15 to Watch


Name: Tim Fry Title: Senior Vice President & Microsoft Client Relationship Leader Company: Weber Shandwick Age: 34 Tim Fry studied international relations and Japanese in college, "so PR wasn't the career I had in mind," he says. He started his career conducting public opinion research for a small firm in Seattle. "When Weber Shandwick opened a Seattle office in 1996, I was ready to expand into a more traditional public relations career." As the client relationship leader for Weber Shandwick's Microsoft account, Fry turned the account into a global relationship, expanding its remits for each Microsoft division to Asia and Europe. "I'm proud of the fact that our other account leads now look to me for advice on how to better run their global teams; I've been asked to lead a taskforce within the agency focused on client service," he says. The early portion of his career saw one or two stumbles, but they made him better at his job. "My biggest mistake year was misreading a major client's request in a pitch," he recalls. "I brought the 'big and bold' team, and it turned out they wanted 'small and safe.' The lesson for me is to try harder to get a gut check from prospective clients on some of those big ideas before bringing them into the room, where so much is at stake." Fry's mentor is Casey Sheldon, president of Weber Shandwick's technology practice. "In the ten years I've worked for her, she's taught me...the most important leadership trait is knowing when to get out of the way and when to step in." Fry advises new PR pros to ask: "'How well can I communicate? Am I a good writer? How comfortable am I in chaos? Am I willing to share the workload and limelight?' Know the answers to those questions before you jump in." Moving ahead, Fry says, "Organizations are starting to engage more directly with audiences. PR, more than any other discipline, is about conversation. And as marketing transitions from monologue to dialogue, PR is in the middle of that conversation. I wouldn't be surprised to see PR agencies start leading integrated communications campaigns." Contact: tfry@weber shandwick.com Name: Jessica M. Pantages Title: Senior Manager, Marketing & Public Relations Company: General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems Age: 28 Since Jessica Pantages joined General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in 2004, she has made her mark. She was recently tapped to lead strategic marketing and public relations for the company's largest segment. Pantages formed the company's first integrated advertising program - General Dynamics was formed out of the merger of four separate business units. In addition, she invented its first company-wide community outreach program, built a media relations program and incorporated industry best practices into its day-to-day operations. But working for an engineering company wasn't the original plan for Pantages. "When I was a kid I wanted to be the next Jane Pauley," she admits. In college, she elected to pursue a broad business degree. "I learned that how businesses communicated - both internally and externally - was paramount to their eventual success. I thought I might make a difference there." She was right. Her favorite achievement is the company's community outreach program. She established an overarching program that included a week-long, company-wide event during National Engineers Week. In addition, a scholarship program was created through the Military Officer's Association of America. "The creation of one, consistent program focused on science, engineering and education is helping to increase our company's recognition with key stakeholders in our communities." Pantages credits her"first supervisor, Robyn Slater," she says. "She taught me a lot about being a good manager - the importance of recognizing your employees, how to be a diplomat with clients and coworkers without becoming emotional, how to nurture the careers of talented, eager individuals, and how to balance personal life with professional life. She is the manager I aspire to be." Pantages recommends that other young PR pros never stop learning. "Try to learn everything you can about your clients' and your company's business," she advises. "Everything comes down to the financial bottom line, and PR practitioners need to be able to show how their activities are impacting it." She ancitipates a future where PR, marketing, community affairs, government affairs and investor relations will be more closely aligned. "Protecting one, integrated, external picture of a company will become more important," she believes. "It will become more difficult for certain PR and marketing departments to protect the company's brand as 'pop-up' employee-created materials and blogs appear." Contact: jessica.pantages@gdais.com Name: Nabeeha Mujeeb Kazi Title: Senior Vice President Company: Fleishman-Hillard, Inc. Age: 33 Nabeeha Mujeeb Kazi is good with a cause.She worked with UNICEF to evaluate its anti-child trafficking initiatives in Romania, Moldova and Albania, and the First Lady of Rwanda tapped Kazi as a consultant when the Organisation of African First Ladies launched its "Treat Every Child as Your Own" campaign to engage adults to fight HIV infections. Kazi started at Fleishman-Hillard in 1996 as an assistant account executive. Since then, she has become a valued asset to the company and is sought-after for her expertise. She was recently named practice group head for the Kansas City Public Health and Multicultural team, and in six months built a base of business to $1.5 million. She has led the charge in gaining such accounts as Johnson & Johnson, Royal Caribbean cruise line, and Abbot. Two of her programs received Silver Anvil Awards from PRSA. A public health campaign, "Did you take syPHILlis home last night?" raised awareness of an increase in syphilis cases around Kansas City. The other, for Royal Caribbean, focused on a "Royal Celebration of Art," an art auction program that built affinity to the cruise brand among African-American travelers. She was invited to join the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation in promoting HIV/AIDS care and treatment in the Caribbean and Africa and worked on-site in the Dominican Republic with President Hipolito Mejia's administration and the President's Commission for HIV/AIDS. This year, Kazi has been invited to serve as a panelist during the Global Health Symposium - a fitting challenge for a proficient young PR professional. Contact: kazin@fleishman.com Name: Lara Beth Cohn Title: Senior Vice President Company: Steele Rose Communications Age: 35 Lara Beth Cohn has worked on some of the most important clients her agency has, including Noxzema, Old Spice and Revolution Tea, but it is her unique work for a unique product that has gained her the most attention in the past year. Defense Vitamin & Mineral Supplement is a new twist on the beverage theme. Last winter, Defense was the first beverage to use "FreshCan" technology, which keeps the vitamins and minerals dry and separate from the beverage. As the consumer opens the can, the FreshCan Wedge releases the vitamins and minerals into beverage, ensuring their freshness. Cohn's team created a novel press release and sought celebrity buy-in. A 3-D press kit included a video of the FreshCan in action, a sample of the beverage and a clear can that earned the product a spot in Marie Claire's "Best of 2006" issue. When Cohn read about "In the Air," an off-Broadway production about the Great Flu of 1918, she arranged to hand out Defense to audiences at performances. She also had inserts placed in the show's Playbill with information on where to buy the drink. More than 1,400 cans of Defense were guzzled by thirsty play-goers. Finally, the team connected on an ongoing basis by making sure the beverage was served in Green Rooms of national television daytime and talk shows, to reach celebrities, media influencers and style makers. Cohn got the drinks into gift baskets for the private dressing rooms of 300 stars over three months. Actor Adrian Brody (a self-professed health and vitamin nut) actually contacted the agency - to ask for more. Contact: lcohn@steelerose comm.com Name: Ryan A. Jimenez Title: Press Secretary, Communications Director Company: California First Lady Maria Shriver Age: 29 Ryan Jimenez has had a star-studded career already at the age of 29, managing public relations for productions involving Mary Steenburgen, John Goodman and Alicia Silverstone. He is directing public relations for the Geffen Playhouse's LA premiere of Sam Shepard's The God of Hell, and serves as Press Secretary and Communications Director for California First Lady Maria Shriver. Previously, Jimenez managed public relations for productions featuring such musical luminaries as Yo-Yo Ma, Renee Flemming, James Brown and Herbie Hancock. When former President Bill Clinton did a visiting lecture as part of the Music Center of Los Angeles' Speaker's Series, Jimenez worked on the media campaign as a consultant, and he has worked for two years on PR for the annual Art+Design Walk. Not only has his work been high-profile, but it's also been acknowledged for its high caliber. The launch of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles earned his team three PRSA-LA Prism Awards and two Awards of Excellence. In addition, he helped publicize the re-launch of the renovated Hollywood Bowl and bolstered the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association's minority press outreach programs, as well as managing media relations for the Building Music Project. But it's not all about fame and fortune for Jimenez. He gives back to his community, donating $10,000 of pro bono PR counsel every year to a non-profit organization. He has worked for the past two years with the Urban Education Partnership in Los Angeles. This lecturer in the USC Annenberg School of Journalism's Public Relations sequence also has taught modules in arts and education public relations, as well as media relations. Contact: ryanajimenez@yahoo.com Name: Lucy Allen Title: Vice President Company: Lewis Global Public Relations Age: 32 Lucy Allen has made great strides in her first decade in PR. She is in charge of Lewis PR's San Fancisico office and U.S. account servicing, developed the firm's core account management methodology and helped win three important campaigns for the company's London office (SAP, CMGLogica and British Telecom). Her recent successes include positioning Airgo Networks as the top developer of wireless chips and leading the media launch of Tello, a developer of instant communication and collaboration products. But the achievement of which Allen is most proud is the dramatic growth of the San Francisco office, where the headcount rose by 50% in the past year alone. "We've moved into new space, won great new clients, hired some fantastic people, built formal HR and IT departments, grown our reputation locally, won several awards, and executed some exciting business and trade media campaigns," she says. It hasn't all been a bed of roses, unless you count the thorns. "My biggest mistake was underestimating the recruitment challenge that hit Silicon Valley PR firms in 2006," she says. She learned to approach recruiting as if it were a PR campaign. Allen notes that PR pros can't continue to rely on tried and true methods. "'Old school' PR is being replaced by an altogether more energetic approach, where values such as speed prevail and an international outlook is vital," she says. "This is good news for the industry," because it will continue to draw bright, ambitious people and raise levels of professionalism and innovation. Her best advice? "Keep an open mind, work hard, show willingness and see everything as an opportunity." Contact: lucya@lewispr.com Name: Haris Tajyar Title: Founder and President Company: Investor Relations International Age: 31 Tajyar cut his teeth in PR as an administrative assistant for the Financial Relations Board (FRB), now owned by Weber Shandwick. He was 18. By the time he was 23, he had graduated with honors from California State University in Northridge and was the youngest vice president ever at FRB. When Weber Shandwick let go most of FRB's executives after the acquisition, the company asked Tajyar to stay, but he was more interested in starting his own firm. He was 26. Since then, Entrepreneur magazine has named Investor Relations International one of the fastest growing private companies in America. This year, the company will be on the magazine's annual "Hot 100" list for the second consecutive year, at the grand old age of five. Tajyar says "placing investor relations as a growing and important industry on the map" is among his best achievements. But it nearly didn't work out that way. "I started diverting away from what I was great at, investor relations," he says. "I started dabbling into the commodities market, where oil cost me nearly the entire shop." He learned to spend his time and energy truly mastering his topic. He gives credit to Daniel Saks, now vice president, finance and investor relations for Taro Pharmaceutical. "Dan cared more about my well-being than my potential contributions to [FRB at the time]," says Tajyar - a faith that resulted in his becoming a vice president at FRB. He tells young PR pros to aim high. "Never think as PR practitioner, as they are expendable," he warns. "Act as a CEO - albeit with a PR practitioner's badge - that has the ability to execute a unique, creative, productive PR campaign on the spot and without his PR firm - which, of course, he would never do." Contact: htajyar@irintl.com Name: Jim O'Leary Title: Headquarters Spokesperson, Honeywell Hometown Solutions Company: Honeywell Age: 26 Most veteran executives will tell you to follow your passion, and the success will come naturally. "I've always been interested in public policy and public affairs," says Jim O'Leary. "In 2002, I did an internship in Burson-Marsteller's Public Affairs practice and was instantly addicted." Now, he spearheads award-winning CSR programs for Honeywell Hometown Solutions. "FMA Live! Where Science Rocks," a traveling multimedia science concert, uses live performers, hip-hop music, videos and scientific demonstrations to teach students about Newton's Laws. (See PR News, 9/25/06, for a profile of the campaign, which earned an honorable mention in this year's PR Platinum awards.) Among other challeges last year, he led a global communications assessment for Honeywell Aerospace, a $10 billion business unit. "I visited about 20 company sites worldwide in less than six weeks," while doing his regular job. "I learned what it's like working from random locations 24 hours a day, seven days a week." He has learned much from his co-workers. "I've been really lucky to have two great mentors," he says. "My boss, Michael Holland, taught me how to be a leader as well as how to navigate the halls of corporate America - not an easy task. My first boss, Jim Cunningham, taught me to think on my feet and have confidence in myself." The secrets of his success boil down to three maxims: First, be prepared to work if you want to get ahead . Next, roll with the punches. And last but not least, be your own advocate. "When the time is right, don't hesitate to tactfully remind your superiors of your accomplishments to set yourself apart," O'Leary recommends. "But don't overdo it." Contact: jim.oleary@honeywell.com Name: Carrie L. Strehlau Title: Media Specialist, Public Relations Department Company: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Age: 29 Carrie Strehlau has turned her career transition into a mission. "My first job, although in a communications department, focused on writing for its magazine, and I was a news editorial/magazine major in college. I learned public relations as I worked in that department," she says. What keeps Strehlau in PR is her job at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. "I believe you have to love and believe in where you work just as much as what you do there." In 2004, Strelhau pitched a story to a new teen magazine. "They kept the pitch until this year, and wrote an amazing story about one of the St. Jude patients. The patient was thrilled to be featured, and I was honored to have helped facilitate that." St. Jude was in a unique position to help children with cancer in the Gulf Coast region when Hurricane Katrina hit. The team minimized gaps in treatment for young patients who were evacuated to a St. Jude facility in Baton Rouge, LA. But first they had to convey the message to the Gulf Coast medical centers and hospitals that they were making the aid available. Strehlau developed strategies to reach families who had lost their homes and trained non-media relations staff to post press releases, gather information and spread it to the media. As word traveled, it trickled down to rescuers and others who were in contact with the hurricane victims. Pediatric cancer patients and their families heard the message and made their way to St. Jude. She produces a weekly radio sound bite called "St. Jude Medical Minute," which reached 26 million listeners last year, and contributes to the hospital's Promise magazine, which educates the public about research and medical care at St. Jude; it has reached more than 13 million readers. Contact: carrie.strehlau@stjude.org Name: Kristin Warterfield Title: Associate Director of Public Relations Company: Feed the Children Age: 25 Feed the Children has seen more media exposure this past year than in its previous, 26-year history, largely thanks to the efforts of Kristin Warterfield, who was hired straight out of school. Warterfield tells the story of an African toddler who was mauled by dogs after being abandoned in a trash heap at birth. "When I met four-year-old Daniel Wachira, I knew the best thing I could do for him would be to create a storm of media exposure," she says. She flew to Nairobi to hold an international press conference. Next, she scheduled one-on- one interviews across the U.S., generating 10,000 stories. Daniel has since received his first, free craniofacial reconstructive surgery, and his dream - to have a face that isn't "broken" - is coming true. Warterfield is grateful to mentor Larry Jones, president and co-Founder of Feed The Children. "Before...I had no clue what a 'white balance' was, nor did I fully understand how to say exactly what you want to say in an interview," she says. "I have learned so much from him." She's also adjusting to the realities of making pitch calls and being ready to give up her personal life when she's needed. But she says, PR pros should not forget to have fun in this great career. "Many companies are just starting to fully understand the true power of PR and how persuasive PR professionals are," she concludes. "We probably have the 'hottest' and fastest growing profession." Contact: kristin.warterfield@feedthechildren.org Name: Christy Phillips Title: Spokeswoman, Corporate Communications Company: Wachovia Corporation Age: 32 In 2005, Wachovia made the controversial decision to outsource a number of jobs, opening the company to negative perceptions. Christy Phillips earned her stripes with a comprehensive communications plan that increased awareness and understanding of outsourcing and offshoring by employees and the media. Not only did she execute the plan, but she also consulted and coached internal leaders and devoted substantial time and energy to increase understanding among the press. Phillips took a chance early in the campaign by making the head of technology available for a Q&A with the hometown newspaper. The interview went well, and Wachovia was positioned as an open, forthright and thoughtful company. Phillips is also the company's crisis management professional, whether she's handling fallout from 9/11 or executive changes. As the point person for corporate communications for the security and incident management departments, she always garners positive feedback. Her challenges have included such corporate issues and crises as customer data breaches, anthrax scares, fraud, bomb scares, pandemic planning, large regulatory settlements and legal issues. Phillips helped integrate a new CFO when the existing executive left to pursue a position with another company, guiding news reporting and employee knowledge, introducing the new CFO in a positive way, and providing a clear picture of the transition plan. She was also on the spot with a plan when Wachovia acquired Golden West, getting the right messages out during a seven-day nonstop work-a-thon of strategizing. Her planning resulted in clear, consistent media coverage that presented the acquisition in a positive and prominent way despite the extremely short lead time. Contact: christyphillips@wachovia.com Name: Emily Buchanan Title: Vice President Company: MWW Group Age: 31 Emily Buchanan is the PR equivalent of a Big Mac, supersized, with a drink and fries. Certainly, as an outstanding client manager and expert in the restaurant and food service field, she was a natural fit for the McDonald's account. The burger giant had fallen on hard times in the New York Tri-State region, with slumping sales and fierce competition. She created a marketing communications program that targeted McDonald's two biggest assets: its restaurants and its charitable work. Her campaign, "Community Service is a Team Sport," tapped celebrities and sports stars and encouraged young people to raise money and volunteer for local Ronald McDonald House Charities. It garnered more than 506 million media impressions, with 354 minutes of positive publicity on TV and radio. But Buchanan is good for more than burgers and fries. In fact, she makes herself an expert in every field where she has a client. This multi-tasker leads teams in the New Jersey and New York offices of MWW Group, and when Amazon.com wanted to promote the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, she positioned Amazon.com as the resource for all things Potter. "I'm so proud to be a part of the company's success," says Buchanan. "We were named Agency of the Year by The Holmes Report and PR News and have achieved some recent marquee client wins: Samsung, Volkswagen, Sun Microsystems....I feel like I'm having an impact in the future of our business." She adds, "The argument for generating buzz is bigger than ever - social networking, blogs, Web sites, mobile technologies and other new media are the new 'influentials.' Clients can't afford to be silent. And PR practitioners need to learn how to join in the dialogue or risk being left behind." Contact: ebuchanan@mww.com Name: Jeffrey DeMarrais Title: General Manager, Communications Company: GE Plastics Age: 35 Jeffrey DeMarrais grew up in a PR household. His father was the head of sports information for Columbia University and worked in PR agencies in New York City. While in college, Jeffrey worked in the sports information office, got an internship at NBC for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, and "was hooked." In 2005, DeMarrais joined GE Plastics, a leading provider of engineering thermoplastics materials solutions. "The global communications team plays a real leadership role in enhancing GE Plastics' image and reputation," he says. But three months after DeMarrais started, the group lost its PR lead, Bob Hess, to a stroke. "We lost a legendary PR leader, a great team member and friend, and we're still feeling shockwaves," he says, but it taught him to: "(1) treat and support your team like family; and (2) cross-train in a variety of PR and communications skills and learn everything about your business/client as quickly as you can" to avoid the problems inherent in a "silo" model. Last year, he was drawn into hurricane relief efforts at a GE Plastics plant, helping communicate to employees, working with media and briefing business and company leadership., He led an initiative to co-brand sports equipment for the 2006 Olympic Games, with the tagline: "Made with GE Plastics." DeMarrais notes that "PR is the core competency upon which the rest of my experience is built. If I'm stuck with an employee communications or marketing communications problem, I can often solve it by putting my PR hat on and working the issue from that angle." Contact: jeffrey.demarrais@ge.com Name: Holly Minch Title: Executive Director Company: Communications Leadership Institute Age: 31 Holly Minch loves nonprofits. "Once I got into nonprofit work, PR just seemed like a natural way to extend the reach of the organizations," she says. "I'm a professional do- gooder who happens to be a decent 'flack.'" At 21, she started working at the Sierra Club's press office. Two years later, she joined the SPIN Project, a nonprofit group that offers low-cost strategic communications consulting, training, coaching to social justice organizations. By the time she was 27, she was director and sole fundraiser for its $1 million annual budget. "This year, the SPIN Project merged with the Communications Leadership Institute, where I am now the director," she says. She also assumed leadership of the CLI's executive training program and has garnered rave reviews from clients . "I've probably made a million mistakes," Minch admits, referring parenthetically to a story about switching Senate candidate John Edwards' photo with a photo of a local real estate agent - also named John Edwards - in a campaign brochure. But the lessons she has learned have built on her teamwork skills. Colleagues have been there for her. Kim Haddow, Sierra Club communications director, taught her: "If you aren't enjoying yourself doing this work, you are doing it wrong." Minch has her own words to live by: "Throw yourself into a job you love, and opportunities will find you." Contact: holly@smartcommunications.org Name: Jackson Jeyanayagam Title: Account Manager Company: Waggener Edstrom Age: 28 When Jackson Jeyanayagam was a junior at the University of Oregon, a friend told him that "public relations was all about meeting new people, wining and dining important folks and schmoozing." He started taking PR classes, joined PRSSA, was elected vice president of public relations for his fraternity and interned in the PR department of the McKenzie Willamette Hospital. "I found out very quickly that PR wasn't what I thought it was," he says, "but I was still very interested because of the many different disciplines I could work in." It's fortunate for Waggener Edstrom that Jeyanayagam pursued PR. Last year, he helped grow the company's consumer marketing practice and worked to develop and build its capabilities beyond traditional PR, winning an important client along the way: HTC. He also helped develop the agency's event marketing and event planning capabilities through successful events for T-Mobile. "Within four months, we secured additional budget to market and produce four media events in NYC to celebrate the launch and availability of upcoming products," he says. He is also proud of work he has done on the agency's work/life balance initiatives. "I helped spearhead a 'Dreaming Team Think Tank,' a focus group of employees dedicated to improving work/life balance at the agency. Recently, we launched the first annual 'WE Make a Difference Day,' developed to bring Waggener Edstrom employees together and lend a hand to the community." Going over budget on an event was a bit of a shock, but it taught him important lessons, too. He "implemented a much better system of tracking the budget for the next event," and kept a closer eye on how the money was being spent. The future looks bright to Jeyanayagam. "This is a great time to consider a career in PR," he says. "A lot of organizations are just now understanding the significant role PR can play in helping build their brand." Contact: jacksonj@waggeneredstrom.com

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