What’s Next in Advocacy and Government Communications?


Free Webcast

November 9, 2021, 5 PM ET

Hosted by: The George Washington University

Master’s in Strategic Public Relations


What's Next in Advocacy and Government Communications?


When senior executives turn to communications staff for guidance and counsel, are Millennial and Gen Z professionals answering the call differently? Issues including environmental stewardship, data privacy, and social impact and corporate social responsibility are increasingly taking center stage as public policy challenges. Join us for a candid conversation about the challenges and opportunities ahead for young people seeking careers in advocacy and government communications. 

Hear from a talented panel who are shaping how internal and external stakeholder communication responds.  The panel will share how they have built their careers as advocates for change and as public servants and get their advice on how you can follow a similar path. 

The GWU Strategic PR program and CommPRO are pleased to offer this opportunity for you to learn from these young professionals and ask them questions about work, grad school and career planning.

Register now to hold your place.


Lawrence J. Parnell, M.B.A., Associate Professor and director of the George Washington University Master’s in Strategic Public Relations program


Troy Blackwell, Jr., Founder & CEO, Ready for Change



Scott Thomsen, President of the National Association of Government Communicators


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

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) byPR Weekand was named to thePR NewsHall 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. 

Troy Blackwell, Jr. (MODERATOR)

Troy Blackwell is the Founder of Ready for Change, a political action committee dedicated to get-out-the-vote activities and increasing voter participation among youth. He founded the organization after mounting a progressive campaign for New York City Council. Troy advocated establishing a citywide office of ethnic media to better serve New York City’s diverse 8.5 million residents. A seasoned communications strategist, Troy previously worked for now Vice-President Kamala Harris and traveled to 10 states in a press operations capacity. He has counseled nationally recognized organizations including Color of Change, SEIU, and Communications Workers of America. He has been a board director for PRSA-NY, the Museum of PR, and the Black PR Society. Troy’s communications work has been recognized via CRAIN’S NY Notable LGBTQ Executive, PR Week most purposeful person under 30, and PRSA-NY 15 under 35.


Benjamin Backer

Benji Backer is a lifelong conservative activist and the President and Founder of the American Conservation Coalition, the largest American conservative environmental organization. Benji has been awarded the Grist 50, Forbes 30 Under 30, Fortune 40 Under 40, Britannica 40 Under 40, RedAlert 30 Under 30, and GreenBiz 30 Under 30. Benji grew up in Wisconsin, recently graduated from the University of Washington, and is an avid Wisconsin sports fan. He spends his free time hiking, skiing, and drinking unsweetened iced tea.


Crystal Carson

Crystal Carson serves as communications director to Former First Lady Michelle Obama. Previously she was a managing director at Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote Initiative, and worked as a media consultant for President Obama’s personal office. Prior to this – she worked for the Obama Foundation, on rapid response for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and as chief of staff for the communications director in the Obama White House. Crystal is a graduate of Central Piedmont Community College.


Jordan Lacy Johnson

Jordan Lacy Johnson most recently served as a National Press Advance Lead for the Biden-Harris campaign, specializing in press advance and event activation in Georgia. Prior to the Biden-Harris campaign, Jordan was a member of the executive communications staff for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, where she oversaw strategic communications and engagement for the Mayor. Jordan previously served as the Communications Director for the Mayor’s Office of Resilience, 100 Resilient Cities program pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation where she led efforts on a wide range of environmental and educational issues. Previous experience includes work with Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland and the Obama White House Office of Public Engagement. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College, a historically Black college and university.

Scott Thomsen – President of National Association of Government Communicators (SPECIAL GUEST)

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.