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2018 Communications School Agenda

National Association of Government Communicators 2018 Communications School Agenda


Advanced Training Workshops: 8 a.m. – noon

Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) JumpStart Part 1

Laura Kirkpatrick  NAGC APR Liaison
View Bio

Ann Knabe,  APR+M, Dean of Students, Associate Professor, and Reserve Component Chair at National Defense University, Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D., APR, Professor of Public Relations, Director of the School of Journalism and Media Studies, San Diego State University
View Bio

Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D., APR, Professor of Public Relations, Director of the School of Journalism and Media Studies, San Diego State University

APR Mini-Jump Start – This working session will help you get started on your APR journey by reviewing the accreditation process and discussing the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to successfully prepare a panel presentation and complete the exam. The course is taught by seasoned APRs and focuses on numerous APR / APR+M examination topics, including:

  • What to expect during the APR / APR+M process
  • Ethics and law
  • Communication Models and Theories
  • Research, Planning Implementation and Evaluation
  • Crisis Communication Management
  • Media Relations

Alexa, Help Me Stop Smoking!

Josh DeLung, Sr. Manager, Experience and Content Strategy, ICF
View Bio

This advanced training workshop will help introduce participants to artificial intelligence (AI) as a tool for communicating with target audiences.

Personal assistants like Amazon Echo’s Alexa and chatbots like Poncho the Weather Cat have become part of everyday life. Government communicators should consider how AI may serve the needs of their constituents, such as helping them with important health behavior changes. Chatbot platforms have become increasingly sophisticated and easier to use than they were even just a few years ago. Attend this workshop to learn the basics about what chatbots are, how they work, the components you need to design one, and what use cases we’ve seen deployed so far for social good.

Get hands on with dialog flows, intents, technical requirements, a platform demo and hackday planning. Bring a laptop to get maximum benefit out of this workshop!

Advanced Training Workshops: 1 – 5 p.m.

Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) JumpStart Part 2

Laura Kirkpatrick NAGC APR liaison
View Bio

Ann Knabe, Ph.D., APR+M, Dean of Students, Associate Professor, and Reserve Component Chair at National Defense University, Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D., APR, Professor of Public Relations, Director of the School of Journalism and Media Studies, San Diego State University
View Bio

Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D., APR, Professor of Public Relations, Director of the School of Journalism and Media Studies, San Diego State University

APR Mini-Jump Start – This working session will help you get started on your APR journey by reviewing the accreditation process and discussing the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to successfully prepare a panel presentation and complete the exam. The course is taught by seasoned APRs and focuses on numerous APR / APR+M examination topics, including:

  • What to expect during the APR / APR+M process
  • Ethics and law
  • Communication Models and Theories
  • Research, Planning Implementation and Evaluation
  • Crisis Communication Management
  • Media Relations

Developing Communications Plans

Christopher O’Neil, Chief of Media Relations, National Transportation Safety Board
View Bio

Whether you’ve taken a workshop with Chris O’Neil before, or if this is your first time, the Developing Communication Plans workshop is a must for anyone looking to build or reinforce their communication planning skills. Focused more on practical application and less on theory, this interactive workshop will have participants working in groups to craft communication goals, objectives, strategies and tactics for a communication plan, using input provided by the instructor through interactive role play. Participants will gain valuable experience in conducting a scoping session that will help them define audiences and desired outcomes. They will then practice developing a supporting communication plan. Participants should bring Microsoft Word and Excel enabled laptops or tablets for use in the group work.

Ten Ways to Use Social Media for Branding and Marketing

Erik Deckers, President, Pro Blog Service
View Bio

Social media is no longer special knowledge for communicators; it’s the price of admission in reaching today’s public. People get their news via social media which means it’s sometimes just plain luck if people hear your message. There are so many networks to choose from, it’s hard to figure out where you should invest your time and energy. Do you push your messaging out to all of them, or just a few? And which ones? This workshop will look at how to use different social networks, and the kinds of communication people want on those channels. We’ll look at how blogging can help your messaging, how to build your audience, and what’s happening with Facebook, Instagram, and other networks. We’ll also look at the future of social media and content marketing, and what you can expect over the next five years.



8:30 – 10 a.m. General Session

Using Social Media During A Crisis: Our Hurricane Irma Story

Jamie Johnson, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office View Bio
Michael Ryan, St. Johns County Government
Melissa Wissel, City of St Augustine
Jeremy Robshaw, St Johns Fire and Rescue

Our opening session features government communicators from our host State of Florida. Representatives from five different agencies will describe joint efforts to present a unified front on social media — before, during, and after Hurricane Irma. Featuring St. Johns County, Fire and Rescue, the City of St. Augustine, the Emergency Operations Center, and the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, you’ll learn how local government and law enforcement effectively used social media to communicate crucial information to constituents.

10:15 – 11:15 a.m.: Breakout Sessions

Executive Presence: Communication Techniques for Executives

Jennifer Miller, Rockford Gray
View Bio

This discussion focuses on both the good and bad impressions leaders make when they walk into a room and begin to speak. Studies show that executive presence counts for 26% of what it takes to get promoted. We will discuss vocal executive presence – which focuses on how one uses his/her voice, as well as the broader picture of how those in leadership positions can look and carry themselves to be effective. Our goal is to get participants thinking about how they use their voice, body language and choice of dress, and then consider the message they are sending. Participants should leave with an understanding of what constitutes executive presence and the knowledge that there are things they can do to enhance their own sense of executive presence.

Planning for Disaster: A Crash Course in Crisis Communications

Lori Lawson, Digital Engagement Specialist, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs
View Bio

Social media has dramatically shifted the public’s expectations surrounding access to information, particularly during a crisis. The evening news no longer satisfies the demand for information. Instead, people turn to real-time updates posted to social media. Is your organization prepared to join the conversation?

Effective crisis communication requires planning and practice. As a crisis communicator, you must be agile, accurate, and able to capture the right tone – all within minutes. This session will use examples from recent crises to teach you:

  • Tips for preparing for a crisis ahead of time
  • How to adapt your organization’s usual social media style during a crisis
  • Practical tips to meet the demand for information during a crisis

Twelve Ways to Improve Your Writing

Erik Deckers, President, Pro Blog Service
View Bio

It’s frustrating for beginning writers who want to hone their craft, but aren’t given much direction beyond “write every day,” and “read a lot.” Most so-called communication secrets are nothing more than “write good stuff,” which is completely unhelpful. Wouldn’t it be great if there was just one list of tips you could follow?

This session will look at different writing secrets professionals use to produce tight, interesting content and break them down into simple steps everyone can use to improve their own writing. We’ll learn how to cut out unnecessary language and filler words, how to harness metaphors and similes to better understand complex ideas, and which grammar rules you should ignore. We’ll look at some unusual advice that every professional writer knows (and even does), why inspiration is the downfall of many writers, and one psychological trick that will cut years off your learning curve.

11:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.: Lunch With Keynote Speaker

The Perfect Amount of Funny

Officer Drew Fennelly, Lawrence, Kansas Police Department View Bio

Humor on social media can capture the attention of your audience and help your agency garner a place in the national spotlight. But when you’re a government agency, it’s about striking the right balance. In 2015, Officer Drew Fennelly proposed the idea of a Twitter account for the Lawrence, Kansas Police Department, and found that ‘sweet spot’ between slapstick and serious: 75,000 followers, millions and millions of impressions, multiple appearances on ESPN, several viral tweets, and one 2017 Golden Post Award for “Best Use of Humor.” Prepare to learn…and be entertained!

1 – 2 p.m.: Breakout Sessions

What’s Your Story? Best Practices for Engaging with Media in Good Times and Bad

Jennifer Miller, Rockford Gray

Good media and communications skills don’t just happen. These skills are learned and perfected over time. Rockford Gray’s Jennifer Miller shares the Rules of the Game: what everyone needs to know before talking to the media. We discuss how to manage the interview, respond to difficult questions and why you should never treat the interview as a conversation. We believe the best spokespeople know how to prepare for an interview, set their agenda and use it. Jennifer will walk you through those steps and show examples of what it looks like when someone uses their agenda effectively. We conclude with an exercise that breaks down the process reporters use to compose their stories, revealing the spokesperson’s true role is in any news story.

The Cake is a Lie: Making Portals Great Again

Josh DeLung, Sr. Manager, Experience and Content Strategy, ICF
View Bio

There was a time when the Internet was in its infancy, and web portals such as America Online served a purpose to curate the best of the information superhighway and serve it up to users. Otherwise, the web was a messy place, and search capabilities were still fledgling.

Today, we have a different name for a list of links related to the information we want — the Google search results page.

But the U.S. government still maintains several portal sites, also known via unwieldy names such as clearinghouses and information gateways. Given the ubiquity of search, how can government communicators increase the usefulness, usability and user delight of their portals?

This session will provide attendees with cross-disciplinary steps they can take to help evolve a Web 1.0 approach into something that matches modern users’ expectations.

How to Save Your Social Media Plan

Mike Koehler, Founder/Chief Strategist, Smirk New Media

Digital marketing and social media are more important than ever for an organization’s success in 2018. But the rules for what works has changed. In Jan. 2018, Facebook blew up the strategies of any group using a business page. Organic reach has died and thanks to these algorithm tweaks and audience expectations, it’s back to the drawing board. This is, without a doubt, the biggest shift in digital strategy in years. So now what? Learn what deep data and audience feedback are telling us, and what best practices have emerged from the wreckage.

2:30 – 3:30 p.m.: Breakout Sessions

The Art of Good Science Communication: Be Bold, Speak Clearly

Steven Sobieszczyk, Hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey
View Bio

Inevitably, every scientist needs to talk science with policymakers, the media, and the public. Historically, this “exchange” has left much to be desired. But no longer! Come hear about techniques, tools, and resources every scientist needs to know before they step on stage. Learn why effective communication of science matters to everyone. Discover the secrets that help decision makers get past the gobbledygook they often hear when scientists speak. Or better yet, learn how to not speak gobbledygook. Get your message heard…and understood. Come participate in the “Art of Good Science Communication” session and walk away knowing how to be bold and speak clearly.

State of Rebranding: Modernizing Your State’s Brand Identity

Laura Cederberg, Assistant Chief of Staff, Communications, Office of Governor Mark Dayton (MN);
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Janelle Tummel, Assistant Commissioner, Enterprise Communications and Planning, Minnesota Management and Budget
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In 2017 the State of Minnesota launched a unified brand identity, shedding 23 outdated agency logos for one cohesive look. The end result? A fresh, modern look to support employee recruitment, consumer confidence, and cost-savings across the enterprise. Project Directors will share how they oversaw change management and inter-agency collaboration to rebrand the state.

3:45 – 6 p.m.: Blue Pencil & Gold Screen Awards Presentation and Reception and Communicator of the Year



8:30 – 10 a.m.: Annual Business Meeting and General Session

Identifying and Addressing Communication Complexities (Why What You Say May Not Be What Your Audience Hears)

Mark Basnight, Emergency Management Communication Analyst, Public Affairs Science & Technology Fusion Cell;
View Bio

Have you ever wondered why you have said one thing and your audience interpreted something totally different? Have you been misunderstood and thought, what’s wrong with those people, didn’t they hear what we said? There are a lot of filters your messages go through between the time your message is sent and it is processed by the receiver. Culture, history, literacy, biases and other complexities play a key role in how your audiences form their opinions, react and except or reject your message. In this interactive session, we will present and discuss 12 complexities of communication that public information professionals face today and what you should consider in order to get the desired outcome of your communication before formulating messages especially during complex incidents and events. The data for this research was garnered during the aftermath of an officer involved shooting resulting in civil unrest.

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.: Breakout Sessions

Blood, Guts, and Glory – Employee Engagement at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service

Aaron Lavalle, Deputy Assistant Administrator, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service
View Bio

A committed and engaged workforce is the holy grail of any healthy institution, organization, or government Agency – but employee engagement is as much an art as any science behind it. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) employees over 7,000 “front-line field employees”, many of whom are unwired employees, without access to a government issued email address or computer. In 2016, FSIS launched a new employee engagement initiative, titled “i-Impact;” this was delivered to the majority of FSIS employees as a one hour, in-person workshop. We will discuss the structure and successes of the 2016 i-Impact initiative, approaches to internal communications and demonstrate how employee engagement was utilized to create FSIS’ 2017 i-Impact workshop.

Break Out of Your Cultural Comfort Zone to Communicate Globally

Annalisa Nash Fernandez, Intercultural Strategist
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Break out of your cultural comfort zone. People are communicating more than ever, but still face linguistic and cultural barriers. In a globalized world, teamwork, collaboration, and business growth mean communicating across real and perceived borders. In this dynamic presentation, learn how cultural differences present challenges in everyday situations—including on social media—whether we perceive it or not. Explore cultural decorum across world regions, see American culture through a foreign “lens,” and understand cultural expectations, drawing on business case studies, research in applicable fields of psychology and sociology, culture-related events in the news, and the latest academic theories on intercultural dynamics. You’ll take away how to effectively penetrate foreign markets and build relationships across cultures without knowing the local language.

Managing the Rumor Mill

Kara Roberson, Communications Manager, City of Wentzville, Missouri

A growing number of citizens are engaging in citizen journalism by contributing to blogs, creating Facebook pages, and more. So, how do municipalities/counties best engage in a constructive dialog with citizens using technology? What are the best ways to avoid the rumor mill without oversharing? How do we tell our own story when so many others are telling it for us? Citizen journalism has had a major impact on the way public institutions disseminate information. This session will explore ways to combat the rumor mill through citizen engagement, social media campaigns, best practices and more.

11:45 a.m. – 1 p.m. Lunch and General Session 

From Chaos to Collaboration: Changing the Way We Communicate With the Public

Larry Schooler, Senior Fellow, National Civic League
View Bio

Picture this: your boss tells you to plan a “town hall meeting” on a controversial topic. You find a venue, set up chairs, and get quickly overwhelmed by a standing room only crowd–and they’re angry. They may have been provoked by information (or misinformation) from social media, or even traditional media, and they’re ready to burn your team in effigy. What to do?

This session is designed to take you, and your organization, from chaos to collaboration–embracing an entirely new paradigm for public engagement. Learn how to identify stakeholders and create customized strategies for engaging them; how to facilitate difficult conversations involving competing viewpoints; how to bring an array of stakeholders to consensus; and examine cutting-edge technology for public engagement.

1:15 – 2:15 p.m.: Breakout Sessions

Using Nextdoor for Public Agencies

Erick Gill, Communications Director, St. Lucie County County, Florida
View Bio

One of the biggest challenges for local governments is finding the best way to communicate with residents in an ever-changing media market. Newsprint is shirking. Television stations are scaling back on staff and airtime. Social media continues to lead the conservation as one of the best ways to reach residents. While Facebook and Twitter dominate those discussions, Nextdoor is a platform that is working with local governments to help communicate directly to residents – specifically residential neighborhoods and homeowners associations. For the past two years, St. Lucie County, Florida, has been using Nextdoor with positive results. Communications Director Erick Gill will cover the pros and cons of adding this tool to your social media tool box, including records retention and measuring engagement.

“The Kentucky READ Poster Project”: Influencing Hearts and Opinions

Carly Gill, Program Compliance Coordinator, KY Department for Libraries and Archives
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In Kentucky, the General Assembly controls budget appropriations to public libraries, yet some legislators still question the need for libraries in the Internet age. With a budget of $0, the Kentucky Department for Libraries (KDLA) and Archives and the Kentucky Public Library Association (KPLA) Advocacy Committee found a way to get legislators excited about libraries, inform them of all that libraries do for communities, invite personal conversations about library experiences, and potentially increase library funding. How did they do it? Through “The Kentucky READ Poster Project,” which boasts 100% participation from the state’s General Assembly and all Constitutional Officers. Learn how this was accomplished through an ingenious poster program.

How to Get Booked on the Speaker’s Circuit

Mike Pina, Program Manager, U.S. Department of Transportation
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Speaking engagements provide a great opportunity to reach key stakeholders and increase awareness of your agency’s work. Industry conferences, in particular, are a prime opportunity to get your message out and engage with stakeholders and colleagues. However, the competition can be fierce. Major events like South by Southwest (SXSW) can attract thousands of proposals vying for limited number speaking slots. This session will provide a step-by-step strategy for booking speaking engagements — for your boss, your colleagues or yourself. Identify speaking opportunities that make sense for your organization, contact show organizers, track events, develop exciting speaker proposals that stand out, and even draft a justification memo for travel approval. The session will also explain ways to prepare for your speech and use social media and on site promotion to capitalize on your speaking opportunities.


2:45 – 3:45 p.m.: Breakout Sessions

Science Communication in the Digital Age

Greg Leatherman, Managing Editor, ECO Magazine
View Bio

What’s the most cost-effective way to communicate? Enlisting someone else to distribute your message, of course. Original content remains the most valuable element in publishing. To get yours published, all you need are some insider tips on how to make it irresistible to editors.

Join us as Greg Leatherman presents Communication Tips for the Multimedia Age, including how you can turn material from your existing job into copy that is ready for publishing. He will also share tips on finding outlets that want your story.

Social Media, E-mail Marketing, and Website Content: Developing and Measuring Integrated Multi-Platform Messaging

Davika Rao, VP Account Services, O’Neill Communications
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Jhai James, Communications Officer, Strategic Energy Institute, Georgia Institute of Technology
View Bio

Today’s information moves fast. In order to be effective and compete with the virtual “noise” of the internet, savvy communicators have to reach their targeted audiences and hold their attention over what can sometimes be a substantial amount of time. In this session, attendees will see examples of key messaging strategies through various platforms such as email and social media to deliver energetic and relevant information to raise brand awareness and increase impact.

4 – 5 p.m.: General Session

30 Great Ideas in 30 Minutes

John Verrico, Chief of Media Relations, Science & Technology Directorate, Department of Homeland Security

Come prepared to share your great ideas, best practices and helpful tips. This annual Communications School
tradition will provide you with useful information that you can take back to the office and use today!


Mark Basnight

Mark is the Co-Director of the Public Affairs Science and Technology (PAST) Fusion Cell and National Public Affairs Academy at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). Basnight is responsible for assisting government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private sector groups with plans, training, exercises, and support materials relating to public affairs before, during, and after a crisis.

A former Public Information Officer for the Charlotte Fire Department and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management, Mark was responsible for the innovation of how the fire department and emergency management division engaged in public affairs. Basnight was the lead writer for all news releases and introduced new prospective for interacting, gathering and disseminating information pertaining to public affairs. He was responsible for research, development, and initiation of social media technology. The CFD was one of the first public safety agencies (2009) on the east coast to employ social media for risk and crisis communications. Mark was recognized by the Charlotte City Council for his efforts to develop the synergies that led other areas of city government to utilize social media.

Basnight is a founding member and a past Chair for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Virtual Social Media Working Group. Mark has established relationships and worked closely with police departments across the nation, the FBI, and the U.S. Secret Service. He served as a Lead Public Information Officer during the 2012 Democratic National Convention and had a significant role in planning, coordinating and implementing the Joint Information Center for Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Mark is an alumnus of the inaugural FEMA 389 Masters Public Information Officer Course and has served as an adjunct instructor for the Emergency Management Institute (Emmitsburg, MD). Basnight is a resourceful communication ace with over 10 years’ experience in the industry. He is accomplished at leading and managing national, regional, and tribal relations to promote knowledge, awareness, and support for multifaceted issues and programs. Mark has a degree in Communications and is sought after as a subject matter expert in the areas of media relations, crisis communications, emergency public information, Joint Information Systems\Centers and social media technology & strategy for public safety agencies. He is a nationally known communications crackerjack who has assisted dozens of communities and organizations in preparing to effectively communicate with multiple audiences during times of crises.

Mark has been a keynote speaker, panelist or presenter at the National Information Officers Association Conference, National Association of Government Communicators Conference, National Radiological Emergency Preparedness Conference, (UASI) Homeland Security Conference, National Fire Protection Association Conference, Technologies for Critical Incident Preparedness Conference and the National League of Cities Conference

Laura Cederberg

Laura Cederberg is Assistant Chief of Staff, Communications for Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. In this role, Laura oversees one-voice messaging across 24 state agencies and more than 100 boards and commissions and serves as Deputy Communications Director for the State of Minnesota, a $43 billion enterprise with 35,000 employees. Prior to joining the Dayton Administration in 2016, Laura was head of marketing and communications for the American Swedish Institute, an internationally acclaimed cultural center and museum in Minneapolis. She previously served as Research Director of EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics. She held communications, policy and research roles on the winning U.S. Senate campaigns of Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN), Senator Al Franken (MN), and Senator Mazie Hirono (HI). Laura holds a B.A. in political science and women’s studies from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.

Paige Davidson

Paige is a communications, education, and training professional. She is currently the Executive Staff Advisory and Communications Officer at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, and has worked as an educator and academic program consultant. She holds a Masters in Elementary Education from Georgetown College.

Erik Deckers

Erik is a professional communicator with more than 20 years of experience and results in copywriting, content marketing, and social media marketing. He has owned and operated a content marketing agency since 2009. Prior to that, he led the crisis communications efforts for the Indiana State Department of Health. Erik has published nearly 2,000 columns, articles, and reviews, and is the author of four books including “Branding Yourself” and “The Owned Media Doctrine.

Josh DeLung

Josh brings 15 years of strategic communication experience with a focus on building and managing teams who work in audience engagement using digital methods. In his current role with ICF, Josh directs digital experience projects that help organizations achieve measurable success. His strengths include business management, content strategy, messaging, and research and analytics.

Danielle Dupree

Danielle is an author and professional speaker with a background in law enforcement. Her experience under pressure has given her a unique insight into what it takes to succeed, especially for women in male-dominated industries. Danielle has become the leading voice for how women and introverts can succeed in a world that tells them to doubt their natural skill set. She is the founder of “TheIntrovertMind,” an online destination for introverts, where she creates videos that have collectively generated hundreds of thousands of views. She has created the popular game “Introvert Bingo” to help gamify the process of meeting and connecting with others, and is the author of Slay the Introvert Way: A Woman’s guide to Seeing Her Value, Finding Her Voice, and Getting Ahead.

Annalisa Nash Fernandez

Annalisa has 30 years of international experience, including as an international strategic planning director at Philip Morris and Kraft Foods, based in New York and São Paulo, Brazil; an investment banker at Bankers Trust, based in New York and Santiago, Chile; and a consultant for PwC in Washington, DC. Annalisa is the author of Intuitive Interpreting and her articles on language and culture have been published on Quartz.com, Education Week, and in other print and online media. She holds an MA in literature and translation from the University of Wisconsin, and an BS in international finance from Georgetown University.

Elan Freudenthal

Elan is the Watch Command Supervisor for the New York City Office of Emergency Management, overseeing watch commanders and public warning specialists, delegating operational responsibilities, providing daily executive briefings, and ensuring the execution of strategic objectives. She is trained in NIMS, HAZMA Awareness, on-scene multi-agency coordination, and many other areas, as well as being an Advanced Emergency Medical Technician and Paramedic.

Carly Gill

Carly is an Administrative Specialist with the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. She has a 21 year track record of profitable business management and administrative experience.

Erick Gill

Erick is the Communications Division Director for the St. Lucie, FL County Board of County Commissioners. He serves as the spokesman for the Board, including leading crisis communications from the Emergency Operations Center during such events as Hurricanes Wilma, Matthew, and Irma. Erick spent many years as a reporter and freelance writer prior to becoming a government communicator. He has received many awards for his work, including the 2017 Award of Excellence in Crisis Communications for Hurricane Matthew by the Palm Beach Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Janice “Jhai” James

Janice is a Communications Officer with the Georgia Institute of Technology where she creates and implements the communication, marketing, and public relations efforts of the Institute. She has over 10 years of experience in multi-platform writing, social media strategy and development, community engagement, and website content management.

Jamie Johnson

Jamie is a Social Media Technician with the St. John’s County, FL Sheriff’s Office. She is an active voice of the agency’s social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram) and communicates information effectively to the media utilizing press releases and interpersonal communications in response to media inquiries. Jamie describes herself as “a media junkie obsessed with social media and photography who wants to find new and fun ways of keeping people informed of the happenings of the day by generating conversation in an open forum. She is the Florida Law Enforcement Public Information Officer Association Region 2 Director.

Laura Kirkpatrick

Laura received her Bachelor of Science in urban affairs and planning from Boston University and a masters in corporate and public communication at Monmouth University, West Long Branch, N.J.

When Laura is not on the beach with family and friends, she teaches marketing at New Jersey City University.

City University.

Dr. Ann Knabe

Ann Peru Knabe, PhD, teaches public relations at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. She is currently on military leave, serving as Dean of Students at the College of International Security Affairs at National Defense University. Col. Knabe has almost three decades of experience in public relations, public affairs and strategic communication. She also owns a crisis communication firm located Milwaukee.

She is Accredited in Public Relations with a Military emphasis (APR+M) and serves on the Universal Accreditation Board.

Officer Drew Fennelly

Officer Fennelly has been with the Lawrence Police Department since 2009, and in 2015, after entering the Public Affairs Unit, started @LawrenceKS_PD. Officer Fennelly has previously presented at the IACP-PIO Midyear Conference and the Government Social Media Conference on using humor to engage with citizens and shape how you are perceived in the community.

Aaron Lavallee

Aaron is the Deputy Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He has over 15 years of communications and management experience in both eh public and private sectors. He holds a Masters Degree in Strategic Public Relations from George Washington University. He has worked on a variety of political campaigns and also ran for the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 2004, losing by just 39 votes.

Greg Leatherman

Greg is the managing editor for a company whose best-known publications are ECO (ecomagazine.com) and Ocean News and Technology (oceannews.com). These industry-leading print magazines also include websites, social media, and weekly newsletters.

Previously, he communicated on behalf of NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the FBI, and the U.S. Armed Forces as a federal contractor.
Greg is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Florida Writers Association, among other organizations.

Chris O’Neil

Chris O’Neil is the Chief of Media Relations for the National Transportation Safety Board and President-elect of NAGC. Previously, Chris was Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and NAGC’s Communications Director.

He joined U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2014 after retiring from the U.S. Coast Guard at the rank of Commander with more than 29 years of active-duty service first with the U.S. Air Force and then with the U.S. Coast Guard (he enlisted in 1991) — more than 26 of those years in public affairs. Chris became the Chief of Media Relations for the Directorate of Governmental and Public Affairs, Coast Guard Headquarters in 2008.

He has a Master of Public Relations degree from Boston University’s College of Communication. O’Neil has a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication and an associate’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Phoenix.

’Neil has a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication and an associate’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Phoenix.

Mike Pina

Mike is the Program Manager for Communications and Outreach for the U.S. Department of Transportation. He has over 20 years of communications experience in both the public and private sectors, including eight years as the Manager of Communications for the Travel Industry Association in Washington, D.C.

Devika Rao

Devika is the Vice President of Account Services for O’Neill Communications. She brings a strong writing and editing background that is key to helping clients develop their content marketing strategies. She also has solid footing in media relations to help clients’ stories be heard through multi-media outlets.

Her ability to convey ideas and thoughts through the written word was recognized by the Magazine Association of the Southeast (MAGS) two years in a row for Best Feature for her coverage on the impact of South Asians in America. She also manages a weekly column with the Atlanta Journal- Constitution, the Southeast’s largest daily newspaper.

Devika graduated from Penn State University with degrees in journalism and political science. When she is not trying the latest restaurants in the city, she volunteers with various nonprofit organizations in Atlanta and serves on the board of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce and Spruill Center for the Arts.

Kara Roberson

Kara Roberson is a multi-faceted, award-winning marketing and communication professional with experience in water and electric utilities, parks and recreation marketing and communications, and general municipal public information management.

With more than 18 years of professional marketing and communication experience, Kara’s exceptional design savvy, attention to detail, listening skills, and creativity, produces high-quality, engaging final products that stand out in the marketing world.

Sam Ruchlewicz

Sam is a member of the senior leadership team of Warschawski, a national, boutique marketing communications agency headquartered in in the Baltimore/Washington DC metropolitan area. Sam creates and oversees the firm’s digital marketing and data analytics practices. Sam is also a faculty member at Betamore, an award-wining educational institution, incubator, entrepreneurship hub and technology campus.

Larry Schooler

Larry is an accomplished, award-winning dispute resolution practitioner, manager, and thought leader focused on public policy dispute resolution and public engagement. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from Nova Southeastern University. Larry is a Senior Fellow with the National Civic League. He spent eight years as the Public Engagement Division Manager for the City of Austin, Texas, establishing one of the first public engagement and dispute resolution divisions in a U.S. municipal government. Larry also spent nearly 10 years as a news anchor on National Public Radio.

Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D., APR

Bey-Ling is a professor of public relations and director of the School of Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University. She is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Public Relations Research, co-author of the 11th edition of Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations, member of the Arthur W. Page Society, and past chair of the Universal Accreditation Board, which oversees the world’s largest certification program in public relations. The Public Relations Society of America named Dr. Sha its 2012 Outstanding Educator of the Year, and she has won national awards for both public relations practice and research. Dr. Sha’s primary research program examines the intersection of identity and public relations.

Steven Sobieszczyk

Steven is both a scientist and communications expert. In his work for the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Land Management, he leads, designs, and implements a diverse spectrum of earth science and science communication-themed engagement activities that connects scientists with the public, media, and/or key decision makers. He has published over 40 scientifically peer-reviewed abstracts, journal articles, reports, and digital datasets, and helped produce over 50 online videos. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Geology and Geography, and a Master of Science in landslide geology and GIS.

Nichole Thomas

Nichole is the Media Relations Director for the Indiana Department of Transportation. She is also President of The Write Designs, providing freelance publications coordination to a variety of businesses. As a former reporter, she has established relationships with the local media. In her personal life, Nichole serves as the Marketing Chair and Development Director for the Indiana Parent Teacher Association.

Janelle Tummel

Assistant Commissioner Enterprise communications and planning
With a belief that government should be transparent and accessible, Janelle Tummel serves as Assistant Commissioner for Enterprise Communications and Planning at Minnesota Management and Budget. In her role, Janelle strives to improve how state government communicates and serves our customers. She oversees six divisions dedicated to planning for the worst, celebrating the best, and effectively serving the enterprise, every day.

Janelle helped lead the launch of a uniform state brand and marketing campaigns to promote the state as one employer. She spearhead Minnesota’s plain language effort in 2014, training employees across state government on how to convey complex topics in an understandable way. She specializes in creative and unique approaches to engaging audiences with clear and user friendly communications.

Janelle previously served as Chief of Enterprise Communications at Minnesota Management and Budget, Communications and Public Relations Director at the Minnesota Department of Revenue, and Public Relations Manager for the City of St. Paul. She also spent nearly seven years on the communications team at Coca-Cola Enterprises. She has a MBA from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.