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2020 Seminar Schedule

2020 NAGC Seminar:
Session Details

Mark your calendars for NAGC's 2020 Seminar! Below you will find descriptions of each Seminar session 

Register here!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Time: 11:00 am EDT
Session Presenter:  Tania Larson
Session Title: Show Don’t Tell When Writing For The Web
Session Description: This session will cover how people consume digital content and
scan web pages and how that affects the way you should think
when writing for the web. You’ll learn how to write in a way that
is vivid, specific, and compelling; how to rewrite your sentences
for brevity and clarity; the real meaning of using plain language;
and how to format your writing to show off your most important

Time: 12:00 pm EDT
Session Presenter:  Tom Fuller
Session Title: Research: The Secret Hack to Effective Communications Planning
Session Description: What is the most critical factor between effective and less-than-effective
communication plans? It’s not the medium or the message or how flashy
your campaign is. The key is research. I can feel your eye-roll - “I don’t
have time to research and my boss just wants a blast on The Twitter
anyway so it doesn’t matter!” 

Au contraire, mes amis. Big or small, fast or slow - taking time to research
your topic, your audience, your message delivery, and your content will
change what you recommend to your boss, as you back up your plan with
actual data. Good research will also make your campaign more effective
in moving awareness, attitude, and action. 

In this session, we’ll look at when to research, how to research, and how
to incorporate your findings into your communications plan.

Time: 1:00 pm EDT
Session Presenter: Susan Apgood and Alex Hinojosa
Session Title: Data-Driven Communication: How Research & Media Relations Unite
Session Description: What do pet stores and government agencies have in common? Both
can strategically and effectively use research and data collection to
advance their media relations efforts. Through conducting research,
you can discover insight into the most advantageous way to disperse
your particular message. Then, through media relations, you can utilize
that powerful data, an important message, and a strong spokesperson
to communicate your message to the public. Tune in Wednesday,
August 5 to learn how you can best unite research and media relations
to benefit your agency.

2:00 pm EDT
Session Presenter:
  Tayo Rockson
Session Title: How To Connect Effectively Across Cultures
Session Description: Connecting across cultures can be enriching and educational, yet also
challenging. Markets, worldviews, customs and traditions often become
barriers that prevent people from developing cross-cultural relationships.
Tayo provides a framework for understanding our internal and external
strategies as well as several strategies that allow us to overcome barriers
to connecting across cultures. According to Tayo, the type of people that
know how to effectively connect across cultures do three things: They
educate. They don't perpetuate. Instead, they communicate. 
By the end of this talk, you will learn to:
· become more self-aware of your own communication style
· communicate clearly
· act appropriately with people that come from different
environments than you do

3:00 pm EDT
Session Presenter:  Ben Kessler
Session Title: Lessons In Media Monitoring From COVID And Beyond
Session Description: Description coming soon!

4:00 pm EDT
Session Presenter:  Craig Waters
Session Title: 20 Years After Hanging Chads
Session Description: Description coming soon!

Time: 5:00 pm EDT
Session Title: Social time and Networking

About the Presenters

Susan Apgood
Susan Apgood is the founder of News Generation, an issue-driven public-relations-services company specializing in using broadcast-media techniques to earn media placements for associations, non-profits, government agencies and clients of public-relations firms. She founded the Bethesda, MD-based company in 1997 after earning her MBA in finance at American University. She is an adjunct professor in the business school at American University and frequently speaks on topics regarding public relations, media outreach, and entrepreneurship.



Tom Fuller
Tom Fuller is the Communications Manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation. Tom oversees a group of professional communicators across the state that assists the agency in communication planning, messaging, public outreach, education, web, social media, video and graphics, and media relations. Tom is a 20 year veteran and Emmy® winning television journalist and communications professional with over 19 years of experience in state government. He has won numerous public relations awards including a 2017 Award of Excellence and the “Best of Show” award for the 2016 National Association of Government Communicators Blue Pencil Awards. 

Tom serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Government Communicators. Tom also serves as the chair of the state of Oregon Egovernance Board, which oversees the website. Tom holds an accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America. 

He is a national speaker on content and visual engagement strategies as well as communications planning and measurement. Tom holds a BA degree in Communications Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In addition, he is the published author of five books on Oregon history and a licensed drone pilot. 


Alex Hinojosa
Alex Hinojosa is tasked with creatively counseling clients in utilizing data to develop campaigns and tell stories that drive performance. Since the fall of 2016, Alex has played an integral role in establishing and growing the U.S. operations of 4media group. He leads the U.S. operations of Atomik Research. Prior to his agency work, Alex was a broadcaster for CBS Radio, iHeartMedia, and ESPN Radio in major markets including Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Tampa, Florida. He’s been featured in the New York Post, PR Daily, and numerous other publications.

Ben Kessler
Ben Kessler is the Head of Government Solutions and Director of Enterprise East at Meltwater, with almost a decade of experience consulting with PR, communications, and marketing professionals on their information strategies. Ben has worked with a variety of organizations, from Fortune 100 to Federal/State/Local governments, to enhance their awareness of the online information environment and implement new methods of measuring PR/Communications success. 
Within Government, Ben’s focus is to help agencies devise effective communications reports for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual reporting, implement scalable solutions, and ensure that the data Meltwater helps lead to strategic insights and improved decision making. 
Ben graduated Cum Laude from American University with a joint degree in Public Affairs and Finance. Ben has broad experience in sharing his knowledge and speaking at conferences, events, and webinars.


Tania Larson
Tania Larson works in the USGS Science Publishing Network as the chief of the Denver Publishing Service Center. She has more than 20 years of experience with writing and editing, including work in non-profit communications, journalism, public affairs, internal and executive communications, web content, social media, congressional briefings, advertising, and digital and print publishing. She is particularly passionate about plain language for Government and science and has dedicated the past 16 years of her career to Federal service. 




Tayo Rockson
Tayo Rockson is a writer, speaker, consultant, and media personality who runs UYD Management - a strategic leadership and consulting firm that helps organizations incorporate sustainable diversity and inclusion practices.

As someone who has lived on 4 continents, he is an authority in communicating effectively across cultures. In addition to that, he's been named a "Top 40 Millennial Influencer" by New Theory magazine.

He hosts the popular As Told By Nomads podcast and his book, Use Your Difference To Make A Difference is based on how to connect and communicate in a cross-cultural world.


Craig Waters
In 1996, Craig Waters was appointed the first communications director in the Florida Supreme Court’s history after working there nine years as a staff attorney to its judges. 

Over a 33-year career, he oversaw creation of the court’s first website in 1994, began placing court documents online in 1996, livestreamed video of court arguments in 1997, and managed crisis communications for events like Florida’s 2000 presidential election debacle known to history as Bush v. Gore. More recently, he began moving the court’s communications onto social media in the late 2000s and then placed livestreams of court arguments on Facebook Live starting in 2018. 

He currently is overseeing the establishment of an outreach-based Learning Center as part of an overhaul of the court’s 175-year-old library.

Previous NAGC Seminars

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Time:  11:00 am EDT
Session Presenter:  Chris O'Neil
Session Title:  Start with the End in Mind: Communication Planning
Session Description: All too often communicators are asked to develop communications products or
to execute communications tactics, by leadership who often have not determined
why they want to communicate and what they hope to achieve by communicating.
Staring with the end state in mind helps communicators and communications
planners identify and plan for the outcomes of communication efforts. Discussion
in this session will focus on the importance of helping customers define
communication success, how to develop communications plans to achieve that
success and establishing relevant metrics to evaluate effectiveness as part of a
communications plan.

Time: 12:00 pm EDT
Session Presenter:  Michael Hughes
Session Title: Mission, Message & Media: How to Create and Sustain Engagement Among a
Highly-Skilled and Diverse Workforce Through Internal Communications
Session Description: Creating a work environment where people feel supported, appreciated and
motivated isn’t rocket science; but it does take work. And it starts at the top of
your organization. 

During Michael’s presentation, learn what leaders can both do and say to
create and sustain a highly- engaged workforce. Also, hear how three basic
principles of effective communication can empower leaders to accomplish this:  

• Mission:  Tie the work people do to the reason (or purpose) your organization
• Message:  Ensure leaders’ external messages are consistent with the
organization’s internal value system 
• Media:  Use modern forms of technology to maximize opportunities to make
authentic connections with staff 

These tools and tips will help you create a workplace where people love coming to
work and perform at their best.

Time: 2:00 pm EDT
Session Presenter:  John Verrico
Session Title: Leading a Public Relations Team (Even If You’re Not The Boss)
Session Description: Today’s workforce is made up of a diverse group of talents, generations, skills,
cultural backgrounds, perspectives, and personalities, each with their own
motivations. This is true in any organization, and maybe even more so in a
typical government public affairs office. Government employees, contractors,
writers, artists, social media gurus, administrators, and even political appointees,
ranging in experience from still-in-school interns to multi-decade professionals.
This complexity requires special leadership skills as well as a strong foundation
in understanding interpersonal communication and individual motivational
differences. Whether you have a formal managerial role or not, you don’t want
to miss this session on how you can influence the smooth operation and climate
of the organization.

Time: 3:00 pm EDT
Session Presenter:  Ben Kessler
Session Title: Using Data to Understand Your Agency across Coronavirus Government

Session Description: Coronavirus has massively shifted the way all businesses operate.
“The New Normal” is a phrase being used more and more to describe a
variety of concepts around teleworking, day-to-day operations, and how
businesses respond to crises.  
Within Government, “the New Normal” has brought to light the importance
of effective and aligned communications as it relates to Coronavirus in order
to maximize official channels to ensure public safety, understanding, and
What is your Agency’s role in Government Communications when it comes
to COVID-19? Has your agency been involved in Coronavirus and at what
point does it make sense to start focusing on your regular missions?  
Whether you are a front-line agency or one that has a different mission, in
this breakout session, you will learn how to leverage insights from news
and social media to better understand how to respond to the coronavirus
crisis.  You’ll learn reporting practices that will help you and your Agency’s
leadership make more informed decisions—and understand how to use data
to answer questions that many of your colleagues may be asking you. 
Specifically, we’ll explain:
• How to set relevant and measurable goals in the new crisis situation
• How to manage and interpret incoming data
• How to bring concrete data to the decision room/war room
• How to devise effective communications reports for crisis and regular
cadence reporting

Key topics covered will include: 
1. Understanding today’s changed media landscape
2. Setting KPIs that relate to your communications goals - what should
these be in today’s environment?
3. Visualizing your data into reports and graphs
4. Identifying opportunities to help improve your outreach

Time: 4:00 pm EDT
Session Presenter:  Dr. Larry Schooler
Session Title: Social Distancing Meets Public Engagement: Communicating and Listening
During COVID-19

Session Description: This session will include information about leveraging government access
television at all times, including this current time, to enhance the efforts of
local government to connect with their residents and stakeholders. Presenters
will also talk about differences in various forms of online engagement and
when it might make sense to use them, as well as tips for turning your
in-person meetings into virtual ones.

Time: 5:00 pm EDT
Session Title: Social time and Networking


About the Presenters

Michael J. Hughes 
Michael J. Hughes serves as Communications Liaison of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). In his role, Michael leads the agency’s internal communications strategy, and manages the NTSB Chairman’s public outreach and safety advocacy efforts in all major modes of transportation. Before joining the NTSB, Michael worked in the travel and hotel industry in various communication and leadership roles with InterContinental Hotels Group, Inc. and Marriott International for more than 10 years. Prior to working in the hospitality business, Michael served as a general assignment television news reporter for CBS News in Charleston, SC. He reported on issues relating to transportation safety, travel and tourism, and local politics. Mr. Hughes earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in Journalism, with a concentration in Broadcasting.


Ben Kessler
Ben Kessler is the Head of Government Solutions and Director of Enterprise East at Meltwater, with almost a decade of experience consulting with PR, communications, and marketing professionals on their information strategies. Ben has worked with a variety of organizations, from Fortune 100 to Federal/State/Local governments, to enhance their awareness of the online information environment and implement new methods of measuring PR/Communications success. 
Within Government, Ben’s focus is to help agencies devise effective communications reports for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual reporting, implement scalable solutions, and ensure that the data Meltwater helps lead to strategic insights and improved decision making. 
Ben graduated Cum Laude from American University with a joint degree in Public Affairs and Finance. Ben has broad experience in sharing his knowledge and speaking at conferences, events, and webinars.

Chris O’Neil
Chris O’Neil, APR, is the Chief of Media Relations at the National Transportation Safety Board. He came to the Office of Safety Recommendations and Communications at the NTSB in January 2016 and has more than 30 years of government communication experience earned through collateral duty and full-time public affairs assignments with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He directs, manages and guides a staff of four to provide the full spectrum of media relations services to the NTSB.   
His military full-time public affairs positions include assignments to Coast Guard Atlantic Area Public Affairs, New York, 7th Coast Guard District Public Affairs, Miami, Florida, Coast Guard Chief of Media Relations, Coast Guard Headquarters, and Coast Guard Chief of Strategic Communication, Coast Guard Headquarters. He also gained public affairs experience as a collateral duty public affairs officer for operational assignments at the 438th Security Police Squadron, McGuire AFB, New Jersey; Coast Guard Station New York; Coast Guard Marine Safety Office Morgan City, Louisiana; and Marine Safety Office St. Louis, Missouri. 
He has twice been hand-selected to write the public affairs annexes to Department of Homeland Security Plans for maritime and land mass migration.  He contributed to the rewrite of National Response Team Joint Information Center Manual, focusing on better alignment between the ESF-15 and NRT JIC structures and functions.   
As the Coast Guard’s Chief of Media Relations, O’Neil developed and implemented policy and doctrine for all Coast Guard media relations activities and served as a national spokesperson. He supported two area, and nine district, public affairs officers and their staffs, and directly supervised a staff of four. O’Neil deployed to provide public affairs support for the responses to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike and the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. He served as the Chief of Strategic Communication on the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill Response National Incident Command Staff, from May to July 2010, and served as the Gulf Coast Incident Command/Unified Area Command Public Information Officer in New Orleans, from October to November 2010.  He deployed to Juneau, Alaska, to serve as the external affairs officer for Operation Arctic Shield 2012. 
As Chief of the Office of Strategic Communication, O’Neil was the Coast Guard’s technical authority on the design, development and execution of national level communication action plans that conveyed strategic intent to internal 
and external audiences by synchronizing and integrating the communication efforts of more than 60 public and governmental affairs officers at 13 regional offices across the U.S.  He concurrently served as Public Affairs Officer for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Military Campaign Office, providing the full spectrum of public affairs services including national spokesperson, communications planning, counsel, theme and key message development, interviews, interview preparation for principals and subject matter experts.  

At the NTSB Chris has served as an on-scene PAO for the following accidents: 

  • Cimarron, KS, Amtrak train derailment,  
  • Chattanooga, TN, school bus crash,  
  • Hoboken, NJ, NJT train derailment
  • Crozet, VA, Amtrak rail crossing accident,  
  • New York City Liberty Helicopters Crash 
  • FIU Pedestrian Bridge Collapse., Miami   

Chris earned his accreditation in public relations in December 2019. He holds three degrees; a Master’s in Public Relations from Boston University; a Bachelor’s in Communication from Charter Oak State College; and an Associate’s in Criminal Justice from University of Phoenix. 
His professional volunteer work includes six years of service, including his current role as President, on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Government Communicators.


Dr. Larry Schooler
Dr. Larry Schooler is Director of Consensus Building and Community Engagement for the consulting firm CD&P, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin, and a senior fellow at the National Civic League. He works as a mediator, facilitator, and public engagement consultant to local, county, regional, state, and federal agencies across the U.S., as well as non-profit clients whom he assists with strategic planning, organizational development, and conflict management. Dr. Schooler has taught public engagement, public policy dispute resolution, and facilitative leadership at universities across the U.S. and has spoken at conferences around the world on the topics of public engagement and conflict resolution. He is the author of a widely-shared manual on facilitating public meetings and a forthcoming book on large-scale community engagement.  He has also been published in newspapers across the U.S.  Dr. Schooler holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a doctoral degree in conflict resolution from Nova Southeastern. He has been married to Jolie Schooler since 2008 and is the proud father of Sammy (age 8) and Robby (age 6). 


John Verrico
John Verrico is a former President of the National Association of Government Communicators, and has nearly 40 years of experience as a public affairs professional in federal and state government agencies, working extensively in media, community, and employee relations. Currently serving as the Chief of Media and Community Relations for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate, John retired from the Navy Reserve as a Master Chief Journalist in 2005. As a former freelance journalist, stand-up comic, janitor, theater performer, small-business consultant, electronics technician, and disco dance instructor, John has learned not to take life too seriously and to experience everything life has to offer. He is now a high-energy, thought-provoking and humorous trainer and consultant on motivational leadership and communication. He earned a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Norwich University and a Bachelor’s in communication from the University of the State of New York. John’s spare time is devoted to occasional cruise vacations, bad-movie parties, and collecting classic monster movies and memorabilia, which he displays in his bizarre version of a man cave. 

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