Back2Basics Agenda

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8-9 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast

9-10 a.m. Breakout Sessions

Basic Consumer Marketing as a Public Safety Tool

The main goal of public information in emergency management response is to get “the right information, to the right people, at the right time, so that they can make the right decisions.” Sometimes to be truly effective, you must work outside the boundaries of common procedure and adapt the techniques and strategies of what works in other’s fields. This case study examines various government standards versus private sector marketing techniques that have both been adapted to work in pursuing the ultimate goal of public safety.

Michael Emory is director of public information for Pitt County, where he helps develop, implement and maintain strategies for public safety communications during disasters and works to improve messaging efficiency through social media and a Joint Information Center. He has completed nearly two dozen FEMA and Emergency Management Institute training programs, and is a recent graduate of the Master Public Information Officer (MPIO) program.

Social Media Intelligence vs. Listening.  What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?

Thought leadership is fundamental to establishing and building brand equity within social media. While social media news feeds are extremely competitive, practitioners are all faced with the tall task of creating content that reaches their audience, is relevant and resonates. Are you leveraging social media listening to strengthen your brand equity across social media? If not, it’s time to start and, if so, how are you measuring success? This session will provide you with tools to establish a social media intelligence program and a solid social media infrastructure.

Nicholas Love is digital engagement strategy director at G&S Communications where he uses both strategic and “hands-on” tactical skills to deliver high impact communications and marketing solutions. He most recently led the Social Media Strategy Hub at NC State University and has presented in multiple Hootsuite webinars and at several conferences. He is a two-time graduate of Grambling State University and served as on-air talent with ESPN. 

Everything You Wanted to Know About Video

Producing video doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. Even if you’ve never been part of the production process before, you’ll leave this session armed with the right questions to ask, numbers to crunch, vendors to consider and a whole lot more! Video is scalable, so whether you have a huge budget or none at all, this session will help you discern your production options and best next steps.

Jessica Woodbury is a video producer who has coordinated television shows for NBC Universal, ABC, CBS and Warner Brothers. She more recently co-produced the feature documentary, “Daylight Come,” and short film, “Times Like Dying,” which received numerous awards, including the Great Commission Award and Best Short Film, respectively. Having worked extensively on the client, agency and freelance sides of communications and marketing, Woodbury is an expert at helping organizations use video to tell their stories in unique and creative ways.

10-10:15 a.m. Morning Break

10:15-11:15 a.m. Breakout Sessions

The Eye of the Storm: How Integrated Crisis Communications Planning Helped Wilmington and Beaches Recover from Hurricane Florence

The Wilmington area was the site of landfall for Hurricane Florence in September 2018. The area is heavily reliant on tourism, so the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau (WCVB) knew its marketing efforts would be crucial to helping the tourism community recover. WCVB and French/West/Vaughan developed a multi-phase, integrated marketing plan before the storm hit to not only accurately showcase the destination’s status following the storm, but also welcome visitors back and encourage visitation for the remainder of 2018 and beyond. This session will highlight the value of strategic crisis communications planning, tips for remaining nimble as a crisis unfolds and the importance of an integrated plan even in the face of a crisis, with an emphasis on influencer marketing was used to announce Wilmington was re-open for business.

Leah Knepper is vice president at French/West/Vaughn. Knepper currently manages accounts including the Wilmington and Beaches CVB, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Concord Hospitality and others. She graduated from Wake Forest University with a B.A. in communications and minors in journalism and politics. Abigail Quesinberry is social media and influencer marketing at French/West/Vaughan.

Free the Mimosa: A Case Study

This engaging session will walk through the lessons of the successful campaign to change the blue laws in North Carolina. Targeted Persuasion spearheaded a grassroots campaign funded by the National Restaurant Association to adjust the laws governing North Carolina’s alcohol sales on Sundays. Before the successful campaign, restaurants and grocers could not sell alcoholic beverages before a certain time on Sunday mornings. Now, the law of the land allows for alcoholic purchases on Sunday mornings; the mimosa has been freed!

Jeff Tippett is a principal at Targeted Persuasion, an award-winning public affairs and communications firm he founded in 2014. Tippett has worked with brands such as Airbnb, The National Restaurant Association, The League of Women Voters and The League of Conservation Voters, plus others. He has received numerous awards, including The American Advertising Award.

Take Your Stakeholders from “Aware” to “Champion” on the Engagement Continuum 

Every business has stakeholders vital to its success. These stakeholder groups – whether in the form of a corporate board of directors, elected officials, the press or any number of other groups – impact your ability to achieve your business goals. In this presentation, attendees will learn the value of a stakeholder engagement plan and see the basic building blocks to identify, map, educate and engage the stakeholders most important to a company’s bottom line. You’ll explore best practices for moving stakeholders from “aware” to “champion” on the stakeholder continuum.

Erin Smith is president of BAERING, which she originally joined in 2010 as an account executive. She prefers working directly with clients and has been a key player behind the growth of the firm. Prior to her time with BAERING, she presented on behalf of SMPS—Triangle Chapter, Speakers Bureau for the American Red Cross, IABC, the Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce and numerous colleges and universities.

Elizabeth Kadick, account director, leads BAERING’s client team in the strategy, development and execution of strategic communications, branding and creative campaigns and initiatives. Elizabeth has worked with corporations, government agencies, trade associations and non-profits across industries on reputation management campaigns. Elizabeth joined BAERING after having spent time in Washington, DC with a PR firm, on Capitol Hill and in the New York State Legislature.

11:30-1 p.m. Luncheon

The Convergence of PR and Marketing: What to Expect and How to Adapt

Errol Cockfield, senior vice president of communications, MSNBC

Over the past decade, the lines between public relations and marketing have blurred, with digital technologies driving a growing emphasis on content, influencers, social media and SEO results.  As a result, companies increasingly expecting PR to perform with a marketing impact. Join Errol Cockfield as he discusses what trends to watch out for in this transformation and how PR professionals can adapt and respond to the convergence of PR and marketing.

Cockfield currently serves on the PRSA Board of directors. In his MSNBC role, he is responsible for setting the communications and media strategy and partnering with editorial and business leads at MSNBC, where he also serves as lead spokesperson. Cockfield previously led the New York crisis management team for Edelman and served as press secretary to two New York governors.  A journalist by training, he spent a dozen years as a reporter for the LA Times, the Hartford Courant and Newsday where he was the Statehouse Bureau Chief.

Cockfield is also a media trainer, executive coach, diversity advocate and works to equip PR professionals with the tools needed to succeed in rapidly changing environments. He is a graduate of Stony Brook University.

1:15-2:15 p.m. Breakout Sessions

No Dust on Our Strategic Plan: Integrating Our Vision into How We Do Business

Is your organization’s strategic planning an exercise in creating a dust catcher on a bookcase? In 2015, the Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON) underwent a year-long strategic planning process that engaged more than 6,000 stakeholders that resulted in a four-year vision for the School built on six focus areas, 23 specific goals and 58 strategies. Learn what worked and what didn’t as one of the nation’s leading academic institutions wrestled with the common problem of how to use existing resources to not only generate awareness and participation in the planning process, but also ensure on-going support from key constituencies.

Michael Evans, MEd, APR, is assistant dean of communications, marketing and business development at Duke University School of Nursing, where he leads the School’s internal and external communications channels, national brand development, marketing and student recruitment-advertising programs.  His 30-year career includes multinational corporations, PR and advertising agencies, associations and educational systems. He holds an MEd from North Carolina State University and a BA from The Ohio State University.

Brand Stories Beyond the Press Release: Building an Impactful Global Newsroom

In June 2018, Lenovo launched StoryHub to replace its global newsroom—a strategic pivot away toward creating compelling editorial content. In the past year, we set strategic goals, established editorial standards, built a functional content pipeline, redesigned the original site and migrated to a new platform, and continuously honed our approach based on both data and qualitative feedback. Join us for a trip through that tumultuous year, complete with hard-earned practical lessons and a look at our vision for the future of brand storytelling.

Justin Eure is editorial director and Hollyn Phelps is social strategy and content manager at Lenovo. Eure has an extensive background as a trained storyteller, PR professional and brand advocate that includes science reporting and in-house PR for Brookhaven National Lab and digital strategy at IQVIA. He joined Lenovo to elevate the company’s global newsroom, launching StoryHub, which Holly Phelps now leads.

Media Relations 101: Creating Lasting Connections

In the age of technology and the ever-evolving state of the media, creating solid relationships with journalists is key. Many journalists prefer and appreciate a human connection! Learn how to create lasting relationships with members of the media that will benefit your clients and make your job a little easier.

Melinda Jackson is owner of Melinda Jackson Public Relations. She has more than 10 years of experience in the industry and takes an untraditional approach to public relations, social media, branding and influencer marketing that has led to GRAMMY & PRSA Award winning campaigns and a proven track record of helping clients grow their businesses and careers.

2:15-2:30 p.m. Afternoon Break

2:30-3:30 p.m. Breakout Sessions

Most People Are Not Like You: A Guide to PR Measurement in a Diverse World

Two areas of PR that continue to be a challenge for most practitioners: measurement and a better understanding of diverse audiences and the creative, tactical and strategic implications of working in a diverse world. Furthermore, PR continues to change rapidly, as older forms of news media relations are replaced with social and digital media realities. This hour focuses on learning how to better appreciate the diversity of modern audiences, the importance of not treating all publics or problems as being alike and recommendations on how to measure your performance in this space.

Joseph Cabosky is assistant professor at UNC Chapel Hill. His area of expertise focuses on the intersection of diverse publics and audiences, PR measurement and implications for creative work and strategy. His work is published in trade, professional and academic journals. Cabosky previously worked in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, as well as in political and community PR.

Fins Up: Small Team, Big Challenges

Baby sea turtles, smiling children and the occasional mermaid help make the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher a public relations dream job. Yet, a deeper dive reveals communications opportunities and challenges, including changing public perceptions, ever-evolving social media landscape and limited resources. Go beneath the surface of one of the state’s top attractions where a small team gets creative to successfully swim with the big sharks.

Robin Nalepa is communications manager at NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher where she manages public relations and marketing communications, including advertising, media relations, social media and website. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of South Carolina.

Cobblers Children – We Know Better, But We Don’t Make Time for Ourselves! Top Things To Do To Prepare for Your Next Role!

We know the basics of what we should do to manage our personal brand—but few of us make the time to do it!  Is your LinkedIn page updated?  Are you growing your network? Is your resume 100% current?  If you lost your job today, would you be ready? If these questions give you pause, you are not alone. Most of us are busy working hard at the job we have now.   This talk will share my personal journey and common-sense tips to grow your personal brand so you are ready for the next role, whenever it may come!

Karen Townsend Hagens is a senior director at APCO in Raleigh. She spent 15 years at GSK, where she oversaw internal and external communication efforts for US Pharma.  Prior to joining GSK, Hagens worked as a sales representative for Bayer Healthcare, and was marketing director for, a software application company. She started her career as a reporter and assignment editor for WGNO, an ABC affiliate in New Orleans, LA, and holds BA in communications/broadcast journalism from Loyola University.

3:45-4:30 Special Panels

APR: Make 2020 Your Year!

Thinking of earning your APR? We’re hosting an informative panel discussion exclusively for those interested in learning more about accreditation. The Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential certifies your drive, professionalism, and principles, setting you apart from your peers and positioning you as a leader and mentor in the competitive public relations field. Building on the foundation of your educational degree, the APR keeps you current on today’s best practices and applications in the ever-evolving communications world. Bring your questions and don’t be shy because our panelists are ready to share their experiences and help you along in your journey toward this prestigious credential.


Sarah Bruckner, associated director of Public Relations at Clean, has more than 16 years of experience handling media, crisis, external, and internal communications as well as product marketing, social media strategy, and event management. Prior to joining Clean, she was part of global communication teams at BASF, CBRE, Publicis.Sapient, PAN Communications, and World Wrestling Entertainment. Sarah received her communication undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado. She currently serves on the NCPRSA Board  and on the steering committee of the University of Colorado’s Masters of Public Relations program. 

Joseph Gaitens, APR, AIGA, is a local brand communication strategist, copywriter and creative director. He has served on the board of PRSA’s NC Chapter (NCPRSA) for eight years, including a stint as president. His B2B and B2C experience includes corporate communications and marketing (for VisionFactory, Inc.), agency/firm work (for TechKnowledge Communications, Epley Associates and The Catevo Group) and freelance assignments (for clients directly and through various marcomm agencies).

Robin Gaitens, APR, is the director of product and community communications at ViiV Healthcare, the only pharmaceutical company in the world solely focused on HIV. She develops and executes strategic communications plans that support ViiV Healthcare’s portfolio of medicines and its public affairs/community relations activities. She has held positions on the NCPRSA board and has served strategic communication roles for Management Research & Planning (Raleigh), Triangle Biomedical Sciences (Durham) and UNC Healthcare (Chapel Hill).  Prior to joining ViiV, she spent 19 years at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK; Research Triangle Park), leading product and external communications for products in the company’s U.S. Respiratory, Neurosciences, Immunology, Rare Diseases, Dermatology, Vaccines and R&D businesses.


Stephanie Llorente, APR, is the owner of Prep Communications, a consultancy that uses strategic communications to build, maintain and defend organization reputations to meet client goals. Prior to founding Prep, Stephanie managed the corporate reputation for Butterball for nearly eight years. Stephanie also owns Restored, a community that equips, encourages and engages working moms. Stephanie is currently the NCPRSA Accreditation Director and a past president of the Raleigh Public Relations Society.  Stephanie earned her bachelor’s degree in communications with a concentration in public relations from North Carolina State University. 

InSpire Awards: What Does It Take to Win?

Wondering how to fill your trophy case with coveted InSpire Awards from NCPRSA and prove your worth to clients and the C-suite? This special panel will provide information on how the awards process works and what judges are looking for. You’ll learn why an entry with a solid RPIE description is more likely to be a winner and get some tips to help you up your odds. You also will have the chance to sign up for the Awards Committee or to be a judge for another chapter.


Tracy Lathan, APR, account strategist, Clairemont Communications, is a seasoned PR and marketing professional with 18 years of experience in the field. Currently an account strategist at Clairemont Communications, Tracy provides her clients with counsel on PR initiatives ranging from media relations to social media. Prior to joining the Clairemont team, Tracy worked as a senior account executive at IMRE, after eight years at Epley Associates (later The Catevo Group). Tracy has served on the NCPRSA Board for close to 10 years.

Lyndsey Newnam, vice president, G&S Business Communications, provides strategic counsel to B2B and B2C communicators in agribusiness, horticulture, home building and financial service industries in the U.S. and globally. With more than 13 years of experience in public relations and marketing, she has a wide range of expertise in media relations, writing, event planning, digital communications and business development. Lyndsey graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Eva Hornak, APR, has been with S.T. Wooten since 2011 where her first task in the newly created communications department was to restart the company newsletter. She transformed it into an award-winning, full-color, 24-page magazine. Eva’s past experience includes various agency roles with Epley Associations (later The Catevo Group) and serving as communication manager for the Irrigation Association. Eva is a past president of NCPRSA and has served on the PRSA Southeast District board and the Raleigh Public Relations Society. She holds a bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Meredith College and a BFA in filmmaking from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.


Corinne Watson, Director of Communications, Victra, has 15 years experience in communications, driving success through strategic communications counsel. Her focus areas include: media relations, employee communications, social media, event planning and crisis communications. Currently as director of communications for Victra, a Verizon Wireless authorized retailer, Corinne manages communications for the company’s 4,700 employees across 1,100 stores. Previously, she led internal communications for Butterball, LLC, ran public relations for Kendall-Jackson, part of Jackson Family Wines and managed corporate communications at Del Monte Foods and Virgin Mobile USA. Corinne holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from North Carolina State University and is the current NCPRSA Awards Director.