Keynotes

 

Greg Galant, co-Founder and CEO of Muck Rack

Gregory Galant is the co-founder and CEO of Muck Rack, a platform enabling PR teams to work together to find the right journalists for their stories, send customized pitches, build meaningful relationships with the media, monitor news and quantify their impact. It’s used by thousands of organizations, including Taco Bell, Pfizer, Golin, International Committee of the Red Cross, Knight Foundation, Kauffman Foundation and Penguin Random House. Muck Rack is also the solution of choice for journalists, who use Muck Rack’s free, automatically updated portfolios to showcase their work and provide information about what stories they’re looking for.

Greg’s also the co-creator and executive producer of The Shorty Awards, which honor the best of social media. Past winners include Lizzo, Ricky Gervais, Rebel Wilson, Trevor Noah, Conan O’Brien, Issa Rae, Marques Brownlee, Sesame Street, Neil Patrick Harris, Mike Bloomberg and NASA.

Greg is a frequent speaker and writer on topics related to social media, marketing, PR, entrepreneurship, remote work and journalism. He’s presented at SXSW, Web Summit, Harvard Business School, Le Web and The International Journalism Festival, and his columns have appeared in Fortune, Forbes and Business Insider.

Along with his companies, Greg has been cited in and interviewed by numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, Business News Daily, Editor & Publisher, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Inc., Poynter, PR News and PRWeek. BusinessWeek named him one of the “Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs,” and Crain’s honored Muck Rack as one of the “100 Best Places to Work in New York City.”

A lifelong entrepreneur who founded an internet business at age 14, Greg launched the Venture Voice podcast in 2005 to help fellow entrepreneurs learn from the experience of others who’ve built successful businesses. As part of the series, he’s interviewed founders from organizations such as Twitter, LinkedIn, The Vanguard Group, Brooklyn Brewery and more, many of whom made their podcast debut on Venture Voice. Greg has mentored startups in the TechStars accelerator, and is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO).

Greg previously worked as an associate producer at CNN, where he analyzed the latest trends in citizens’ media, and at Newlight Associates, a $120M technology venture capital fund. He received a BA in Philosophy from Emory University. After being rejected by countless secret societies, Greg secured membership in Twitter and Instagram’s exclusive first name club — follow him at @gregory on both platforms.


Kristina Brunelle, RTI International

Kristina Brunelle is a Talent Development Consultant, Executive Coach, and Master Facilitator with over 25 years of global experience in Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging (EDIB), executive coaching, and organizational development. She specializes in developing effective leaders, and helping organizations unleash the potential of their employees to achieve ambitious goals. 

Kristina’s consulting, coaching, leadership, and EDIB experiences include working at or with global companies such as RTI International, Red Hat, Vistaprint, the Forum Corporation, Ameriprise, Irving Oil, Archstone, Novell, and Cambridge Technology Partners.  She is also a fluent Spanish speaker and has delivered programs in Spain, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Venezuela, Brazil, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Canada, Jamaica, Australia, China, Africa, India, and Indonesia.

Kristina holds a master’s degree from Harvard University, a BA from Tufts University, is a certified Executive Coach through William James College (formerly The Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology) and is certified in Organizational Consulting and Change Leadership through Georgetown University.


Day 1 | Thursday, November 4, 2021

Listen, Do You Hear That? It’s Audio Changing How We Do Our Jobs

Gene Gates

Julie Gates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This duo has hosted successful morning radio shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, and Atlanta. They were named “Personality Of The Year” by the National Association of Broadcasters, and now they bring their expertise to major brands on how to use audio to connect with personas. 

Gene is a sought-after consultant for branding and podcasting by major brands like Ford, Upwork, New York Giants, and many other major brands. 

Julie is Director of Communications and Policy for Transloc, a technology company and a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford Mobility. 

Cybersecurity, Misinformation and Fake News: What Communicators Need to Know

Alexandra Merceron, Columbia University School of Professional Studies

Priya Gandhi, Fidelity Investments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexandra M. Merceron is a strategic communication professional, educator, and scholar with more than 20 years of experience helping organizations use the power of digital, social, and traditional media to influence publics and manage reputations.

Since joining Columbia’s faculty in 2017, Merceron has taught and developed courses in Strategic Communication Management, Public Relations & Corporate Communications, Communication Research & Insights and Digital Communication Strategy. She is the 2020 recipient of the Dean’s Excellence Award for outstanding teaching and embodiment of Columbia SPS values. Merceron has more than 10 years of teaching experience at the graduate, undergraduate and executive levels, and has won multiple awards for her work at Georgetown University, Boston University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Connecticut.

Merceron is also a Ph.D. candidate in Communication at the University of Connecticut where her research focuses on the adoption and effects of media and digital communication technologies in strategic communication. She is an active member of several academic and professional organizations, including the International Communication Association, Association for Educators in Journalism & Mass Communication, National Communication Association, Public Relations Society of America, and American Marketing Association. 

Priya Gandhi is a 20+ year technology enthusiast focusing the last 12 years within the Cyber Security arena primarily within Identity Access Management and SaaS security. 

Started my career working at Sears & Roebuck in their call center and gradually made my way to working at multiple fortune 500 companies like Citrix, VeriSign, Norton etc. and even the FCC where I managed multimillion-dollar programs. Through my career I’ve helped define and deliver products strategy and roadmaps making sure the voice of the customer is always heard. I joined Fidelity 6 years ago to build their privileged access management platform and was able to build a holistic, multi-tier program. My current focus is re-engineering and designing enterprise workflows with a security mindset to help eliminate redundant processes and improve overall customer experience.

Inclusive Communications with Integrated Technology

Paul Jones, Butterball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Jones is the Manager of Organizational Engagement at Butterball and oversees the company’s internal communications, inclusion and change enablement initiatives. Prior to joining Butterball, Paul led marketing and strategic communication efforts at the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He received his master’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Meredith College and earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications from N.C. State University. He currently lives in Raleigh with his wife, two children, an old Yorkie mutt and two hermit crabs.

Diversifying the PR Profession: Opportunities Today to Create More Equity, Inclusion and Innovation

Crystal Borde, Vanguard Communications

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crystal Borde is a Vice President and leader of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Practice at Vanguard Communications, a public relations and social marketing agency based in Washington, D.C. Crystal applies a DEI lens to her strategic communications counsel and campaign planning for government agencies, nonprofit organizations, foundations, and associations addressing such social issues as environmental and racial justice, sustainable agriculture, mental health, substance use prevention, food security, and education equity. Currently, she serves as a director on the PRSA National Capital Chapter Board of Directors and is an active member of the chapter DEI committee. In 2021, she was recognized as a DEI Champion by the Ragan Communications and PR Daily’s Top Women in Communications Awards and as a Top Woman in PR Awards by PR News in the Changemaker category. Crystal is a mentor and trainer for Vanguard’s Comunicadores for the Future program — in partnership with The George Washington University’s Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute — which provides paid communications internships with nonprofit organizations in the D.C. metro area to invest in the future workforce and increase diversity in the communications, PR and marketing fields.


Day 2 | Friday, November 5, 2021

Artificial Intelligence: The Impact of Communications Strategies

Alexandra Merceron, Columbia University School of Professional Studies

Maggie Armstrong, IBM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexandra M. Merceron is a strategic communication professional, educator, and scholar with more than 20 years of experience helping organizations use the power of digital, social, and traditional media to influence publics and manage reputations.

Since joining Columbia’s faculty in 2017, Merceron has taught and developed courses in Strategic Communication Management, Public Relations & Corporate Communications, Communication Research & Insights and Digital Communication Strategy. She is the 2020 recipient of the Dean’s Excellence Award for outstanding teaching and embodiment of Columbia SPS values. Merceron has more than 10 years of teaching experience at the graduate, undergraduate and executive levels, and has won multiple awards for her work at Georgetown University, Boston University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Connecticut.

Merceron is also a Ph.D. candidate in Communication at the University of Connecticut where her research focuses on the adoption and effects of media and digital communication technologies in strategic communication. She is an active member of several academic and professional organizations, including the International Communication Association, Association for Educators in Journalism & Mass Communication, National Communication Association, Public Relations Society of America, and American Marketing Association. 

After graduating with a Master’s in Mass Communications from the University of South Carolina, Maggie Mae began her marketing career in PR, supporting brands like Volvo, Michelin, and Owens Corning, before moving into more creative roles in advertising, branding, messaging, and web development. From building demand generation programs for Syngenta and BASF, to building websites for Biscuitville and Tampa General Hospital, she has remained focused on creating meaningful digital experiences, which led her to joining the content marketing world at IBM.

The Age of Influencers: Who They Are and How to Leverage Them in PR

Katie Baleno, Racepoint Global

Stephanie Styons, Racepoint Global

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katie is responsible for content development, event coordination, announcement support and managing media and influencer relations on her teams. She is always looking for ways to build positive relationships with key media and influencers with the goal of earning coverage on behalf of her clients. Katie is experienced in fast-paced, high pressure scenarios and is passionate about telling the stories that matter.

Stephanie works on emerging companies and global corporations, developing and executing communications programs and campaigns that elevate corporate brands, as well as executive and product profiles. A true believer in partnering with her client, Stephanie understands the long-term strategy required to effectively promote an organization or brand, and possesses the quick thinking needed to handle immediate communications efforts.

Business for Good: Crafting a CSR Strategy that Builds Public Trust and Boosts Community Impacts

Amber Smith, Activate Good

Varsha Chawla, Activate Good

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amber Smith is the Founder and Executive Director of Activate Good, a nonprofit that mobilizes thousands of volunteers to improve the community through people-powered projects for good in The Triangle. A graduate of NC State University, Amber was honored to receive Wake County’s Commission for Women Award, the Independent Weekly Citizen Award, Leadership Triangle’s Goodmon Award, and recognition as part of Triangle Business Journal’s 40 under 40 for her work promoting a culture of service in the Triangle. Her writing about service and leadership, social innovation, and nonprofits has appeared in Fast Company, the Philanthropy Journal, The Nonprofit Revolution by Wethos, the Journal of Financial Planning, and other media. In 2017, Amber was appointed a commissioner on the North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service by Governor Roy Cooper and continues her service on the commission today. Above all, Amber is on a mission to ensure every person realizes their potential to change the world!

With her multicultural upbringing and over 17 years of experience across a variety of senior roles in the technology industry, Varsha is passionate about helping people from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life. Along with serving on the advisory board of a high growth software startup, Varsha is eager to give back to her local community by volunteering with many local organizations such as Activate Good, Note in the Pocket, and the Duke Technology Scholars program. She is committed to making life easier for working moms and is a proud mentor of female students. Furthermore, her experiences with those on the autism spectrum have amplified her desire and work towards an inclusive society. Varsha holds a BS in Computer Science and an MBA.

How Brands are Getting Real with Virtual, Augmented and XR

Mack Garrison, dash

David Hamilton, Lenovo

Brett Amcall, Better Than Unicorns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mack Garrison is the Founder and Executive Producer of dash: a high-end animation and motion design studio built around creating incredible content. Mack is a Raleigh native, NC State College of Design graduate, with over 10 years of experience making things happen in the motion design industry. His business drive and creative knowledge are a rare combination that enables him to bridge the gap between clients and creatives to produce high-quality content that stands out from the crowd. His portfolio of clients include IBM, BASF, J.P Morgan, Lowe’s, Lenovo, Coca Cola, The YMCA, Riot Games, US Bank, and more. 

A storyteller at heart, David Hamilton believes that you have to simultaneously inform and entertain people if you want to get their attention. He puts this belief into action everyday as the Senior Communications Manager, North America at Lenovo. In this role, David develops and drives the external communications strategy to enhance the reputation of Lenovo, its products, and its executives as leaders in tech innovation. He has a proven track record of developing strategic PR campaigns that build brand recognition, increase awareness, and generate favorable media coverage. He has worked in public relations since 2014 and was previously a television host and reporter for several national networks and local affiliates for more than a decade. When he’s not working, David enjoys exploring the Triangle with his wife and friends.

Brett A McCall is the Founder and CEO of Better Than Unicorns, a firm with decades of experience utilizing play and reflective conversations to create embodied experiences through virtual reality that strengthen empathy for issues, communities, and movements. Brett has provided creative and engaging digital experiences for brands such as Coca-Cola, GE Aviation, Eastman/Kodak, and Tempur Sealy. Specifically, his work with the executive team from Eastman/Kodak provided a massive team-building experience that helped them catch blindspots on their team and elevate new strategies for innovation! His strategic superpower is discovering custom solutions to communications challenges through the use of wonder and play. He is the author of the upcoming book, Wonder and Play, Your Greatest Superpowers.