and translated into eight languages. She is the author of the book: Spike Your Brand ROI: How to Maximize Results.


    Neil Foote - Bracing for Impact in 2020: What We Can Learn from MLK’s JourneyNeil Foote, President, National Black Public Relations Society | @politicsincolor

    Neil Foote is principal of Foote Communications LLC, an integrated public relations, content management and multicultural marketing firm that has worked with a wide range of clients from the business world, entertainment and nonprofits. His work includes generating coverage in major national, regional and local media, developing media and marketing strategies, developing branding strategies, writing content, advising them on social media and purchasing media.

    Previously, Foote has worked at The Miami Herald & The Washington Post), the American Society of Newspaper Editors, The Dallas Morning News, Belo Corporation and Tom Joyner. Foote has traveled the country giving lectures and leading discussions the role of digital media in transforming journalism and diversity in the media.

    Foote also teaches journalism at UNT’s Mayborn School of Journalism and co-director of the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, the nation’s leading conference for aspiring and experienced writers.  He also is author of “Principals of News” (Kendall Hung Publisher, 2020) and contributor to the textbook, Race, Gender, Class, and Media: Studying Mass Communication and Multiculturalism (Kendall Hunt Publisher, 2012,2014,2017).

    Outside of work, the native of Brooklyn, N.Y. is president of the National Black Public Relations Society, Inc., a steering committee member of Commission on Public Relations Education; board chair of the National Kidney Foundation serving North Texas, board secretary member of the Forefront Living, and a Life Trustee for The Lamplighter School. Foote has a B.A. in government from Wesleyan University (Middletown, Conn.) an M.S.J. from Northwestern University’s (Evanston, Ill.) Medill School of Journalism and an M.B.A. at Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX).


    Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., APR, President and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations | @tmccorkindale

    Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., APR, is the President and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations. She taught as a professor for 15 years and has more than 10 years of experience working in corporate communication and analytics. She serves on the boards of several industry associations and has received several awards for her contributions to the profession. She lives in Seattle, WA. Follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn



    Richard Levick 2020

    Richard S. Levick, Esq., Chairman & CEO, LEVICK | @richardlevick

    Under his leadership, LEVICK has set new standards in global communications and brand protection for corporations, countries, and major institutions. Mr. Levick is one of the communications industry’s most important spokespersons and thought leaders.

    A powerful advocate for the strategic initiatives that companies must pursue in today’s perilous environment, he regularly addresses corporate boards as well as industry and government leaders around the world, providing guidance on their most complex communications and reputation management challenges. He is featured in, and authors, countless articles, and is a frequent guest on prime time national and international television programs.

    Mr. Levick is a much-sought after keynote and graduation speaker and is a columnist for the top business blogs including Forbes.

    Mr. Levick has co-authored five books including, The Communicators: Leadership in the Age of Crisis; Stop the Presses; The Crisis and Litigation PR Desk Reference365 Marketing Meditations; and Lessons for Absent Children.


    Kim Sample, President, PR Council | @PRCouncil

    Kim Sample focuses on helping the PR Council’s 100-plus member agencies thrive and elevating the PR profession overall. Prior to joining the PRC in August 2018, Kim was the founder/CEO of Emanate, a $35 million, 100+ person international marketing communications agency. During her tenure Emanate was named PR WEEK Agency of the Year and CRAIN’S Best Places to Work in NYC, and the team’s work for clients was recognized with numerous industry awards. Kim also worked at Ketchum, Marina Maher Communications and Golin earlier in her career, and has served Fortune 500 clients across a number of industries, including financial services, travel and hospitality, CPG and consumer electronics.


    Keith Kelly, Media Ink Columnist, New York Post | @media_ink

    Keith is an experienced columnist with a demonstrated history of working in the publishing industry.  His experience includes the New York Post, the N.Y. Daily News, Advertising Age and MagazineWeek.





    With appreciation for your support…


    Planning for 2020: What Non-Profit Communicators Should Know

    Amanda ReCupido, Vice President, Public Communications Inc.

    As communicators plan their earned media strategies for 2020, be sure to keep these tips in mind to achieve share of voice in an ever-increasingly noisy media landscape.

    Start with strategy

    The foundation of good communications is planning. Setting aside dedicated time at the start of the year to identify your organization’s business and communications goals, key audiences and the messages that will resonate with them, and the strategies and tactics to achieve your desired outcomes, will ultimately save you time down the road by ensuring team alignment and keep you from chasing dead ends. Make sure you set objectives that are measurable and then actually measure them. Analyze your progress on a regular basis in a cadence that makes sense for you, whether that’s monthly, quarterly or something else entirely, and adjust your plan accordingly to stay on track.

    Get your house in order

    Non-profit communicators report to many stakeholders, whether it’s part of an overall marketing team, the Executive Director, board, partner organizations, and more. But it’s not just communicating up – sharing your strategic direction and messaging from the volunteer level to leadership ensures internal alignment on external campaigns and overall stronger organizations. Without this, it may lead to declining organizational culture which can creep into external initiatives such as program launches, media and fundraising campaigns.

    Timing is everything

    Once you’re ready to share your campaign with the public, be aware of timing. What other awareness events or news cycles are happening around the time of your launch? Do they help or hurt your overall goals? Be wary of sharing news when attentions are pulled elsewhere. Similarly, it’s important to avoid being opportunistic by “news-jacking.” Oftentimes, entering a conversation without strategy and forethought could backfire and result in a decreased reputation for your organization.

    Play nice in the sandbox

    As full-time journalist positions continue to shrink industry-wide, communicators must think beyond traditional media. It’s all about the PESO model – paid, earned, shared and owned channels – and digital continues to be one of the most effective ways to amplify campaigns. Internally, make allies with your organization’s social media and marketing teams so campaigns are aligned across your website, e-marketing, text messaging and other communications avenues.

    Beyond your organization, think about what strategic partnerships make sense. Other organizations don’t have to be viewed as competitors, but as opportunities for growth. Combine and share resources for maximum impact and the return will be beneficial for all involved.

    Keep it human

    The reason people are engaged with your organization in the first place, and the reason you yourself work where you do, is because of its non-profit mission. Sharing your story – whether from an organizational standpoint, to beneficiaries of your services, longtime donors, volunteers and employees – is the best way to let your actions speak for themselves. Real people and their experiences are your best endorsements. Especially as more organizations look to the next generation of donors and audiences, it’s this authenticity that will connect and ensure the future of your organization for years to come.

    About the Author: Amanda ReCupido is a public relations professional with a background in writing, media relations and social media. As vice president, Amanda manages accounts and oversees communications strategy and execution for nonprofit, cultural and government clients. She has experience training groups on media messaging and counseling clients on a range of crises from employee incidents to data breaches. Her clients at PCI have ranged across the arts, education, philanthropy, social services and advocacy, Park Districts, conservation, and medical associations and providers

    What 2020 Communicators Need to Know, But Don’t: CONVINCE ME Masterclass

    November 4, 2019 – New York City


    Convince Me Masterclass

    REGISTER today with a COMMPRO code for 20% off the $199 workshop fee: www.convincememasterclass.com 

    The Future of Communications Is…

    Master communications in 2020? Seems so futuristic, but before know it, the New Year will be upon us in a shockingly quick pace.
    What are you doing as a communicator to make sure you have advanced skills to be exceptional? While there are plenty on professional development opportunities online and off – I urge you to treat the Convince Me Masterclass differently.
    I’ve been in communications for close to two decades and I’ve never been exposed to the inner teachings of the mind of an FBI hostage negotiator or an adult-learning neuroscience expert. This is a new way of thinking and practicing communications that you can benefit from immediately.

     Techniques like:

    • How to get to someone’s “Unstated Narrative” – the tape that is running in their head on a constant loop. Imagine how helpful that would be when you are writing messaging for your CEO or talking to an investigative reporter. All this from a former FBI agent whose job it was to build rapport and get to know someone in a life or death situation. While we are worried about sullied reputations, trolls on social media or a less than stellar earning report. These skills transfer and can set you apart.
    • As communicators we are constantly trying to help clients improve their personal brands and in doing so we are often playing the “What If Game.” “What if” we say this — the company will be perceived wrong. “What if” the CEO doesn’t apologize — the crisis will get worse. In playing this game of chess — we are less likely to be present and listen effectively responding to what is happening in the here and now. When you are dialed into the skill of “Forensic Listening” you can guide executives to a strategic solution with a foundation built on trust. You help them see the solution as beneficial to them and the company by a deeper level of buy in.
    • The skill of “Emotional Labeling” shows your client that you are deeply concerned about what is important to them and you are crafting a message that better represents them. Additionally, you will be quickly seen as a trusted advisor who truly understands their feelings and motivations.

    Other takeaways include:  

     ✓ Tap into the neuroscience of persuasion to get better at presenting and pitching your ideas
     ✓ How to have difficult conversations that matter with limited information
     ✓ Increase trust in you as a leader and within your organization through forensic listening
     ✓ Access your words and actions objectively without emotional hijacking your clients, peers or employees
    ✓ Learn the neuroscience of Level 1, 2 and 3 conversations (CIQ) and why you should have more Level 3 conversations in business
    ✓ Manage your own emotions and your team effectively in challenging situations

    Sign up today and set up 2020 as a master communicator. 

    Convince Me from When and How Channel on Vimeo.

    Register Now: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/convince-me-the-science-and-art-of-convincing-people-to-move-to-agreement-tickets-70757470499


    Truth on Trial: A PRSA-NY Interactive Debate for Communicators

    Free Live Event: October 7, @ 6 – 8 p.m. (New York City)

    Join PRSA-NYC at an amazing free event! 

    Authenticity is a core value for communicators and a deciding factor for consumers.  Defining truth is a challenge with the ever-increasing use of social media that provides information at our fingertips. Determining what is true and not true, particularly in this Age of Disinformation has become a very difficult task. Communicating truth effectively today is more important than ever.  

    What better format for discussing truth in our profession than a mock tribunal with an “acting” Court? Members of the “Court “will be a judge (the moderator) a defense counsel, a prosecutor, a witness for the defense and a witness for the prosecution. The audience will represent the jury.

    In this exciting interactive session, the moderator will begin by presenting to the audience a motion on truth.

    The motion will read:

    “Truth is overrated, less relevant then ever and rarely provides a competitive advantage in business. Therefore, we should not make truth a priority in the practice of our profession.”

    Meet the Speakers

    Andrea Bonime-Blanc

    Dr. Bonime-Blanc is CEO and Founder of GEC Risk Advisory and a global governance, risk, ethics, cyber and crisis strategist, serving business, nonprofits, and government. She is a NACD Board Leadership Fellow and holds the Carnegie Mellon CERT Certification in Cyber-Risk Oversight. She is a Governance Mentor at Plug & Play Tech Centre and, since 2017, has served as the Independent Ethics Advisor to the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico. In 2019 she was appointed to two International Advisory Boards – Greenward Partners (a Spanish-based green energy firm) and Ethical Intelligence (a Scottish based AI ethics consultancy). She spent two decades as a senior global corporate executive leading governance, legal, ethics, risk & numerous other functions at four global companies including PSEG and Bertelsmann. Her latest book, Gloom to Boom: How Leaders Transform Risk into Resilience and Value debuts in October 2019. 

    Jim Lukaszewski

    James (Jim) E. Lukaszewski (Loo-ka-SHEV-skee) is one of America’s most visible corporate go-to people for senior executives when there is trouble in the room or on the horizon. As America’s Crisis Guru®, Lukaszewski is known for his ability to help executives look at problems from a variety of sensible, constructive and principled perspectives. He is an expert in managing and reducing contention, counteracting tough, touchy, sensitive corporate communications and institutional issues. He has spent his career counseling leaders of all types who face challenging situations that often involve conflict, controversy, community action or activist opposition. His 14th book, The Decency Code will be released in January,2020 by McGraw-Hill. He is a recipient of the Patrick Jackson Award for Distinguished Service to the Public Relations Society of America and PR News’ Lifetime Achievement Award. Lukaszewski is a member of the Rowan University Public Relations Hall of Fame. 

    T.J Elliott

    ETS’s Chief Learning Officer from 2002-17,T.J Elliott now is its Knowledge BrokerPreviously Director, Consulting Design, Cavanaugh Leahy, and Vice President, Longview Associates, Elliott consulted for Mobil Oil, NASA Goddard Space and Flight Center, Verizon Wireless and other corporations. Educated at Manhattan College and Nova Southeastern University, he co-authored Decision DNA, wrote the foreword to Work-Based Learning: Bridging Knowledge & Action in the Workplace and the lead chapter in Smarter Innovation: Using Interactive Processes to Drive Better Business Results. He has taught at NYU, Mercy College, and Columbia University. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey with his wife, Marjorie.

    Michael Schubert

    Michael Schubert is the Chief Innovation Officer for Ruder Finn, where he has created multi-channel engagement campaigns aimed at building community and brand preference across both targeted and mass-market audiences for clients ranging from Novartis, Pfizer, Citi, PepsiCo and Mondelez to the White House and the United Nations, as well as multiple startups. Michael brings a unique skill set to today’s communications landscape, combining a deep understanding of analytics with a creative storytelling approach founded on many years as an artist, composer, director and strategic brand builder. His real world and online engagements have won multiple awards, including his Mr. Picassohead project, which won the SXSW Viewer’s Choice award, and his 200 Years Citi campaign which was recognized by PR Week as one of the “top 15 public relations programs in the past 15 years.” In addition to his work in communications and PR, Michael has written two Off-Broadway shows.

    Meet our Moderator

    Emmanuel Tchividjian, The Markus Gabriel GroupEmmanuel Tchividjian

     Mr. Tchividjian is the owner and principal of The Markus Gabriel Group, an ethics in communication consulting practice. He is past president and currently the Ethics Officer of the NY Chapter of PRSA-New York. Prior, Mr. Tchividjian was the ethics officer of the PR firm Ruder Finn. Emmanuel has been engaged in public speaking on ethics and communication to academic institutions such as NYU, Columbia University, Penn State and Washing and Lee University.

    Emmanuel has published numerous articles in PR trade such as PRWeek and Pr. News as well as an article in the Harvard Business Online. He was certified Compliance & Ethics Professional in 2006, by the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE.)

    *This is a FREE event. Registration is required so that we do not exceed capacity of the venue.*

    Business Acumen Remains a Priority for PR Professionals          

    Jo Detavernier, SCMP, APR

    Too often I have seen PR professionals excel at their core competencies while lacking in business knowledge. With so many professionals holding degrees in journalism this should not be a surprise, but there being an identified cause for the issue at hand does not make the problem any less urgent.

    No passing grade for colleges

    In 2013, Matt Ragas, PhD and Ron Culp of DePaul University surveyed a representative sample of Arthur W. Page Society members on this very topic. 84,5 percent of respondents said they found it very important for business 101 to be part of the training and education of strategic communications students. When asked whether they thought schools delivered on this, no less than 81,9 answered negative. What does the select membership of the Page Society put high on their list of topics that need to be covered in business 101 education? The top three looks like this (in decreasing order of importance): understanding the basics of financial statements, a primer on financial terminology and understanding the contribution of communication to company strategy.

    Looking around me, it does not look like much has changed since 2013. Just to give one anecdotal but telling example that pertains to financial statements:  a great many PR professionals I know – even those that have moved on from entry-level positions – can not wrap their heads around the ontological differences that exist between the accounting and financial realities of companies. Equipment that eats into net profits through amortizations but doesn’t represent a cash out? Don’t ask a communicator to explain it to you.

    Dire consequences of limited knowledge

    Not understanding how businesses work has consequences. Senior leaders pick up on the lack of business knowledge of communicators when they struggle to get the messaging right in a press release or other deliverables, or when they miss the mark when they give strategic counsel.

    But this is not only about the quality of work delivered, it is also about making a case for the work (to be) performed. Communicators who do not understand and talk business sufficiently, will not impress C-level staff with their calculations of projected or actual ROI. And let’s not even discuss the question whether they will sufficiently account for the time value of money when they make the case for major investments.

    Moving forward

    Communication professionals should not settle for this situation. I recommend they acquire business skills early on in their career. MBAs and executive MBAs remain valid options but are not available to everybody because of the investment in time and money they come with.  The good news is that you do not need to be $100,000 in debt to understand how businesses function. Accessible alternatives run from taking accelerated management programs or any stand-alone courses to simply opening your web browser to Google difficult to grasp concepts. Sites such as Investopedia offer a wealth of free high-quality content.

    Managers of in-house staff or consultancy agencies need to step up to the plate as well. A minimum of business knowledge needs to be required from any but entry level staff. This means that business acumen needs to be plugged into personal development plans.  Finally – and this us back to where we started – liberal arts colleges need to understand that public relations is much more than writing and editing, and that communicators who lack a fundamental understanding of how businesses work will fail to serve them well.

    Business acumen remains a priority for PR professionalsAbout the Author: This post is written by Jo Detavernier, SCMP, APR, an Austin, TX based communications consultant. Visit his website for more content on corporate communications, public relations and content marketing.

    Hiring PR & Communications Agencies? Looking to Win Business? New Agency Search Research Offers Lessons from the Fortune 1000 

    Simon Erskine Locke, CEO, CommunicationsMatch

    Steven Drake & Robert Udowitz, Principals, RFP Associates

    Tony Cheevers, Vice President, Researchscape

    The interim results of our new survey of CCOs, CMOs and decision makers at Fortune 1000 companies and large not-for-profit organizations offer important takeaways for current PR and communications agency search practices and agencies seeking new business.  Watch a short video summary of the results here: How Companies Search For PR Agencies.   

    Presented at the Institute for Public Relations Research’s Bridge Conference in Washington, D.C. on April 11, 2019, the findings of the survey conducted by CommunicationsMatch™ and RFP Associates, in collaboration with communications research company Researchscape International, reveal the reliance of communications leaders on their knowledge of and experience with agencies, and on word-of-mouth recommendations from professional peers during the agency selection process. In fact, almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents cited wordof-mouth and 70 percent said they rely on their industry knowledge when they start an agency search and hiring process. 

    New Agency Search Research Offers Lessons from the Fortune 1000 

    Other topline results:  The majority of respondents work with multiple agencies, and a third of respondents said they had four or more agencies under contract. A third of our respondents reported that the annual budget for their primary agency alone exceeded $1 million. More than two-thirds of respondents (67%) said they use an RFP in the agency hiring process, and most (70%) involve other company departments: about 4 in 10 involve Procurement, and about one-third bring in Marketing. Click here for the PR & Communications Agency Search & Hiring Survey Interim Report and to download the IPR results presentation.

    Corporate Communications Takeaways from the Search and Hiring Survey

    While two-thirds of respondents expressed overall satisfaction with their agency search process, consistently 40 to 50% indicated they were only moderately or slightly satisfied with specific components of their search process, including the RFP, the time taken to identify agencies, resources to find agencies, and the number of agencies considered. 

    New Agency Search Research Offers Lessons from the Fortune 1000 

    Interestingly, communications leaders who had previously worked for agencies were less satisfied with their agency search process than their counterparts who had not.

    One of the issues we will explore further in our final report – which will draw upon qualitative interviews with some of our respondents – is the challenge all communicators face of limited time. Our research underscores a gap between what they recognize as ideal, e.g. a more comprehensive search process, and the capacity to do more. Relying on personal experience and word-of-mouth offer short-cuts to finding and selecting agencies, in the perceived absence of resources to efficiently identify qualified agencies. The incompleteness of RFPs as reported by our respondents also likely reflects the time and resource challenge of creating RFP documents from scratch. Given these pressures, it should perhaps not be a surprise that communications leaders’ responses indicate they consider their search process to be “good enough.”

    What may not be clear is whether there is a cost for companies and organizations that rely on a “good enough” agency search and hiring process. One of the takeaways from the study is that three-quarters of the primary agency relationships for our respondents were less than four years old. This reflects the communications sector’s ongoing challenge of agency turnover. There’s clearly a significant cost to this for both agencies and the organizations that hire them. In our final report we will provide additional insight into the link between agency search and outcomes in the client-agency relationship, including retention.        

    Agency Takeaways from the Search & Hiring Survey  

    The research revealed a high level of overall satisfaction with agencies, but showed that agencies are falling short in key areas.

    Under the category of “opportunities to strengthen client relationships,” the data showed respondents are moderately or less satisfied with agencies in areas including agency proactivity, effective account coordination, staff stability, meeting objectives, operating within budgets, and meeting deadlines. But underscoring a potential concern for larger agencies: higher budgets were correlated with lower overall satisfaction ratings.

    New Agency Search Research Offers Lessons from the Fortune 1000

    The survey also highlighted what companies are looking for and value most in the agency hiring process. “Understanding of my organization’s communications needs,” and “quality of strategic thinking, program ideas, and recommendations,” were the top considerations for companies hiring agencies. 

    Once agency candidates are engaged in the selection process, almost 40 percent of respondents felt that agency responses were “boilerplate,” 33 percent perceived agency candidates to be “upselling,” and nearly 20 percent noted  that agency responses were off-base or not consistent with the scope of work. 

    Jennifer Swint, Global President, of Porter Novelli, who moderated the presentation of the results at the IPR Bridge Conference, noted the challenge of completing long and cumbersome proposals at a time when teams are busy working on client business. With incomplete RFPs, and a less-than-clear pathway to winning the business, most agencies would prefer not to complete time-consuming RFPs, but, as Swint acknowledged and the survey shows, the RFP is and will continue to be a feature of the communications sector.                  

    Overall, the survey data reflects the challenges faced by clients and agencies in the search and hiring process. It also highlights the need for search and RFP tools and approaches that can offer a clear return on investment. This is the focus of CommunicationsMatch and RFP Associates.

    About the Study

    Interim results discussed during the IPR Bridge Conference were based on 101 survey responses (53 complete, 48 partial) as of March 25.  The final results and full survey report, based on responses through April 12, will be released in May.

    CommunicationsMatch’s agency search, hiring tools and resources save companies time, achieve better search outcomes and build stronger brands. With 5,000 agency and individual profiles, companies search for communications partners by location, size, clients, keywords, ownership, designations, diversity and more. CommunicationsMatch also offers agency search consulting, communications research tools, as well as programmer & developer search. Find out more at: www.communicationsmatch.comFind out more about How To Search For Agencies on CommunicationsMatch and about How to Send an RFP.   

    RFP Associates, LLC is a communications agency search firm that has developed a specialized search and selection methodology that improves the process of identifying, evaluating and hiring agencies. For more than a decade, the company has worked with corporations and associations to engage agencies for agency-of-record assignments and confidential projects.

    Researchscape International is an agile market research consultancy delivering high-quality custom and omnibus surveys, automated reporting tools as well as other research-related services, to marketers and agencies. Its surveys are frequently used to drive thought leadership, support content creation and help grow organizations’ public profiles. Other services support specific client needs including concept testing, feature prioritization, crisis communications, customer satisfaction and more.

    Communicators as Brand Value Creators (On-Demand Recording)

    Webcast Overview

    Join us for a virtual round table where our panelists will discuss how they are redefining their roles as strategic communications professionals. From using data to shape and defend strategies to advising on crisis and enhancing brand reputation, the role of the communicator is becoming more integral to the business by the day. These PR pros will share personal highlights of success as brand value creators and examine the skills next-gen communicators will need to hone to do the same.


    Leslie Stefanik
    Vice President Marketing

    With more than 25 years’ professional experience, Leslie Stefanik began her career in Los Angeles working for a marketing agency that serviced the music industry. After a decade at the agency, she exited the music business and moved to Northern Virginia where she transitioned to corporate marketing for technology companies. An avid technology geek, she quickly learned the ropes of demand generation, branding, social media, corporate communications, marketing operations and analytics for this new market.  In her various marketing roles, Leslie has worked for several companies including SER Solutions, Plateau, Brainware, Deltek, Optymyze, and currently, PublicRelay. Leslie’s passion for measurement and analytics helped her build and lead successful data-driven marketing organizations that drive results to the bottom line.  On Twitter: @lrstefanik, Linked In: www.linkedin.com/in/lesliestefanik



    Andrew Bowins
    SVP Communications and Industry Affairs
    Entertainment Software Association

    Andrew Bowins is the Senior Vice President for Communications & Industry Affairs for the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Mr. Bowins leads a world-class team responsible for positioning ESA, and the video game industry, as a driving influence in the world through partnerships, events, media outreach, digital and online, research, and member communications. The role includes management of the video game industry’s flagship annual event, E3, and responsibility for guiding the ESA Foundation.

    A proven change agent and disciplined corporate brand and reputation executive, Bowins has deep experience in issues management and worked with industry leading companies like Amazon, Dell, Nintendo, Nokia, Samsung, and MasterCard. By combining his in-house and agency experience, he became a respected counselor for his ability to build impactful teams that span the gamut of communications. His experience as a corporate executive includes international management experience for regions including the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

    PR News recognized Bowins as “Brand Marketer of the Year” and he was an “Industry Innovator” in The Holmes Report’s Annual In2 Top 25 Innovators rankings for 2014. The Bulldog Group named Andrew as the “Digital Communicator of the Year” and the Holmes Report named his team at MasterCard “Company of the Year” for PR excellence. Andrew was inducted into PR News Hall of Fame in 2013.

    Outside of his profession, Bowins carries a passion for life and is a dedicated father who is sponsoring his daughter’s belief that “you can do and become anything you imagine.” He also is an aspiring/recovering musician who enjoyed life on the road in the 1980s as a guitarist for Tinted Vision. | @justandybowins



    Lorri Christou
    Vice President, External Communications and Public Relations
    Choice Hotels International, Inc.

    Lorri Christou is Vice President of External Communications and Public Relations for Choice Hotels International, Inc. (NYSE: CHH), one of the world’s leading hotel companies. In this role, she leads the company’s communications strategy for the Choice Hotels corporate brand, including investor communications, reputation and crisis management, franchisee communications and executive positioning. Christou also oversees the consumer and trade earned media efforts for the company’s portfolio of brands. Prior to joining Choice Hotels, Christou spent more than 20 years managing global communications campaigns. She served as Senior Vice President, Strategic Marketing and Communications, for Cruise Lines International Association, and held key leadership positions at the two largest international public relations agencies Edelman and Fleishman-Hillard, where she worked closely with the Hilton Worldwide, PepsiCo and SC Johnson brands.



    Allyson Hugley
    Vice President, Prudential Global Communications
    Head of Analytics and Market Research

    Allyson Hugley is responsible for leading the development and adoption of analytics and market intelligence solutions across Prudential Global Communications to deepen communications impact and provide enhanced decision support specific to the promotion and protection of Prudential’s reputation across a diverse set of stakeholders.

    Allyson has over 20 years of experience and proven expertise driving the development of audience intelligence, media research and digital analytics solutions to inform business strategy, marketing and communications. Prior to joining Prudential, she managed the global analytics practice for Weber Shandwick, a leading communications agency. While at Weber Shandwick she directed global measurement and analytics client delivery, thought leadership, talent management and business development. She also served on the global leadership team and developed award-winning communications analytics solutions. Prior to joining Weber Shandwick, Allyson was the Senior Vice President of Insight Creation at MSLGROUP, a member of the Strategic Marketing research team at Scholastic Inc., and a Senior Account Director at GfK leading public affairs and media research.

    Allyson is a member of the Institute for Public Relations (IPR) Measurement Commission and the former co-Chair for the North American chapter of the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC). She has also served on AMEC’s board of directors. In 2015, she was recognized by PR News as one of the Top Women in PR and inducted into their PR Measurement Hall of Fame. In 2017, she was honored by Black Enterprise for outstanding business achievement.

    Allyson received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Connecticut College. She also holds an MBA from CUNY Baruch Zicklin School of Business and an MS in Analytics from Texas A&M University.


    Truth on Trial: Implications for Communicators – Part III (On-Demand Video)

    Watch On-Demand

    The intensity of the political divide is making it harder than ever for brands and non-profits to cut through the clutter and get their message out. They are being pushed to take positions on controversial issues. How are legal issues intersecting with the need to tell their story? What are best practices to cut through the clutter?  How is this effecting the political, media and communications landscape?

    “Truth on Trial” is just one of a series of forums put on by the Schar School of Policy & Government, whose panelists are among the most influential legal, communications, and media experts in the country. The February 26 “Truth on Trial” forum follows two extremely well-attended (live and online) moderated events launched last summer.


    • Public Affairs in the Digital Age
    • The Intersection of Law and PR
    • Media and Communicators


    • Mark J. Rozell, Dean, The Schar School of Policy & Government (HOST)
    • Douglas Simon, CEO, D S Simon Media (MODERATOR)
    • Michael Caputo, Strategic Communications Expert
    • Maria Cardona, Principal, Dewey Square Group
    • Peter Carson, Managing Director, Public Affairs, North America, Weber Shandwick | Powell Tate
    • Ty Cobb, Former White House Special Counsel to President Trump
    • Gabriel Debenedetti, National Correspondent, New York Magazine 
    • Suzanne Rich Folsom, Former General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer & SVP-Government Affairs, U.S. Steel
    • Alexander Howard, Independent Writer & Open Government Advocate
    • Richard S. Levick, Esq., Chairman & CEO, LEVICK
    • Terry McAuliffe, Former Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia / The Schar School of Policy & Government
    • Stefan Passantino, Former Deputy White House Counsel to President Trump
    • Steven Pearlstein, Columnist, The Washington Post / Professor, George Mason University
    • David K. Rehr, Ph.D., Professor of Public Policy, Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University
    • Lisa Osborne Ross, President, Edelman Washington D.C.
    • Frank Sesno, Director, Professor of Media and Public Affairs and International Affairs, George Washington University
    • Michael Zeldin, Legal Analyst, CNN

    Watch On-Demand


    Mark J. Rozell, Dean, The Schar School of Policy and Government | George Mason University | @MarkJRozellGMU

    Mark J. Rozell is the author of nine books and editor of twenty books on various topics in U.S. government and politics including the presidency, religion and politics, media and politics, and interest groups in elections. His latest books are:

    • Catholics and U.S. Politics after the 2016 Elections: Understanding the “Swing” Vote. New York: Palgrave/MacMillan Press, 2017 (edited with Blandine Chelini-Pont and Marie Gayte).
    • God at the Grass Roots, 2016: The Christian Right in American Elections. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017 (edited with Clyde Wilcox).
    • Religion and the American Presidency. New York: Palgrave/MacMillan Press, 2017 (revised and updated 3rd edition) (edited with Gleaves Whitney).
    • The New Politics of the Old South: An Introduction to Southern Politics (revised and updated sixth edition). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017 (edited with Charles S. Bullock III).
    • The President’s Czars: Undermining Congress and the Constitution. University Press of Kansas, 2012 (with Mitchel A. Sollenberger).
    • The Oxford Handbook of Southern Politics. Oxford University Press, 2012 (edited with Charles S. Bullock III).
    • Interest Groups in American Campaigns: The New Face of Electioneering (3rd edition). Oxford University Press, 2012 (with Michael Franz and Clyde Wilcox).
    • Executive Privilege: Presidential Power, Secrecy and Accountability (3rd edition). University Press of Kansas, 2010.

    He has testified before Congress on several occasions on executive privilege issues and has lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad. In recent years he has lectured in Austria, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, and Vietnam.

    Dean Rozell writes frequent op-ed columns in such publications as the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, New York Daily News, and Politico. He is often asked to comment about his areas of expertise for print and broadcast media. He may be reached at mrozell@gmu.edu or 703-993-8171.



    Doug Simon, CEO, D S Simon Media | @DSSimon 

    Doug Simon is the CEO of award-winning video influencer marketing firm D S Simon Media. His firm advises and executes broadcast and social media video communications campaigns on topical issues for senior leadership of brands and non-profits. His firm has completed more than 100 projects for DC based industry groups and non-profits and has been involved with political campaigns on the local and national level since 1992. 

    His firm pioneered Social Media LIVE™–multi-camera video production featuring an organization’s leadership with influencers distributed live to up to 30 social media sites simultaneously. Its unique approach to guiding clients, PRketing®, which connects communications to marketing results, was awarded a trademark by the US patent office. 

    Doug is frequently quoted in top media across platforms. Television appearances include Reuters, Dateline NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News Live and WNBC. He’s appeared on NPR and been quoted in USA Today and on The Huffington Post in addition to numerous trade publications. Doug’s video commentary on the 2012 political conventions was picked up by the humor site Funny or Die. 

    Doug is the President-Elect of the PRSA-NY Chapter and he was a three-time president of the Publicity Club of New York. Additionally, he is the Founder of SPOKEies® the first ever awards program to recognize in-house spokespeople for representing their brands with authenticity and building trust. Doug began his broadcast career at NBC Sports, where he served as Talent Assistant to Bob Costas. His hobbies include performing stand-up comedy at New York’s top clubs and rooting for terrible sports teams including the Jets and Knicks while still remaining optimistic.


    Michael Caputo, Strategic Communications Expert@MichaelRCaputo

    Strategic communications expert Michael R. Caputo is a former senior advisor to the campaign of President Donald J. Trump.  Michael is the Managing Director of Zeppelin Communications. He has 30 years of global communications experience with government, political campaigns, trade associations, and Fortune 500 corporations. Lauded by the New York Times for his “high octane brain,” he is also the only executive in history who has worked for both the White House and the Kremlin. This, in concert with his work as a senior advisor to then-candidate Donald J. Trump, has led to his involvement as a witness in recent Russian collusion investigations.

    Michael’s work has been commended by reporters across the spectrum for spirited, creative and unrelenting advocacy of his clients. He appears each week on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Fox Business, and is quoted regularly in leading newspapers like the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and more.

    Michael worked with field grade Army officers as an enlisted public affairs specialist for the 25th Infantry Division and has counseled senior leaders like presidential candidate Jack Kemp, US President George HW Bush, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Hollywood director David Lynch, and leaders of the US, Russian and Ukrainian national legislatures. He is a Journalism graduate from SUNY Buffalo and lives with his wife and children in Buffalo and Miami Beach.


    Maria CardonaMaria Cardona, Principal, Dewey Square Group | @MariaTCardona

    Maria Cardona is a Principal at the Dewey Square Group (DSG) and Founder of Latinovations, the Latino Strategies Practice of DSG.  A seasoned Democratic Strategist, and CNN/CNN en Español Political Contributor, Cardona is a public affairs and communications professional with over two decades of experience in public relations as well as political, governmental, campaign, community and coalition building arenas. Cardona also heads DSG’s Public Affairs Practice, combining public policy, communications, coalition building, constituency outreach, government relations, traditional and new media at this premier national public affairs firm. Maria is also known for her work as a political commentator, and is currently a CNN and CNN en Español political contributor, who appeared frequently on MSNBC, FOX, Univision and Telemundo as a public policy expert and providing political analysis on all manner of national issues, prior to signing on exclusively with CNN. She is regarded as one of the nation’s top 100 most influential Latinos.

    Cardona joined DSG as a principal in 2005, helping DSG’s corporate, non-profit and trade association clients develop strategic partnerships at the national, state and local level, especially within the Latino community. One of the most well-known and respected Latina political operatives and activists in the country, Cardona leverages her expansive insight and long standing recognition in the Latino community to ensure DSG clients are well represented and that they understand the myriad of opportunities that exist for exposure among this growing and increasingly influential market. Since founding DSG’s Latinovations, she guides clients on “best practices” to building support for their positions, products and brands within the Hispanic community. While at DSG, Cardona served as a Senior Advisor to the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign, serving as a campaign surrogate and spokesperson and representing the campaign on major national TV, radio as well as Spanish language television news and political programs. Cardona also served on Senator Clinton’s formidable Hispanic Outreach team, helping to ensure that the candidate’s message reached Latinos throughout the country. Following the primary, Cardona then served as a key surrogate for the Obama for America general election campaign, appearing on several the major national news shows.

    A former Senior Vice President for the New Democrat Network (NDN) and Director of NDN’s Hispanic Strategy Institute, Cardona led NDN’s $6 million initiative to communicate effectively with Hispanics across the country. At the time, the project was the largest ever effort to conduct dedicated research and polling, develop effective messages geared toward Latinos, and to promote Democratic values and identity in the Latino community through Spanish language and bilingual advertising. Prior to coming on board with the NDN, Cardona served as Communications Director for the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2003, where she helped coordinate the national Democratic message for the party officials, elected leaders, candidates and state democratic party committees. From 1998 to 2001, Ms. Cardona was the Director of Communications for the Department of Justice’s Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), acting as the Clinton Administration’s top spokesperson on the complex issues surrounding immigration including the controversial case of Elian Gonzalez.

    Before working at the INS, Cardona spent five years at the Department of Commerce, first as Deputy Press Secretary to Secretary Ronald H. Brown, and later as Press Secretary to Secretaries William Daley, and Mickey Kantor. During her time at the Commerce Department, she acted as a lead communications strategist for the passage of NAFTA in 1993. In 1997, she was awarded the Department of Commerce’s Silver Medal Award for Meritorious Federal Service.

    Ms. Cardona graduated from Duke University and serves on the Board of Directors of Center for Reproductive Rights, The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, PODER PAC, the Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino and Hoops Sagrado,

    Ms. Cardona is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lives in Washington D.C. with her husband Bryan Weaver, their son Sebastian and their daughter Maya Luna.


    Peter Carson, Managing Director, Public Affairs, North America, Weber Shandwick | Powell Tate

    Peter Carson leads the North America Public Affairs Practice of Powell Tate, helping devise and oversee integrated communications programs on behalf of corporations, coalitions, trade associations, and nonprofits.  Peter’s work includes: corporate reputation and crisis communications; third party identification and advocacy; federal and state coalition building; and, CEO visibility.  He has counseled clients across industries, from financial services to manufacturing, health care, telecommunications, food and beverage, government services, and hospitality. 

    Peter’s career began working for former Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT). Over the course of his career with the Congressman, he served in policy positions as Legislative Director and Chief of Staff.  He currently serves on the national board of Mental Health America (MHA), a leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness. Peter received a BA in English from Kenyon College.


    Ty Cobb, Former White House Special Counsel to President Trump

    Ty Cobb recently retired from the government, where he served as the Special Counsel to the President, managing the White House response to the Office of Special Counsel. Previously, Ty was a long-time leader at international law firm Hogan Lovells, where he was widely recognized as one of the premier white collar, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) enforcement, and Congressional investigations lawyers in the world.  Prominent corporate clients (domestic and international) and senior executives facing serious corporate governance matters such as crisis management, allegations of corruption, bribery or trade sanctions violations routinely turned to Ty to guide them. A former federal prosecutor, Ty is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and is regularly profiled in Best Lawyers in AmericaLawdragon 500 Top Lawyers in America, International Who’s Who of Business Crime Lawyers, and Superlawyers.  He was selected to the Ethisphere Hall of Fame in 2011 for his work advancing the cause of ethics in business and corporate compliance.  


    Gabriel Debenedetti, National Correspondent, New York Magazine  | @gdebenedetti

    Gabriel Debenedetti is the National Correspondent for New Yorkmagazine, where he writes feature stories about national politics and the 2020 election. 

    A staff writer with the magazine since early 2018, Debenedetti has written extensively about figures including Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and more. He joined from POLITICO, where he wrote about the build-up to the 2016 presidential election, the campaign itself, and its aftermath. He traveled the country with both Clinton and Sanders, chronicling the election with daily dispatches and long reports for Politico Magazine. Prior to that, he spent three years with Reuters, where he wrote about the 2012 presidential election, Capitol Hill, and the White House. 

    Frequently appearing on MSNBC, CNN, CBS, and BBC to analyze politics, Debenedetti has also written for the New York Times Book ReviewThe Economist, and The New Republic. A New Jersey native, Debenedetti graduated from Princeton University and lives in New York City.


    Suzanne Rich FolsomSuzanne Rich Folsom, Former General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer & SVP-Government Affairs, U.S. Steel

    Suzanne Rich Folsom is an accomplished board member and unique lawyer-leader with direct P&L experience, responsibility and operational accountability.  She has a broad international background and a successful track record of driving transformation and restructuring at public and private corporations in diverse industries during periods of unprecedented scrutiny.  Mrs. Folsom is known for her integrity, innovative-thinking, crisis management leadership, and the critical ability to build consensus around challenging decisions.  A former General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer and SVP-Government Affairs at U.S. Steel, Mrs. Folsom played a key leadership role in the iconic company’s transformation.  Prior to joining U.S. Steel, Mrs. Folsom was the EVP and General Counsel of ACADEMI, the company formerly known as Blackwater, and instrumental in its turnaround.  Previously, Mrs. Folsom served as the Deputy General Counsel, Chief Regulatory & Compliance Officer at AIG.  She joined the company after its material weakness determination and helped to stabilize and restructure AIG during the financial crisis.  Other career highlights include: Counselor to the World Bank President, and Director of its Department of Institutional Integrity; Private Secretary to H.M Queen Noor, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; Special Assistant to Barbara Bush; Chief of Staff to the Co-Chair of the Republican National Committee, Maureen Reagan; and Advisor to the U.S. Delegation to the U.N. World Women’s Conference.  Mrs. Folsom is a frequent lecturer and thought leadership contributor.  She has been recognized by numerous organizations for her efforts in the areas of governance, compliance, cybersecurity and diversity.


    Alexander Howard, Independent Writer & Open Government Advocate | @digiphile

    Alexander B. Howard is an independent writer, digital governance expert, and open government advocate based in Washington, DC. Howard has been honored twice by The Washingtonian Magazine as one of Washington’s “TechTitans,” which recognized him as a “respected trend-spotter and chronicler of government’s use of new media,” and one of the world’s most influential people on digital government by Apolitical.

    In 2013, Howard founded e-pluribusunum.org, which became widely read as a top blog on government information technology, cited and respected in open government and press freedom communities around the world, from the Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the National Archives of the United Kingdom.

    In 2016, Howard joined the Sunlight Foundation as a senior analyst, where he led nonprofit’s federal transparency work, inheriting a broad portfolio of issues that covered the gamut of digital government, open government data, press freedom, net neutrality, social media, identity and privacy.

    Over the years, Howard has appeared on-air as an analyst for All Things Considered, Marketplace, MSNBC, WHYY, WNYC’s On the Media, WAMU, Federal News Radio, Al Jazeera English, and America, Washington Post TV, WJLA and a guest on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, and has been quoted by the Washington Post, CNN, New York Times,  hundreds of print, broadcast, radio and digital publications.

    In 2016, Howard was the first senior editor for technology and society at the Huffington Post. From 2013 and 2015, he was a columnist at TechRepublic and a contributor to TechPresident, among other fine publications.


    Richard Levick - Facebook’s “Whistle-Stop” Strategy Has Been DerailedRichard S. Levick, Esq., Chairman & CEO, LEVICK | @richardlevick 

    Under his leadership, LEVICK has set new standards in global communications and brand protection for corporations, countries, and major institutions. Mr. Levick is one of the communications industry’s most important spokespersons and thought leaders.

    A powerful advocate for the strategic initiatives that companies must pursue in today’s perilous environment, he regularly addresses corporate boards as well as industry and government leaders around the world, providing guidance on their most complex communications and reputation management challenges. He is featured in, and authors, countless articles, and is a frequent guest on prime time national and international television programs.

    Mr. Levick is a much-sought after keynote and graduation speaker and is a columnist for the top business blogs including Forbes.

    Mr. Levick has co-authored five books including, The Communicators: Leadership in the Age of Crisis; Stop the Presses; The Crisis and Litigation PR Desk Reference365 Marketing Meditations; and Lessons for Absent Children.


    Terry McCauliffeTerry McAuliffe, Former Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia | The Schar School of Policy & Government | @TerryMcAuliffe

    Distinguished Visiting Professor Terry McAuliffe brings a lifetime of progressive political experience and successful economic development to the Schar School of Policy and Government classrooms.

    As the 72nd Governor of Virginia (2014-2028), McAuliffe (D) made a record 35 trade missions around the world, creating thousands of jobs and bringing in more than $20 billion in capital investment in the Commonwealth. The unemployment rate dropped from 5.4 percent to 3.6 percent, unemployment claims dropped to a 44-year low and personal income rose 12.3 percent.

    While McAuliffe improved Virginia’s competitiveness in the global economy, he also focused on enhancing the quality of life for the Commonwealth’s citizens, assuring that economic opportunity in the diversified economy was a right, not a privilege. McAuliffe protected women’s access to health care, bolstered the public school system, protected the environment, restored voting rights to 173,000 rehabilitated felons, secured bipartisan support for legislation to reduce gun violence and used his executive powers to secure consumer cyber transactions.

    McAuliffe entered national politics at age 23 as National Finance Director for President Jimmy Carter. He co-chaired President Bill Clinton’s 1996 campaign for reelection and Clinton’s 1997 Presidential Inauguration. In 2000, he was chairman of the Democratic National Convention and from 2000 to 2005, he was the Democratic National Committee Chairman. He was also Chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential Campaign.


    Stefan PassantinoStefan Passantino, Partner, Practice Group Chair, Government Relations, Political Law & Public Policy, Michael Best

    Former Deputy White House Counsel, Stefan is chair of Michael Best’s Government Regulations & Public Policy practice where he heads the Firm’s Political Law practice. Leveraging his nearly 25 years of experience to serve clients, Stefan focuses on representing corporations, interest groups, political figures, and other entities with respect to state and federal election law, ethics, campaign finance, pay-to-play, state and federal lobbying laws, internal investigations, crisis communications, Congressional oversight, and other issues. Stefan joins Michael Best after serving as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel where he headed the White House Compliance and Ethics programs. He maintains offices in Washington, D.C. and Atlanta.

    In the 2015-2016 election cycle, Stefan helped form, and served as counsel to, some of the largest and most influential and innovative “SuperPACs” and 501(c)(4) advocacy groups in the Presidential campaign, including the Trump Presidential Transition Team. Stefan was also asked to co-chair the Republican National Lawyers Association Ballot Access Project, which coordinated and disseminated guidance on Republican Party ballot access to counsel for all candidates for President.

    Some of Stefan’s clients have included major multi-national corporations, tax exempt advocacy groups, political parties, and politicians, including serving as national counsel to presidential candidate and former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, former Governor (and now Secretary) Rick Perry, several U.S. Senators and House Members, as well as other prominent political figures and advocacy groups. In addition, Stefan serves as General Counsel to corporate entities formed by former Speaker of the House Gingrich. Stefan has provided Congressional and Executive Branch ethics and lobbying training to Members of Congress, their staff, the Administration, and private corporations for over fifteen years.

    Most recently, Stefan was appointed Special Assistant to the Attorney General of Georgia Sam Olens to represent the interests of the State of Georgia in a litigation matter against the federal government.

    Stefan is a co-author of the Handbook on Corporate Political Activity: Emerging Corporate Governance Issues, an overview of the legal rules and standard practices related to corporate activity in the political arena. He is a regular contributor and commentator for CNN Radio, POLITICO, Bloomberg, The Hill, FOX News, Roll Call, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, and USA Today, among others. He is a Visiting Professor on campaign finance for Georgia State University College of Law and the University of Georgia. He is also a frequent speaker on political law issues at Emory University School of Law.

    Stefan was recognized by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the “Best Legal Minds in Washington” in the field of Campaign and Election law, and has been recognized as one of the leading political law attorneys nationwide by Chambers USA. Law & Politics and Atlanta Magazine recognized Stefan on their 2008-2016 lists of Georgia Super Lawyers and on their 2005 and 2006 lists of Georgia Super Lawyers Rising Stars. Stefan was recognized by James Magazine as one of “Georgia’s Most Influential People.” The Georgia Supreme Court appointed Stefan as a mentor in the Transition into Law Practice Program of the State Bar of Georgia in January 2009.


    Steve PearlsteinSteven Pearlstein, Columnist, The Washington Post| Professor, George Mason University | @StevePearlstein

    Steven Pearlstein, a Pulitzer Prize-winning business and economics columnist for the Washington Post, joined the Mason faculty as Robinson Professor of Public and International Affairs in the fall of 2011.  At Mason, he has focused on teaching economic principles to non-economic majors and helping to launch the interdisciplinary Politics, Philosophy and Economics concentration for majors in those departments. He also offers seminars on narrative journalism, politics, and wealth and poverty in the Honors College.

    Professor Pearlstein’s route to university teaching has been an unconventional one.  After several years as a reporter for small newspapers in New Hampshire, he moved to Washington to serve as administrative assistant to members of the House and Senate. He was a TV reporter for public television in Boston, senior editor at Inc. magazine, and founding editor and publisher of The Boston Observer, a monthly political magazine. He returned to Washington in 1988 as deputy business editor and, over the next two decades, also served as the Post’s defense industry reporter, economics writer and Canadian correspondent. He became an opinion columnist in 2003, with a wide-ranging interest in business and economic topics of local, national and international interest.

    Professor Pearlstein was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2008 for columns the previous year anticipating and explaining the recent financial crisis and global economic downturn. In 2011 he won the Gerald R. Loeb Award for lifetime achievement in business and financial journalism. His work has also been cited by the Society of Business Editors and Writers. He has appeared frequently as a commentator on national television and radio programs. He continues to write a regular column for the Post’s Sunday Business section, along with book reviews..

    Professor Pearlstein grew up in Brookline, Mass. and graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. in 1973 with a B.A. in American Studies.  He is a former moderator of West Newbury, Mass. and a director of the Washington Tennis and Educational Foundation. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Wendy Gray.  He has two grown children, Laura and Eli.

    He is the author of Can American Capitalism Survive?  Why Greed is Not Good, Opportunity is Not Equal and Fairness Won’t Make Us Poor, published by St. Martin’s Press.

    Areas of Specialty: Economic principles, political economy, economic policy, morality of modern capitalism.


    David K. Rehr, Ph.D., Professor of Public Policy, Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University | @drehr

    David Rehr is a CEO with over 25 years experience in advocacy, public policy, and governance. He currently serves as Professor of Public Policy at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and will soon be the Director of the Center for Business Civic Engagement. He is a former Senior Associate Dean at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University where he taught Legislative Advocacy, Law & Leadership, and Strategic Washington Leadership.

    Rehr is one of the nation’s foremost experts on advocacy before Congress and is the author of The Congressional Communications Report, the largest, most in-depth study on the communication habits of congressional staff and the government relation’s community, among other advocacy research topics. Dr. Rehr has advocated at all levels of government and has spoken to organizations and associations on assorted advocacy topics.

    Dr. Rehr is also one of the leading researchers on the association sector; he is the coauthor of Association CEOs: Leading through Change (2016), Diversity and Inclusion: Core Values Among Associations (2017), and Association and Nonprofit Boards: Maximizing Effective Service (2017). He has released several eBooks, including, Creating the Right Association Culture, which outlines practical ideas to build an exceptional association organization, and, Eight Traits of Exceptional Association CEOs, that looks at traits of association CEO success.
    Rehr’s most recent eBook, Cutting Through Congressional Clutter: Proven ideas and tips to gain influence and be heard, has received enthusiastic reviews. Rehr is the host of CEO Update’s awarding winning series, Association Newsmakers.

    He also serves as the CEO of TransparaGov, Inc., a privately held company with a mission to bring transparency and real-time information tools to state and local government leaders and is President of the TransparaGov Educational Foundation.

    David previously served as the President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) where he was a strong advocate for radio and television broadcasters — meeting with policymakers, testifying before Congress, and bringing innovation to the organization. He initiated and led an industry-wide branding effort to “re-set” inaccurate perceptions of the association and the industry from being seen as “old media” to one that embraces “digital media” and the future emerging technologies hold. Dr. Rehr directed the TV industry’s largest marketing effort to date, $1.2 billion digital television (DTV) transition marketing campaign. His book on the DTV transition is expected to be released in the fall. At the NAB, Rehr also initiated Radio 2020, an effort that ensured radio’s value would be recognized in the future through the Radio Heard Here campaign.

    Before joining the NAB, Rehr was President of the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA). Under his leadership, NBWA’s visibility in the advocacy community soared, and the association was ranked as one of the top ten most influential lobbying organizations by Fortune magazine.

    Rehr, holds a doctorate in economics from George Mason University, has been named to Washington Life magazine’s Power 100 list, and is annually listed as a Top Association Lobbyist by one of Congress’ “must read” publications, The Hill. He has also been featured in Beachum’s Guide to Key Lobbyists.

    He started his career as a Legislative Assistant to former Rep. Vin Weber and served on the House of Representatives Committee on Small Business.


    Lisa Osborne Ross, President, Edelman Washington, D.C. | @LisaRossDC

    Lisa Osborne Ross, president of the Washington, D.C. office has more than 25 years of experience in public relations, politics and public affairs.

    Prior to Edelman, Ms. Ross served as managing director at the Washington, D.C. office of APCO Worldwide. She joined APCO from a 15-year career at Ogilvy Public Relations and, prior to that, at FleishmanHillard. Throughout her agency experience, Ms. Ross has held senior management positions and consistently delivered award-winning work for clients, helping to build and strengthen some of the most iconic brands in the United States, including America’s Promise, the United Way of America, Reading Is Fundamental, the Children’s Defense Fund, the United Nations Foundation, Pfizer, Cricket Wireless, MetLife and the USO. She also led several complex public affairs and government relations efforts, having worked closely with governments, such as the Netherlands, Switzerland and Mexico, to advance commercial and diplomatic relations between these countries and American audiences.

    Prior to her career in public relations, Ms. Ross served in the first and second terms of the Clinton Administration, specializing in policy development and issues management. During this time, she was communications director for the U.S. Department of Labor’s effort to create and promote high-performance workplaces, deputy director of the bipartisan Federal Glass Ceiling Commission and chief of staff of the White House Office of Women’s Initiatives and Outreach. Ms. Ross also created and directed the Office of Public Liaison at the U.S. Department of Labor under Secretary Alexis Herman.

    Ms. Ross also devotes considerable amounts of time to philanthropic endeavors, especially with efforts to build a better Washington and to empower women. She co-founded and led the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to fund grassroots organizations

    addressing the critical needs of women and young girls through essential services and training throughout the Washington metropolitan area. She continues to serve on the Foundation’s Honorary Council. She also helped establish a scholarship fund at Howard University for students seeking careers in public relations.

    Ms. Ross has served on numerous school boards and commissions including Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School Board of Trustees, Marquette University Centennial Celebration of Women, LeMoyne College School of Communications and the Catholic Charities of America.


    Frank Sesno, Director, Professor of Media and Public Affairs and International Affairs, George Washington University

    Frank Sesno is director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and creator of Planet Forward, a user-driven web and television project that highlights innovations in sustainability. He hosts and facilitates the Planet Forward Salon Series focusing on topics such as energy policy, green jobs and food production. He has moderated events for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Bayer CropScience, Land O’Lakes Foundation and National Geographic, among others.

    As SMPA director, Sesno leads a faculty of nearly two dozen world-class professors who research and teach journalism, political communication and the impact of digital media in international affairs. Sesno teaches classes on environmental multimedia reporting, ethics in journalism, documentary and “the art of the interview.”

    Inspired by his mother’s experience with Hospice, Sesno hosted the Hospice Foundation of America’s Continuing Education Series for seven years.

    Sesno’s diverse career spans more than three decades, including 21 years at CNN where he served as White House correspondent, anchor and Washington Bureau Chief. He has covered a diverse range of subjects, from politics and conventions to international summits and climate change. He has interviewed five U.S. presidents and thousands of political, business and civic leaders — ranging from Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Microsoft founder Bill Gates and broadcast legend Walter Cronkite.

    Before joining CNN in 1984, Sesno worked as a radio correspondent at the White House and in London for the Associated Press. He has won several prestigious journalistic awards, including an Emmy, several cable ACE awards, and an Overseas Press Club Award.

    Sesno is a member of the board of trustees at Middlebury College, a member of the National Advisory Board for the Poynter Institute, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a board member at the National Council for Science and the Environment and at AmeriCares. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in American History from Middlebury College.


    Diversity in Public Relations: Eight Things Communicators & Agencies Can Do Today to Make A Difference

    Diversity in Public Relations-Eight Things Communicators & Agencies Can Do Today to Make A DifferenceNeil Foote, President, National Black Public Relations Society

    Tracey Wood Mendelsohn, CEO, Black Public Relations Society-NY

    Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatch™ 

    Enough talking. We need doing. If measured in terms of volume, talk about diversity is at 11.

    Where would we rate action? Maybe five or lower.

    Despite all the well-meaning efforts in the PR and communications industry, the appointment of diversity officers, diversity surveys and efforts to hire diverse professionals, there’s a big gap between the talk and action. Progress has been made, but there’s a long way to go.

    To put it bluntly, for far too many, diversity is still an after-thought or add-on to business practices, about helping women get to the top, or a paternalistic exercise in helping “diverse” people get jobs in the industry.

    The arguments for the value and opportunity from diverse workforces are now well understood, but a quick look at agencies or their leadership reveals that when it comes to the representation of African American PR professionals, the industry is far short of where it needs to be.

    We repeatedly hear the same reasons cited for this – sometimes even by black  PR leaders. The most common of which is there simply aren’t enough qualified candidates. Another is that black PR professionals are less likely to stay in the industry. And, as a result, fewer rise to senior management.

    The industry needs to seek to understand and address the reasons for this. Since we’re willing here to state what is usually unspoken, the perception of cultural differences and approaches that may get in the way of a cozy fit within a white dominated industry are part of the problem. And, when it comes to hiring “African American-owned” PR agencies there’s another insidious issue at play – many client companies only think about hiring them to reach “black” audiences.

    Let’s be clear. There are many highly-successful African American communications professionals in public relations. The recent release of the PRSA Foundation’s Diverse Voices book is a testimony to the exceptional talent in the industry. The color of someone’s skin has nothing to do with their ability to communicate.

    Black PR pros don’t need the paternal helping hand of white professionals to develop communications skills. The limited number of African American PR professionals in the industry has everything to do with the industry, the people in it, the unique challenges they face and the perceived lack of opportunity.

    Think about this. Why would anyone invest their time in building a career in an industry where there is a glass ceiling and you are consistently seen as the “other”?

    It’s here that the focus on diversity – particularly when structured around professional development or hiring to meet “quotas” – is a double-edged sword. When you reinforce differences between communicators, the industry risks creating an “us” and “them” environment that is as toxic as the problem we are trying to address.

    There is a path forward. Here are very simple steps that, taken together, have the potential to increase diversity and bring more African American communicators into the industry – and keep them in it.

    Celebrate Difference

    Communications is a human activity. Humans are diverse. To communicate effectively, companies need diverse perspectives and to seek out the best mix of “humans” to communicate with other humans. When difference and diversity are celebrated and based on respect, rather than imposed, the dynamics are very different.

    Build Relationships

    One of the keys to embracing diversity is to not wait until there’s a job opening or the launch of a company initiative to start outreach to communicators from different backgrounds. It’s important on an ongoing basis to seek out and build relationships with black and diverse PR professionals at agencies or companies. Participating at events hosted by diverse media, PR and marketing associations, and taking the time to network over coffee, breakfasts, lunch or drinks, are paths to forging professional and personal friendships that pay dividends over the long run.

    We Are All PR Professionals 

    We need to celebrate the talents of inspiring communicators from all backgrounds. The same attention and recognition needs to be applied across the industry. But, if we fail to recognize black, hispanic or other diverse professionals among the industry’s leading “communicators”, the industry is not looking hard enough at the talent within it. Recognizing African American communicators for diversity awards is not the answer.

    Understand Your Unconscious Bias

    The path to changing behaviors starts with self-awareness. Understanding unconscious bias needs to start with each of us. No matter how progressive, we all bring behavioral biases to the table. Recognizing them, talking about them, and overcoming them is not something for others to do, but a personal journey.

    Engage With Historically Black Colleges & Diverse Educational Institutions     

    This should not just be when you are recruiting, but for internships and ongoing programs at both high schools and colleges. Checking the recruiting box once a year by attending an HBC recruiting fair isn’t the way you’ll move the dial. Long-term engagement with colleges by people at every level should occur wherever talented future professionals are, including: Harvard, Baruch, City College in New York, Howard University in D.C., Spelman and Morehouse in Atlanta, as well as private or state universities. All have talented students seeking to build communications careers. Diversity must include place and educational backgrounds.

    When Hiring Professionals: Increase the Number of Diverse Candidates

    If only one or two of your interview candidates are from diverse backgrounds, you are not trying hard enough. If we use the population as a guide, 40% of candidate should be non-white. The more candidates you have, the more likely you are to hire diverse people. Organizations like the National Black Public Relations Society (NBPRS) or Hispanic Public Relations Association have extensive networks of professional members to tap into.

    Support NBPRS & Local Chapters

    Ask how you can help NBPRS, The Black Public Relations Society-New York (BPRS-NY), and the Hispanic Public Relations Association or others, achieve their missions. Support their speaker programs, professional development, and networking opportunities for young professionals. Engage with these industry associations and groups in the same way companies underwrite business resource groups. These are spaces where people with shared experiences, connect and help each other navigate their way to success.

    If You Are A Company Hiring Agencies:  Add Diverse Firms Into The Mix

    The partnership between NBPRS/BPRS-NY and CommunicationsMatch™ reflects a commitment to help companies looking for agencies find qualified diverse and women-owned agencies. We’re encouraging our members and diverse agencies to take the time to create searchable profiles on the CommunicationsMatch platform and recommending companies use it to ensure diverse agencies and professionals are included in searches for communications partners.

    There are steps here everyone in the industry can take today to increase diversity. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s time for a little less talk, and a lot more doing.

    We’re in this together and are committed to partnering with the industry on this important journey.


    Diversity in Public Relations

    About the Authors…

    Neil Foote is a veteran journalist and media executive. He draws from his experience at the Miami Herald, Washington Post, Belo Corporation and Tom Joyner’s Reach Media. He also teaches digital and social media for journalists, media management and business journalism at the University of North Texas’ Frank W. & Sue Mayborn School of Journalism and runs Foote Communications, a media consulting firm. The native of Brooklyn, NY also is president of the board for the National Black Public Relations Society and founder of PoliticsInColor.com

    Tracey Wood Mendelsohn is a C-Level, marketing communications, brand management, business strategist and non-profit development executive. Ms. Mendelsohn is also a serial entrepreneur, educator (New York University, The New School University) and social justice activist. Her 30+ years of experience encompass various sectors, including; arts & entertainment, politics, luxury consumer goods, caviar and gourmet food and travel.

    Currently, she serves as the President and CEO of Black Public Relations Society-New York, Inc., a legacy organization she is proudly helping to strengthen and grow for the future; is a principal of a full-service entertainment, media and talent management company and is the executive producer for several media properties. Additionally, she is a stakeholder and the Chief Marketing Officer of a tech startup.

    CommunicationsMatch offers communications & PR agency search tools and resources that help companies find, shortlist, and engage communications, digital marketing and branding agencies, consultants and freelancers by industry and communications expertise, location and size.  The site has 5,000 agency and professional profiles in areas including: crisis communications, public relations, internal communications, government affairs, investor relations, content marketing, social media, SEO, website development, photography and video. Prior to founding CommunicationsMatch, Locke held senior corporate communications roles at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank and founded communications consultancies. 
















    [Infographic] 5 Key Skills for Next-Gen Communicators

    5 Key Skills for Next-Gen Communicators


    Leslie Stefanik, Vice President, Marketing, PublicRelay

    As brand reputation is becoming increasingly important to maintaining a healthy bottom line,  the role of communicators is becoming more and more strategic. Consequently, the skills needed in the field are evolving as well. While interpersonal skills and the need for a strong intuition will always remain important, communicators need to understand the business from all angles to contribute to strategic initiatives. Business skills like reading a balance sheet and interpreting data need to be added to their repertoire. Below are five skills for next-gen communicators that were discussed by Graeme Harris, CEO of Strategic Profiles Management, David Chamberlin, SVP and CCO of SonicWALL, and Bill Price, VP and CCO of Zoetis, during a recent webcast:


    [Infographic] 5 Key Skills for Next-Gen Communicators

    For more executive insights for the next-gen communicator, watch the CommPro webinar, How to stay Relevant as a Communications Executive in 2020”



    PR + Content Strategy = Real Business Results

    PR Content Strategy

    Brandon Andersen, Chief Strategist, Ceralytics

    You probably hear a lot about how content marketing and PR can help SEO. But how they all fit together is something magical that very few communicators, and even agencies, are taking advantage of.

    Harnessing the Magic of PR, Content and SEO

    We recently finished a content strategy for a client on behalf of a PR agency. In doing so, our team identified some incredible content opportunities in the client’s industry using content intelligence and good old fashioned sleuthing.

    It’s something we’ve done for many agencies’ clients. But when we pulled together the entire strategy and aligned the content strategy to the agency’s biggest strength, PR, we realized we were sitting on a great opportunity.

    PR professionals are natural storytellers. They know how to appeal to the humanity in a situation and bring out the emotion in a story. But when it comes to writing for SEO, or putting together a content strategy, thoise tasks often lands in marketing’s lap – if any lap at all. PR is often left completely out of the mix.

    A Huge Missed Opportunity

    With this client, the content and SEO strategy we created was being put in the hands of very capable PR professionals, whom we had trained on the basics of writing for SEO.

    With the strategy in hand, and training under their belt, the agency can create amazing content and also focus on getting earned media through guest posting, local media, and even national exposure for the client.

    This exposure, when done properly, can help the client’s amazing content rank better in search. When that content ranks better, it gets even more exposure online, and more traffic to the site. It starts a self-perpetuating cycle of success that looks like this:

    1. Create great content that fulfills an audience’s needs.
    2. Get earned earned media that links to the content, driving traffic and inbound links.
    3. Get better search rankings from those inbound links.
    4. More people find the content in search, driving even more traffic.
    5. Those searchers link back to the great piece of content from their own sites because it’s so good.
    6. Repeat step 3.

    You’ll notice that earned media plays a huge part in getting a piece of content off the ground. After it gets that initial push, subsequent pushes from earned media and inbound links from others, keep the cycle going, increasing traffic to that content.

    Pulling It All Together

    Because this outreach is intertwined with the content and SEO strategy, each action the agency takes supports all three communications tactics – earned media, SEO, and the overall content on the client’s website. All three work together to drive more brand awareness, and lead prospects to top converting pages – increasing leads and driving business results.

    And measurement is setup for each stage of the journey, so the agency can prove the success of the strategy to the client.

    It’s not just about proving the value of PR, it’s about driving overall business results.

    PR’s Big Opportunity

    The problem most PR professionals and PR agencies now face is not knowing how to create an effective content and SEO strategy that pulls everything together. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s hard work and takes an experienced team to make it all happen.

    Developing these skills and frameworks in house is expensive and time consuming. But more and more clients are demanding better strategies and actionable metrics from their PR and content programs. If you can’t deliver these two things, clients will go to an agency that can.

    So now you have options.

    You can try to create an internal team, which will require a lot of overhead and also require your team to come up with a new framework for how to make it all happen. The essential roles you will need are an analyst and a content strategist.

    An analyst needs to understand SEO, website analytics (Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, etc.) and competitive intelligence platforms. Plus, they need to be able to take these data points and turn them into real insights for the content strategist to implement.

    A content strategist is not just a glorified editor. A content strategist needs to have a firm understanding of how to align business objectives to content, optimizing content for SEO, identifying how content is consumed by audiences, and a framework for how to take insights and translate them into strategies to be executed by a creative team.

    The other option is to go with a content analytics partner to help create client content strategies and align your strengths to get the best result possible.

    The benefit of a content analytics partner is not having the overhead of an internal team, and only paying for the services you need (which you then upcharge to the client for an overall profit.) In addition, we’ve found that agencies who provide the content strategy and measurement (either by themselves or through a partner) have better client retention rates for creating content in the future.

    Your third option is to do nothing. Keep with the status quo and hope that other agencies who are providing data-driven content strategies don’t start picking off your clients and prospects.

    Stay Still or Move Forward?

    Content marketing is harder than it has ever been, but PR professionals and agencies are sitting on one of the biggest strategic advantages in the industry.

    If unlocked correctly, the content strategies and measurement PR agencies can provide will rival the best SEO and marketing firms in the world. The question is whether they will unlock the advantage, or stick to the status quo.