COMPANIES: Dr Pepper Snapple Group (now Keurig Dr Pepper) & Brinker International
EXPERTISE: Media Relations, Issues/Crisis Management, CSR/Sustainability Comms
FAVORITE BAND & SONG: Rush; Times Like These (Foo Fighters)
In his 25 years in public relations, Chris Barnes has developed and driven strategies and programs that have enhanced awareness, protected reputation and fostered trust. He knows how to build relationships at all levels to identify the critical drivers of reputation and turn insights into strategic storytelling that informs, inspires and engages diverse audiences.
At Dr Pepper Snapple Group (now Keurig Dr Pepper), he led corporate media relations, issues and crisis management and CSR/sustainability communications, as well as the development and refinement of the company’s website and social/digital content and influencer strategies. Under his direction, the company garnered widespread earned and social media coverage about its strategies, products, leadership and initiatives.
To bolster corporate reputation for a newly independent, publicly traded business, Chris was also a lead architect of DPS’s corporate social responsibility strategy, working with leaders across the business to establish clear goals and metrics and developing and executing multiyear communications programs to drive awareness and support of key commitments. Meanwhile, he helped navigate the company through numerous reputational issues and crises related to health & safety, labor disputes and high-profile litigation among other matters that grabbed national headlines. And he was also heavily involved in change communications –M&A, downsizings and restructurings – helping employees, media, investors, customers, business partners and community leaders understand the strategic rationale for business decisions that impacted jobs, lives and shareholder value.
In addition to his 12 years at DPS, Chris’s background includes leading issues management & media relations for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and managing corporate and brand PR for Brinker International (parent of Chili’s and Maggiano’s), Kinko’s (now FedEx Office) and Metromedia Restaurant Group.
He graduated with a B.A. in communications from Loyola University in New Orleans and lives with his wife in Frisco, Texas. For more information about Chris, please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisbarnespr/
COMPANIES: American Airlines & Texas Instruments
EXPERTISE: Customer & Internal Comms, Digital/Mobile, Marketing & Brand
FAVORITE BAND & SONG: Steely Dan; Any Major Dude
With over 25 years of experience, Linda Carlson is a leading authority on helping companies connect with their customers and employees through innovative communications, marketing strategies and breakthrough technology.
Working for global brands such as Texas Instruments and American Airlines, Linda developed deep expertise in designing and implementing integrated marketing and communications programs, with a focus on digital and mobile technologies. During the recent merger of American Airlines and US Airways, Linda led the global deployment of an industry-leading mobile technology program to 28,000-plus flight attendants, enhancing engagement through a new mobile communications app and providing industry-leading customer service tools.
A continual innovator, Linda played a key role on the pioneering team which developed AA.com, one of the largest airline websites. As Global Publisher, she shaped the online experience and drove strategies to increase customer loyalty, acquisition and retention. She later formed a new Customer Communications function to deliver fully integrated marketing and communications campaigns across employee, customer and media channels.
Linda has a strong track record in multi-channel advertising, leveraging paid and earned media, brand promotions, sponsorships, multicultural marketing and co-op programs. She’s also forged marketing partnerships with leading brands, including Citicorp, Avis, Hilton and Disney. Rounding out this experience, she formed a P&L to consolidate American’s offline and online advertising media channels, growing first year ad revenue by 15% to $35M.
Linda holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance from Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ and a Masters of Business Administration from Baylor University in Waco, TX.
For more information about Linda, please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/linda-m-carlson/
EXPERTISE: Internal Comms, Culture & Technology
FAVORITE BAND & SONG: The Black Keys; Moondance (Van Morrison)
Rhonda Carlson is a dedicated and proactive global internal communications guru. She most recently worked for PepsiCo, a Fortune 100 consumer package goods company. Her client was the IT organization, which makes her very good at decoding “tech talk.” Her areas of expertise include:
· Developing, writing and editing content for news outlets and company intranet
· Partnering with global teams such as Human Resources, learning and development, subject matter experts and senior leaders
· Managing editorial calendar for news outlets
· Developing communications plans for rollout of new or revised programs
· Employee engagement and shaping corporate culture
· Measurement and analytics
· Producing webcasts for senior leaders and other events for associates
Rhonda is not a stranger to working in a fast-paced, global environment and partnering with other functions and levels of the organization.
Rhonda is proud of rebuilding a global award and recognition program and launching PepsiCo’s first functional news feed channel, as well as mentoring her communications colleagues around the globe.
When Rhonda’s not busy working, she enjoys running, yoga, music, reading and anything related to the arts. You can learn more about Rhonda on her LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rhonda-carlson/.
COMPANIES: Weber Shandwick, American Airlines, Royal Caribbean & TGI Fridays
EXPERTISE: Media, Crisis, Social Comms
FAVORITE BAND & SONG: Metallica; Eye of the Tiger (Survivor)
A natural storyteller since childhood, that enthusiasm has evolved into Brian Conway’s more than 14 years of PR and Communications experience, working with brands of varying public visibility to identify and bring forth their unique stories in a way that compels audiences to action through the brand journey.
Brian is the Founder and Owner of Ascent Public Relations, an agency specializing in PR and Communications strategy, crisis communications, content strategy and creation, and media relations.
Brian’s experience includes developing and ensuring that brands’ PR and Communications architectures are on-brand with consistent content, as well as leading corporate crisis communications and issues management from planning to response and recovery.
Most notably, Brian’s account leadership for Breathe Right Nasal Strips (GSK) for the Belmont Stakes in 2014 earned a Cannes Bronze Lion Award for driving mass national media and consumer attention, ultimately leading to a 22% lift in sales for the brand.
In addition, Brian has provided strategic counsel to clients seeking to build or bolster their reputation and issues management programs. Expertise includes crisis team and framework development, corporate crisis planning, listening and analytics, and training clients to execute effectively during a crisis. Crisis experience includes American Airlines, Royal Caribbean, Asurion, Cathay Pacific, and Marine Well Containment Company. Brian was an integral part of American’s response to its now-infamous incident with Alec Baldwin and Words With Friends.®
His media relations experience spans Technology, Aviation & Travel, and Food & Restaurant. Formerly the head of Corporate Communications & PR at TGI Fridays and prior to that a Digital Director at Weber Shandwick. Past brand experience includes American Airlines, U.S. Army, Unilever, The Vision Impact Institute, GlaxoSmithKline, United States Postal Service, Essilor of America, and Royal Caribbean.
Brian holds a BA degree in Public Relations from Loyola University New Orleans and is an active member of both PRSA and the Allen Fairview Chamber of Commerce.
For more information about Brian please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brianrconway/
COMPANIES: Egon Zehnder, PepsiCo, University of Notre Dame, and Burson Marsteller
EXPERTISE: Brand Strategy, Strategic Communications, Social and Digital Activation, and Influencer Outreach
FAVORITE BAND & SONG: Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band; Incident on 57th Street
Hilary Crnkovich is a senior global brand marketing and communications executive with over 25 years’ experience driving business growth through powerful brand and corporate communications and marketing efforts.
She brings strategic insight to discern a company’s true distinctiveness combined with award-winning creative skills that yield ownable, breakthrough campaigns for both B2B and B2C clients. Her sector expertise is wide ranging from FMCG, retail, technology, health and wellness, e-commerce to professional services and higher education.
Hilary's passion is to build brands with purpose that elevate trust, loyalty and preference across broad stakeholders. Brand strategy, external strategic communications plans, creative ideation, messaging, thought leadership, omni-channel execution, social and digital activation and influencer outreach are her top spikes.
For more information on Hilary, please visit:
COMPANIES: Weber Shandwick, American Airlines, Emirates, RItz-Carlton & Toys R Us
EXPERTISE: Corporate, Media & B2C Comms
FAVORITE BAND & SONG: Queen; Somebody to Love
Elizabeth Gaerlan has more than 20 years of experience in the combined areas of marketing, media relations, corporate communications and event management. Throughout her career, she has created and managed programs in the areas of food and beverage, packaged goods, consumer health, retail, fashion, beauty, travel and tourism and non-profit sectors, and has developed programs to reach the general market as well as targeted niche populations. Clients have included Starbucks Coffee Company, Hershey Foods, Georgia-Pacific and others. She also worked as Director, Corporate Communications for Toys"R"Us.
Prior to consulting, Elizabeth served as a senior vice president at Weber Shandwick where she managed communications and media relations campaigns on behalf of major travel and lifestyle brands, including InterContinental Hotels Group, Royal Caribbean International, Ottawa Tourism and Ontario Tourism. She was also embedded in the Corporate Communications department at American Airlines in New York, one of the airline's top domestic markets and one of its most important international gateways. She served as the primary liaison for headquarters in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas and counseled the local leadership and operations teams on marketing and communications plans, including messaging, story angles, sponsorships, sales promotions and partnerships, and content distribution to the press, public and internal audiences. In addition, she cultivated relationships with and managed outreach to government officials, community leaders and press, securing positive news coverage for the airline in top-tier local and national media.
Previously, Elizabeth served as senior vice president of a boutique travel public relations agency where she provided senior counsel and team leadership to the prestigious Emirates airline account as well The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, Singapore Tourism Board and LodgeWorks Hospitality. Her work earned her two Gold Adrian Awards, presented by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI), as well as a Cushman Award from the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).
Elizabeth holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from New York University. She also holds a Masters in Business Administration degree in Finance and Marketing from Baruch College’s Zicklin Graduate School of Business.
For more information about Elizabeth, please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethgaerlan/
COMPANIES: M Booth, Ketchum, PepsiCo
EXPERTISE: Corporate Reputation, Issues/Crisis, Influencer Relations, Stakeholder Education
FAVORITE BAND & FAVORITE SONG: Steely Dan/Donald Fagan & America (Simon & Garfunkel)
Aurora’s career has an even balance of agency life and in-house corporate. Most recently Aurora was senior director in corporate communications at PepsiCo. In her 14 years at PepsiCo, she had various roles that were largely focused on corporate reputation. In her last role, Aurora was the first global comms lead on corporate issues and crisis. Aurora worked with global partners on a wide array of issues: litigation, regulatory affairs, public policy, product liability and corporate reorganizations and restructuring. Prior to her issues/crisis role, Aurora worked at Frito-Lay on the business unit’s pivotal corporate initiatives in health & wellness and sustainability. The corporate reputation work she lead leveraged influencer outreach, media relations, internal relations and stakeholder education to change perception of the company and its products. She started her career at PepsiCo working on the company’s first health & wellness team, whose focus was to develop and implement the strategy to address the changing landscape in the food industry.
Prior to PepsiCo, Aurora worked at Ketchum in their Food & Nutrition practice in New York City for nine years. While at Ketchum, Aurora had a variety of clients from Roche Vitamins (B2B focused) to Frito-Lay, for which she developed some of the company’s first programming focused on health & wellness. Before joining Ketchum, she worked at M Booth & Associates supporting the partner and his roster of clients including Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital.
Aurora is a proud graduate of Kenyon College with a BA in Theater (since all the world’s a stage after all).
For more about Aurora, please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aurora-m-gonzalez/
COMPANIES: Conifer Health Solutions, AT&T, Hill+Knowlton, Perot Systems,
EXPERTISE: B2B Corporate, Executive, Employee, Marketing and External Communications, Media Relations, Charitable Giving and Corporate Social Responsibility Program Strategy and Management, Social Media Strategy and Management
FAVORITE BAND & SONG (today): LaBelle (Band) and “Rock Steady” by Aretha Franklin
“Can you type?” Sharon Lakes did not realize at the time that this simple question would launch a communications and public relations career that now spans nearly three decades. Sharon is a business-to-business master communicator who specializes in strategic communications plans and content development to generate brand awareness and audience engagement. Her marketing and communications expertise has helped generate leads, revenue and earned media for Fortune 500 companies in the information technology, telecommunications and healthcare industries.
Sharon is an avid believer that highlighting the “why” is the most effective way to influence audiences. As communications leader for Conifer Health Solutions, she was responsible for developing marketing communications content that influenced nearly $3.5B in TCV in 2019 alone. Sharon has worked extensively with senior leaders to establish them as thought leaders and effective corporate representatives through message development and media training. She has broad experience with media relations for B2B trade publications and has successfully earned media for companies and executives in well-regarded trade publications. In addition to external communications and media relations planning and execution, Sharon has created integrated internal communications programs that inspire employees to embrace the corporate vision and contribute to the success of the enterprise.
Sharon has also established corporate social responsibility and citizenship strategies to support key business objectives. She directed the team responsible for AT&T’s inaugural participation in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and her work helped boost recognition of AT&T’s citizenship and sustainability (C&S) programs. She also developed the criteria for the company’s first-ever competitive grant-making program under AT&T Aspire.
Sharon’s reputation as an energetic, trusted and effective communicator has made her a welcome part of many teams. She regularly contributes her time and talent to non-profit organizations and currently serves on the board of Susan G. Komen Dallas County. She has a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communications from the University of Texas, Arlington.
To learn more about Sharon visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharon-lakes/.
COMPANIES: Weber Shandwick, EPIC Fuels, BBA Aviation, Oracle, VISA, Esurance
EXPERTISE: Corporate Communications, Media Relations, Issues/Crisis Management, M&A, Executive Media Training/Coaching, Events, Change Management, and Marketing Communications
FAVORITE BAND & SONG: The Clash & London Calling
Ryan brings nearly 30 years of marketing and communications expertise from a wide array of industries including technology, oil and gas, aviation, telecom and financial services. He has extensive agency and in-house leadership experience for globally recognized industry leaders and pioneering start-ups and is able deftly manage high-profile projects or hotly-charged issues with calming ease.
He most recently provided onsite crisis and disaster relief communications counsel to the Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for Grand Bahama Island in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
As a senior-level strategic communications leader with success in developing and leading programs for organizations before, during and after transformative events, Ryan has counseled scores of CEOs and C-suite leaders on a wide range of issues and communication objectives. He is an experienced executive media trainer/coach to help executives prepare for critical media tours, interviews and speeches.
As Chief Marketing Officer for aviation supplier EPIC Fuels, Ryan’s expertise in brand marketing communications and corporate reputation building helped position the company for sale to BBA Aviation in 2018. Prior to that role, Ryan served as an Executive Vice President with global public relations agency Weber Shandwick, overseeing one of the firm’s top accounts, American Airlines, and previously held senior communications roles for Oracle during its acquisition of PeopleSoft, Esurance, VISA International, Harris Corp., and Verizon.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism-public relations from Fresno State University, where he was also a Division 1 student athlete and member of the 1985 Conference Championship team. He lives with his family in Southlake, TX.
For more information about Ryan, please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/2020pr/
COMPANIES: Verizon, American Airlines & Walmart
EXPERTISE: Internal, Exec & Community Comms, & Media
FAVORITE BAND & SONG: Queen; Don't Stop Me Now
Rhonda Rathje is a seasoned veteran of public relations at Verizon, American Airlines and Walmart including employee communications, executive communications, media relations, storytelling and community relations. Her understanding of how communications positively impacts a business, her top-notch writing skills, and her enthusiasm for effective communications are among Rhonda's strong assets. She brings a holistic approach to every communications issue, along with strong project management skills.
Rhonda is an accomplished project manager and planner – always intent on delivering results. As a seasoned pro, she has developed numerous employee communications programs; she has directed employee engagement initiatives; and she has built and led teams to solve business problems. Among her vast experience for global brands such as Verizon, American Airlines and Walmart, Rhonda:
Rhonda earned her B.A. in Journalism & Mass Communications & Speech from Iowa State University, Ames. She also earned her M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson. She is accredited in public relations by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
For more information about Rhonda, please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rhondarathje/
COMPANIES: Koch Industries & Baker Hughes
EXPERTISE: M&A, Financial, Operations & Crisis Comms
Katie D. Stavinoha works with clients to ensure they are prepared to communicate in a 24-hour media and community awareness lifecycle. She has extensive M&A experience, leading communication strategy development and execution for deals worth more than $25 billion. As a communications leader at Koch Industries, she played a key communications role in Koch’s $21 billion acquisition of publicly held Georgia-Pacific, and the acquisition and integration of Huntsman’s chemicals business into Flint Hills Resources.
Within the oil and gas space, she has counseled executives and operations employees, working to develop responsive and executable communications and government affairs plans while efficiently and credibly amplifying their messages. Stavinoha has provided specialized communication and public affairs project management, including developing a global crisis communication plan for Baker Hughes. She believes firmly in highlighting key sustainability, environmental and business success stories as key elements of effective communications to employees and communities, as well as the media. She has extensive experience working with local, trade and national media to provide information and key messages.
As an entrepreneur, Katie publishes a bi-monthly lifestyle magazine in Round Top, Texas, which is halfway between Houston and Austin. These publications have been lauded by Texas Monthly and most recently Southern Living as providing go-to resources for people attending the world-famous Round Top Antiques Show.
Katie also has worked with political campaigns and state agencies, spending about 10 years in state government as well as on the senior staff of now-Energy Sec. Rick Perry, having served as his sole appointee to the Jobs & Education for Texans state advisory committee. She has a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University and is active with National Charities League and has served Montgomery County's Court Appointed Special Advocates program as a guardian ad litem.
For more information about Katie, please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katiestavinoha/
Companies: USAA, Allstate, HSBC, United Airlines, American Airlines, BNSF Railway
Expertise: Media Relations, Financial Comms, Crisis, M&A, Web & Social Media Strategy and Management, Internal, Customer and Marketing Communications and Labor Relations
Favorite Band & Song: REO Speedwagon, Tiny Dancer (Elton John)
Mike Trevino brings more than 25 years of corporate communications experience gained from his work for global companies across a diverse set of regulated industries including insurance, banking, consumer lending, commercial airlines and railroads.
Prior to consulting, he led the communications staff for one of the world’s largest independent pilot unions, external communications for Berkshire Hathaway’s BNSF Railway and was managing director for external communications at American Airlines during its bankruptcy and successful merger with US Airways.
He has a passion for helping organizations effectively express their value proposition to their broad range of stakeholders to enhance corporate reputations and drive business results. His holistic approach to communication strategy and execution has helped companies enhance customer engagement, increase employee pride, generate greater investor interest and facilitate and engage in public policy and regulatory changes that benefit consumers, communities and companies alike. More recently, he identified and successfully helped organizations transform their social media, digital communications and self-publishing capabilities to reach an increasingly fragmented stakeholder group.
Mike has served as a C-suite communications counselor, communications leader, executive positioning strategist and chief spokesperson for large public companies during crisis situations, corporate transitions, business model updates, bankruptcy and mergers & acquisitions. He has also successfully led the planning and execution of large-scale B2B customer engagement events, employee townhalls, and international labor union conferences.
Mike earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
To learn more about Mike visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaeltrevino2009/
COMPANIES: MobileStar Network (now operating as T-Mobile Hotspot), Ignite Technologies and PepsiCo/Frito-Lay
EXPERTISE: Influencer and consumer engagement, digital strategy, employee communications and project management
FAVORITE BAND & SONG: Aerosmith; Uptown Girl (Billy Joel)
Kristin Walsh is a seasoned communications and Public Relations professional who brings nearly 20 years of industry experience to the table. She launched her communications career in the WiFi and content delivery network (CDN) software industries. She led corporate communications strategy/execution and content development for fortune 500 companies, such as Tyco International, American Express, Bearing Point, Staubach Company and Software Spectrum. Kristin was also responsible for developing and launching technology training programs supporting these clients and their constituents.
Kristin then spent nearly 10 years in corporate communications at PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay North America division. Her experience spans all facets of communications, including employee outreach and education, digital communications, influencer and consumer engagement, brand PR and community relations.
At Frito-Lay, she led Frito-Lay’s consumer and influencer engagement program. Through digital mining, social media monitoring, cross-functional collaboration and leveraging word-of-mouth outreach, the team built and amplified programs targeting key health professional influencer groups and key consumer bases. The consumer outreach and engagement was key to sharing product news and education, retailer programming and fan incentives, ultimately connecting fans to the company and its brands and establishing a strong base of brand-loyal consumer advocates. Kristin also launched and led Frito-Lay’s corporate social media strategy, in which the company leveraged digital channels to connect with consumers, industry influencers, media and corporate analysts. The strategy also included creating and launching a proprietary brand fan program.
Since leaving Frito-Lay to raise her son, Kristin continued to be a communications consultant on the programs she led at Frito-Lay, as well as supported communications initiatives for Jonathan’s Place, a Dallas-area children’s shelter and services organization.
For more information on Kristin, please visit:
COMPANIES: Ruder Finn, Grand Hyatt New York, Four Seasons & RLG Consulting
EXPERTISE: Social, Digital & Marketing Comms; Event Marketing
Gwendolyn Wright is a marketing and communications professional who specializes in creating, implementing and managing strategic high-impact programs that draw on social media, digital marketing, public relations, event marketing, and analytics to advance brand awareness, increase visibility to key audiences and maximize business initiatives.
With over 20 years of experience, Gwen draws upon her knowledge from the corporate, agency, and nonprofit sectors and industries such as travel and tourism, real estate development and home building, technology, trade associations, nonprofit, and professional services.
She has crafted and driven tactical messaging and programs for a wide variety of audiences and needs which have generated leads and revenue, received media coverage, increased brand awareness, furthered business development and sales efforts as well as other business initiatives. In addition, Gwen has served as media contact and organization spokesperson and has provided strategic communications counsel to C-level and senior management executives.
Gwen’s background also includes expertise in planning, negotiating, managing, and executing all logistics of national meeting and trade show programs ranging from one to five days, 30 to 2,000-plus attendees, while leading a team and adhering to budget.
Brands that she has worked for include Association Headquarters, Ruder Finn, the Grand Hyatt New York, the Regent Wall Street Hotel (now Cipriani Wall Street), Four Seasons Corporate, WCI Communities, Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity and RLG Consulting Engineers.
For more information about Gwen, please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gwendolynwright/
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