Who’s Who In Corporate Hi-tech PR: Hi-tech companies play in a field that is fast and fiercely competitive. And that makes for some dazzling challenges for hi-tech PR pros. Aimee Grove and Rebecca Flass profile today’s PR movers and shaker

Hi-tech is sexy. This may not have been true in the past, but the days when technology was of interest only to IT professionals and the trade publications that covered them have passed. This is due in part to consumers’ increasing use of technology products in the home, the abundance of consumer-friendly dot-coms and excitement surrounding booming hi-tech stocks. But another important factor is that internal PR departments have helped transform the images of formally stodgy outfits into some of the most exciting companies around.

Hi-tech is sexy. This may not have been true in the past, but the days when technology was of interest only to IT professionals and the trade publications that covered them have passed. This is due in part to consumers’ increasing use of technology products in the home, the abundance of consumer-friendly dot-coms and excitement surrounding booming hi-tech stocks. But another important factor is that internal PR departments have helped transform the images of formally stodgy outfits into some of the most exciting companies around.

Hi-tech is sexy. This may not have been true in the past, but the

days when technology was of interest only to IT professionals and the

trade publications that covered them have passed. This is due in part to

consumers’ increasing use of technology products in the home, the

abundance of consumer-friendly dot-coms and excitement surrounding

booming hi-tech stocks. But another important factor is that internal PR

departments have helped transform the images of formally stodgy outfits

into some of the most exciting companies around.

Because in-house PR pros are typically more invisible to the outside

world than their agency counterparts, PRWeek polled industry insiders

and peeked behind the headlines to find the most influential, powerful

and admired professionals in corporate hi-tech PR.

Who are these movers and shakers? While backgrounds are as diverse as

the companies they work for, there are some interesting


First, a majority of those profiled (26 out of 50), and a majority of

those nominated, are women.

Second, a number of pros fell into the field entirely by accident. For

example, Michelle Moore, Dell’s VP of corporate communications, majored

in Balkan history at Stanford and got into PR because her first job was

as an office manager for a PR firm. Andy Lark, VP of global

communications for Nortel Networks, got laid off from his job as a chef

and took a night job as a janitor at a PR firm where he eventually

started writing press releases.

While about a third put in time at agencies before moving in-house, a

handful of the best and brightest entered their current positions after

careers in journalism or politics, or both.

Kathy Bushkin, chief communications officer at AOL, says that while

there may have been more of a difference between politics and hi-tech in

the past, the two are now very similar, particularly with a company like


’This medium is 24/7, and it’s like a permanent campaign,’ Bushkin


’You have to be very fast to respond to issues and shape the way they


Respect for PR

PR has always been more highly valued in the hi-tech world than in most

other industries. As Bushkin explains, ’Hi-tech has recognized from the

beginning that there’s an advantage to getting the message out and being

the first mover.’

And, unlike those in other, more tradition-bound fields such as

financial services, today’s hi-tech in-house exec is more likely to be

the CEO’s right-hand man than the Rodney Dangerfield of corporate

officers. Rare is the hi-tech leader who has yet to realize and

encourage PR’s role as a reputation and branding tool.

Wendy Ziner, director of marketing for Akamai Technologies, says she

currently reports directly to her CEO, something she hasn’t had the

opportunity to do in the past. ’I’ve never felt so plugged into the

inner workings of the business. Clearly, the more information you have,

the more intelligent you can be. It’s much more strategic.’

The lure of the start-up

One of the most striking developments in corporate hi-tech PR is the

emergence of two divergent career tracks, each with its own set of

expectations and benchmarks. Unlike the days when nearly every ambitious

client-side tech pro strove for the top posts at blue chip companies

(IBM, Apple, Intel, Dell), many of the industry’s brightest talents now

seek positions with start-ups.

For many in the start-up set - who, by definition, have been at their

jobs only a couple of years or less - the job description has broadened

into more nontraditional PR activities, many of which blur into the

marketing realm. Also, these professionals often have hefty, VC-fueled

budgets to play with. Rather than map out global strategies, they

brainstorm blockbuster events, like the launch party for Respond.com,

which featured Cirque de Soleil acrobats, or Quokka’s press conference

on the set of Saturday Night Live, which featured appearances by Olympic


’I feel as if I’m part of a cutting-edge industry,’ says Debby Fry

Wilson, director of public and government relations for drugstore.com.

’We’re in an industry where there is no road map and there’s not some

old-fashioned way of doing things.’

Not that the big guys are languishing from a dearth of fresh blood; they

are just generally attracting a different breed. ’The corporate track

has an entirely different value system, a system where compensation is

based on worth and hard work’ over a long time, rather than a quick

stock-option hit, explains Seattle-based recruiter Judy Cushman, who

publishes an online newsletter about hi-tech PR issues. ’In these

companies, employees enter into a contract with the company that says

the employer dictates the terms. The emphasis is on linear


A further issue that bears watching: how PR execs with some of today’s

hottest upstarts will be able to adjust as these companies inevitably

expand or get gobbled up. ’There are so many start-up companies that are

going to be facing growth,’ says drugstore.com’s Fry Wilson. ’Many will

have the challenge of building a corporate communication department and

determining what the right spread of resources is. The question is: How

do you do that without building a bureaucracy and still maintain a lean

and trim PR machine?’

Broader skills

Most industry insiders believe that as the Internet market matures and

start-ups grow up into major corporations, there will be an increased

need for communications pros with broader skills in branding and

positioning rather than nuts-and-bolts media relations. Finding these

professionals might prove difficult, as those on the start-up track tend

to concentrate on tactical matters before cashing out, and those on the

corporate track may not prove a great fit with more entrepreneurial


No matter what track a corporate PR pro chooses, a division is emerging

along age lines in the hi-tech arena. Obviously, as execs get older and

start families, the idea of putting in 100-hour weeks and taking huge

risks becomes less enticing. ’That’s when people start looking at the

more mature companies that might be able to offer options like flex-time

and telecommuting, things that start-ups cannot,’ Cushman says. That’s

also a time when those on the start-up track - who haven’t made millions

on an IPO - start flocking back to agencies, which can be equally

generous in such soft benefits, especially since most do not offer stock


Keeping up with the Internet

One reality that presents tremendous challenges for PR pros is the

merger and acquisition activity in the hi-tech space. It’s a rare

in-house hi-tech PR pro who hasn’t had a brush with at least one

acquisition. (Geoff Kerr, VP of corporate communications at USWeb/CKS,

has dealt with more than 30.) The speed at which these events take place

also puts more stress on the internal PR structure.

For example, within four months, Stamps.com launched, entered into a

dollars 56 million deal with AOL, bought Internet-based shipping company

iShip and spun off EncrypTix, its online ticket business, according to

Seth Oster, senior director of corporate communication. ’How do you keep

pace with a company that is growing this fast?’ Oster asks.

Indeed, more than almost any other industry, the hi-tech community

places an emphasis on speed, and the pace has become even more


’Four or five years ago we were dealing with monthly and weekly

publications, and now there are minute-by-minute and second-by-second

reports,’ says Larry Sennett, Hewlett-Packard’s communications manager

for its office of the president and CEO. ’We need to examine what we say

and how it will be interpreted, because we don’t have time to go back

and say, ’We don’t want it put that way.’’

Due to the pervasive influence of the Web and real-time media around the

globe, communications has become even more critical. ’If the whole

Internet phenomena hasn’t shown the increasing importance of PR in the

marketing mix, I don’t know what will,’ Sennett says. ’As people begin

to see more and more examples of how PR has impacted share price and the

percentage of visibility on the outside, the last hold-outs are going to

start getting it.’

Adds Reed Byrum, director of corporate PR at Electronic Data Systems

(EDS): ’People now know more than ever before about your company.

Shareholders can download your annual report and see your financials,

and that means PR professionals have higher obligations and need to have

a higher standard for all outgoing communications.’

Communications is complicated by the globalization of these


Centralizing the PR function to make sure the company issues consistent

messages worldwide is an increasing challenge for today’s hi-tech

professionals on the client side. For example, Nortel’s Lark says his

company has operations in 39 countries and a communications staff of

more than 100. To help get everyone on the same page, one of his main

charges has been to consolidate its number of outside agencies from 29

to about two or three worldwide.

Another reason for the emphasis put on PR in these companies is the

increasing interest in technology itself, particularly among the

financial media.

’The business press fulfills the role that the trade press used to,’

says David Abramson, director of corporate communications for Juniper


’They go much farther down into the weeds than they used to and are not

just glossing over technical things.’

Communications will always be important in a crisis, of course, and

hi-tech companies have had their share. For example, Yvonne Donaldson,

director of corporate communications for Tivoli, was at Compaq during an

era of stock problems, lawsuits and product recalls.

’Things can get pretty edgy,’ admits Donaldson, adding that the company

had to deal with more than 50,000 products that were found to have

plug-in adapters that could cause electrocution if used improperly. ’We

had a number of discussions with product people who wanted to mitigate

the damage to the company. There was not only significant revenue

impact, but impact to our reputation with our customers.’

Other challenges in-house pros in hi-tech companies face: agencies are

morphing from tacticians to strategy wonks, leaving the relatively small

corporate departments very busy. While many corporate in-house

departments have a fair number of employees, some, particularly

start-ups, are operating with only a handful - or, in the case of Red

Hat, with one. Yet as the companies themselves get larger, the PR pros

have to focus more on internal communications to keep the culture


Reaping the benefits

On the bright side, it’s a financially lucrative time to be working in

hi-tech PR. As in agencies, demand for talent has never been stronger

and compensation has never been so rich. As Silicon Valley executive

recruiter Susan Flesher points out, ’Just like anything, when demand

exceeds supply, the price goes up. Add the fact that the perceived value

of PR has risen, and you can see why salaries are continuing to


One thing’s for certain. Despite doomsayers’ predictions that

consolidation (and possible shakeouts) in the Internet space could end

these boom times, few in the industry are losing any sleep over job

security. ’There are so many openings for good people - it’s definitely

a seller’s market, and it’s a fabulous change over several years ago,’

emphasizes Hewlett-Packard’s Sennett. The remuneration these pros enjoy

comes with many challenges - but clearly, they’re confronting them.


Name: David J. Abramson

Company: Juniper Networks

Title: Director of corporate communications

No matter what else he achieves in his PR career, David Abramson will

probably always be known as ’that guy who bought the name to Candlestick

Park.’ Abramson was corporate public affairs director for 3Com when the

then-unknown Silicon Valley company became the first tech firm to buy

into the ballpark-naming trend. According to 3Com stats, the move

translated into about dollars 500,000 worth of publicity within the

first six months. Today, Abramson heads up communications for super-hot

start-up Juniper Networks, which boasts a market cap of dollars 14

billion. Since signing on a year ago, Abramson has heralded such offbeat

marketing ideas as sponsoring the Armenian bobsled team.


Name: Lorene Arey

Company: Cisco Systems

Title: Director of executive communications and corporate public


Cisco Systems is the fastest growing company in the history of the

computer industry and the third-highest valued company in the world.

During the past six years, Lorene Arey has been instrumental in

positioning the company as a global leader in networking for the

Internet. Recent accomplishments for her 10-member corporate PR team,

which oversees worldwide media relations, executive communications and

executive technical services without the assist of a full-time agency of

record, include a recent segment on ABC’s 20/20 spotlighting CEO John

Chambers as ’the best boss in America.’ Other highlights include

BusinessWeek’s designation of Chambers as ’Mr. Internet’ as well as one

of the top 25 executives worldwide for the second time in three



Name: Richard Badler

Company: Unisys

Title: Vice president, corporate communications

Since joining Unisys in July 1998, Richard Badler has been credited with

directing the successful evolution of the company’s image from a

downtrodden manufacturer of computer hardware to an entrepreneurial

provider of information technology services and solutions. The success

of the company’s brand revitalization is partially due to Badler’s

ability to demonstrate to senior executives the impact that integrated

communications and reputation management can have on the company,

according to Chris Broderick, principal at BSMG Worldwide, which

represents Unisys. Badler oversees the corporation’s activities in the

areas of reputation management, public and media relations, consultant

relations, advertising, employee communications, corporate identity and

public affairs.


Name: Pat Becker

Company: Electronic Arts

Title: Director of corporate communications and government relations

One of the few high-ranking women in the male-dominated gaming industry,

Pat Becker is widely regarded by competitors and colleagues as the best

in the business. In the six years she’s been with Electronic Arts - the

world’s biggest developer of video games - Becker has overseen a

communications program that boosted media coverage by 100% (including

more than dollars 6 million worth of broadcast air time), helped develop

and launch the company’s first web site and drove its online privacy

policy development and compliance worldwide. Becker also served as the

key contact for government lobbying efforts. Becker recently won the

1999 Redwood City-San Mateo County Athena Award for Businesswoman of the



Name: Charles Bellfield

Company: Sega of America

Title: Director of marketing communications

At the tender age of 30, Charles Bellfield has already engineered

communications for a corporate turnaround and steered one of the most

successful consumer product launches in history. In charge of all

external communications, Bellfield drove the dollars 100 million,

six-month PR and advertising push that took Sega out of last place in

the gaming race and made its Dreamcast console one of Christmas 1999’s

must-have gifts. Not that this marcom whiz kid has any plans for slowing

down in 2000. Bellfield says he’s already gearing up to ward off

competing products coming down the pike with reinforced branding and

communications to Sega’s key customer: the 12-to-24-year-old male,

hardcore gamer.


Name: Albert ’Rusty’ Brashear

Company: Motorola

Title: Senior vice president and director, corporate communications and

public affairs

As the lead corporate communications and public affairs executive for

Motorola since 1987, Rusty Brashear is responsible for all of the PR and

issues management across the telecom giant’s operations worldwide.

However, before joining the company 13 years ago, Brashear’s experience

was concentrated in the realms of politics and journalism. Prior to

Motorola, Brashear served on the White House staff as special assistant

to President Reagan and deputy press secretary for domestic affairs.

Before that, he served as assistant to the secretary and public affairs

director for the US Department of the Interior and press director for

the EPA.


Name: Kevin Brown

Company: Inktomi

Title: Director of marketing

Not every hi-tech PR professional has a sexy, consumer-friendly brand

like Amazon.com or Yahoo! to promote. Some of the most gifted

communications pros making waves today are those, like Inktomi’s Kevin

Brown, who have found a way to make the esoteric relevant to the

business press and everyday consumers. As the first full-time employee

at what was a tiny start-up five years ago, Brown employed public

relations and marketing communications to position the company as a

pioneer in Internet infrastructure - ’a really radical idea at the

time,’ he admits. And Brown’s efforts have definitely begun to pay off.

In the past year, he has achieved what he calls his career highlight to

date: landing Inktomi on the covers of Forbes, Fortune and Business



Name: Kevin Burr

Company: Adobe Systems Title: Senior director of public relations

Long before any of the dot-coms entered the scene, Adobe Systems was

busy making a name for itself as one of Silicon Valley’s most visible

and successful players. Today it is Kevin Burr’s job to keep the mammoth

software company on its winning course, overseeing all external and

executive communications. And although Burr has been at Adobe for only a

few months, his background includes top corporate PR posts at a number

of high-profile tech companies, including Conner Peripherals and Silicon

Graphics, where he helped establish a framework to communicate the

troubled company’s turnaround.


Name: Kathy Bushkin

Company: America Online

Title: Chief communications officer and senior vice president

Forging a new medium presents tremendous challenges, but Kathy Bushkin,

who has been with AOL for more than two years, appears to be tackling

them with aplomb. She has helped shape public policy around the issue of

open access, assisted AOL in taking a strong lead in online privacy and

outlining privacy guidelines for AOL employees, and has handled

communication surrounding AOL’s numerous mergers, including ones with

CompuServe, Netscape and MovieFone(and presumably, the recently

announced merger with Time Warner as well). Previously, Bushkin was head

of the national media relations practice at Hill & Knowlton. She also

served as Sen. Gary Hart’s press secretary during his 1984 presidential



Name: Charles Byers

Company: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) North


Title: Director of communications

Few things showcase a PR pro’s media acumen better than his or her

ability to manage - and triumph over - a disaster situation. That’s why

Taiwan Semiconductor’s Charles Byers deserves more than his share of

kudos for successfully handling the company’s communications during the

massive earthquake that recently struck Taiwan. Manning the phones

around-the-clock over the 10-day period after the quake, Byers says he

did ’more than 100 interviews,’ acting as the de facto spokesperson for

Taiwan’s semiconductor industry. ’My biggest accomplishment was managing

to keep the company’s reputation above water against the odds of all the

doomsayers,’ says Byers.


Name: Reed Bolton Byrum

Company: Electronic Data Systems (EDS)

Title: Director, corporate public relations

As EDS’ top PR exec since 1998, Reed Byrum has been instrumental in the

dollars 17 billion company’s recent reorganization and repositioning

under new CEO Dick Brown. Over the past year, Byrum has created the

company’s first-ever comprehensive global strategy to raise awareness

and inform audiences about its turnaround, new corporate direction and

Y2K initiatives. As part of this, he has developed new - and repaired

old - media relationships and doubled coverage in top-tier business

publications and programs including Business Week, The Wall Street

Journal and CNBC. Prior to EDS, Byrum held a variety of corporate PR

posts and had his own agency in Silicon Valley.


Name: Paul Capelli

Company: Amazon.com

Title: Senior public relations manager

In 1999, Amazon.com proved it was far from yesterday’s news, continuing

its reign as media darling of the Internet set with more positive

coverage than ever - including the recent naming of CEO Jeff Bezos as

Time magazine’s ’Person of the Year.’ The man behind the year’s

publicity blitz was Paul Capelli, a consumer product marketing pro who

joined Amazon.com in 1998 from Ketchum to steer the company’s external

communications as it transitioned from an online bookseller to a mega

e-tailer of everything under the sun.

Working alongside corporate communications VP Bill Currie, Capelli

managed to expand Amazon’s brand awareness further and stem off

potential crises as the company faced holiday delays and shortages.


Name: Katie Cotton

Company: Apple

Title: Director of corporate communications

Few product launches in history - especially in the hi-tech arena - have

made as big a media splash as the Apple iMac. And, from a PR and

communications standpoint, Katie Cotton is the woman who made it all

happen. For the past three years, Cotton has headed up media relations,

corporate events and employee communications throughout Apple’s amazing

turnaround, largely spurred on by the 1998 iMac and ’five flavors’

debut. While Cotton is quick to credit her team and the company’s

products, it’s clear her pre-Apple agency-side experience contributed to

her success. Previously, Cotton spent several years handling interactive

entertainment and hi-tech accounts for the Los Angeles-based Killer App



Name: Patrick Di Chiro

Company: etrade

Title: Vice president, global corporate communications

As the most-visited Web destination and one of the top-five most

recognized brand names on the Internet, eTrade might seem to have little

need for skillful PR at this point. But recently appointed corporate

communications VP Patrick Di Chiro disagrees. ’When you are such a

high-profile company, you are under the microscope all the time,’ he

notes. As the point person for all of eTrade’s reputation management,

media relations, investor relations and employee communications, Di

Chiro says his primary goal is to ’enhance, promote and protect’ the

company’s image into the 21st century. The seasoned exec’s resume

includes top posts with Visa, American Express and Ketchum.


Name: Yvonne Donaldson

Company: Tivoli Systems

Title: Director, corporate communications

Tivoli Systems recruited Yvonne Donaldson following its acquisition by

IBM and during the height of its explosive growth - 200% revenue growth

and 300-plus employee expansion in less than two years. Donaldson

created the company’s first worldwide strategic PR, analyst relations

and executive communications programs and established a communications

framework that was used to direct the company’s first three corporate

acquisitions (Software Artistry, Unison Software and a unit of Mercury

Computer Systems). Before that, she spent more than six years at Compaq,

where she developed PR strategies for the company’s first-ever product

recall, which was heralded as a model for truth-telling in media



Name: Bruce Entin

Company: LSI Logic

Title: Vice president, worldwide marketing

These days in Silicon Valley, it’s not often you find a hardcore

ex-business journalist in a top corporate communications post, and even

rarer still to see one who has actually infiltrated the marketing ranks.

But LSI Logic’s Bruce Entin has done all that and more. In the 15 years

this former San Jose Mercury News tech writer has worked for the dollars

2 billion chip company, he has been credited with pioneering the

practice of making public announcements of new process technologies to

the business press and helping to create LSI’s repositioning story along

the ’System on a Chip’ theme in 1992.

Entin served as VP of corporate communications at Atari and spent seven

years as a reporter prior to joining LSI.


Name: Susan Fallon

Company: Novell

Title: Director of global market relations

After 15 years in hi-tech PR, most recently as director of global market

relations for Novell, Susan Fallon has developed a reputation for quick

thinking and a no-nonsense, results-oriented approach to


Over the past year, her efforts in media and analyst relations have paid

off with increased press coverage and a marked rise in penetration of

key messages for Novell, the world leader in directory-enabled

networking products and services. In the midst of software releases,

product launches and executive speaking engagements, she has also

tackled several crisis situations. Prior to her current position, Fallon

spent four years in corporate PR at Sun Microsystems.


Name: Judie Hayes

Company: Critical Path Title: Vice president of corporate


Taking chances has certainly paid off for Judie Hayes and Critical Path,

an Internet messaging company. Hayes saw the company through a

successful IPO in a condensed time frame and supported development of

the brand almost exclusively through PR activities. She convinced

executives to allow tech publication Red Herring to follow the company

through its quiet period and into its IPO. Following the initial IPO and

a secondary offering six weeks later, the company, which had minimal

revenue in 1998, raised dollars 250 million. The work with Red Herring

resulted in an eight-page cover story.

Company co-founder David Hayden was highlighted as one of Forbes’ ’Most

Influential People on the Internet.’ Hayes also created external

communications programs through seven merger and acquisitions over the

past nine months.


Name: Atchison Frazer

Company: Hewlett-Packard Co.

Title: Director of worldwide media relations, Enterprise and Commercial

Business Unit

New CEO Carly Fiorina may have stolen most of the headlines to date, but

Hewlett-Packard’s so-called ’e-services’ division will likely be the

real key to HP’s turnaround effort into 2000. At the helm of that unit’s

communications ship is Atchison Frazer, who joined HP last year to

direct media relations for the commercial and enterprise business led by

Ann Livermore and Nick Earle. With more than 15 years agency-side

experience (Porter Novelli, Edelman and Creamer Dickson Basford) and

corporate posts (Lexmark, IBM) under his belt, Frazer is well-equipped

for his new job.

Frazer’s career highlights include the debut of Dow Jones’ Personal

Journal in 1995 and advising CompuServe during its successful IPO in



Name: Amanda Higgins

Company: GO Network

Title: Senior PR manager

Amanda Higgins joined the GO Network (then Infoseek) in December 1997 as

the first in-house PR manager the company had employed in seven


She saw the company through its transformation from a seventh-placed

search engine to a top-five portal. The launch of the GO Network -

orchestrated by Higgins and her team, as well as the assets of partners

including Walt Disney and ABC - resulted in a one-day stock climb of

67%. Higgins also managed thorny PR issues, such as the June 1999

announcement that Disney would acquire the rest of Infoseek and form a

separate Internet division with its own trading stock and the

announcement that Infoseek CEO Harry Motro would leave the company after

the acquisition.


Name: Mark Fredrickson

Company: EMC Corp.

Title: Director of corporate communications

Mark Fredrickson is credited with helping to change the perception of

storage from an ’unsexy’ topic to a strategic technology investment, and

has positioned EMC as the leader in enterprise storage. Since he joined

the company in 1995, EMC’s annual revenues have quadrupled, its market

value has risen from dollars 5 billion to dollars 100 billion and, at

press time, the company was expected to finish 1999 as the

top-performing stock of the decade for the New York Stock Exchange, up

more than 70,000%. Fredrickson oversees a network of more than 25 PR

agencies around the world. He also handled external communication

surrounding EMC’s dissolution of its relationship with its largest OEM,



Name: Diane Hunt

Company: Yahoo! Inc.

Title: Senior director, corporate communications

As one of the most highly recognized brands on the Web, with a market

cap surpassing dollars 107 billion, Yahoo! is often held up as the top

marketing success story of the Internet era. Diane Hunt has played a key

role in that achievement. She built and now leads a team responsible for

all aspects of Yahoo!’s external communications, including media,

community and analyst relations, public policy strategy and crisis

communications. Since joining in early 1997, Hunt has grown the internal

corporate communications organization as the company ballooned from 200

to 2,000 employees. Previously, Hunt directed corporate communications

for The 3DO Company.


Name: Jeryl (Jay) Robert Fry III

Company: BEA Systems

Title: Director of corporate communications

As an honors grad from Stanford who double-majored in communications and

English, it was probably easy to predict Jay Fry’s ensuing success in

Silicon Valley’s hi-tech PR arena. After cutting his teeth at Sun

Microsystems, Oracle and EcoSystems Software, Fry joined BEA in 1995 as

employee number six. Over the past four years, he has helmed BEA’s

internal and external communications programs worldwide as it grew to a

dollars 500 million company with more than 2,000 employees, handling

dozens of company and technology acquisition announcements and managing

com-munications for its April 1997 IPO. This month, Fry relocates to

BEA’s London office to direct the company’s marketing programs for

Europe, the Middle East and Africa.


Name: Janilee Johnson

Company: Motorola

Title: Vice president and director of communications and public


With more than 20 years of experience as a communications professional,

Janilee Johnson is currently responsible for all internal and external

communications for Motorola’s Communications Enterprise (which

represents dollars 23 billion of Motorola’s dollars 30 billion in total

revenue) and heads the company’s e-business strategy team. But her

involvement outside Motorola is equally impressive. She was appointed to

the Arthur Page Society Board of Trustees in 1998 and to the Council of

Corporate Communications Executives of The Conference Board in 1993. She

is also currently president of Johnson-Fry Enterprises, a commercial and

residential real estate investment and development company.


Name: Kirsten Kappos-Hamling

Company: EarthLink

Title: Vice president, corporate communications

Having stewarded communications over the past three years for the

number-two ISP brand, Kirsten Kappos-Hamling owns one of the most

visible positions in the hi-tech PR space. But with EarthLink’s recent

MindSpring merger, she faces an even greater challenge: catching up to

America Online. Reporting to the CEO, Kappos-Hamling oversees all of

EarthLink-MindSpring’s integrated marketing initiatives, including PR,

employee communications and investor relations. She says her goal has

been and continues to be ’staying focused on taking the leadership

position without losing sight of our customer service.’ Prior to

EarthLink, Kappos-Hamling served as VP for Shafer Advertising and PR and

headed up Ingram-Micro’s PR department.


Name: Andy Lark

Company: Nortel Networks

Title: Vice president of global communications

As manager of Fleishman-Hillard’s Nortel Networks account, New Zealand

native Andy Lark so impressed the client that it stole him away from the

agency in early 1999 to become its chief communications executive. Since

then, Lark has reinvigorated and reorganized the communications function

for this dollars 20-million networking giant. With Lark at the wheel,

Nortel’s stock price has leapt more than 240%, surpassing competitors

Lucent and Cisco. And according to qualitative and quantitative

research, the company has shifted its identity among target audiences

from that of a ’telecom equipment supplier’ to a key Internet player.

While with Fleishman, Lark worked on accounts for such blue-chip

companies as Microsoft and Dell Computers.


Name: Geoff Kerr

Company: USWeb/CKS

Title: VP of corporate communications

As employee number 30 at USWeb in 1996, Geoff Kerr has seen the company

through 30-plus mergers and acquisitions, including the merger of USWeb

with CKS, the acquisition of Mitchell Madison Group and the pending

dollars 8-billion merger with Whittman-Hart. A brilliant strategist who

has seen the company through serious PR obstacles, according to

colleague Beth Trier, Kerr is a member of the management committee and

works closely with the CEO and CFO. He handles PR, industry analyst

relations, thought leadership, client communications and IR. Previously,

Kerr spent four years at Cunningham Communication, managing its

networking and communications practice.


Name: Margaret Lasecke-Jacobs

Company: Oracle Corp.

Title: Vice president, global corporate communications

Celebrity CEO Larry Ellison’s mug is now synonymous with Silicon Valley

success, and Oracle - once an obscure database software company - is now

a household name among ordinary Joes. You can thank Margaret

Lasecke-Jacobs for that. Since joining eight years ago from Fujitsu as

the company’s first in-house PR pro, Lasecke-Jacobs has helped build

Oracle’s image as a global superpower. She steered the company, which

was previously tracked mainly by the trades, into the mainstream

consumer and business press, and considers her ’watershed moment’ the

day her team got Ellison on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Later, her team

helped promote Ellison’s idea for the network computer, which generated

huge press around the world.


Name: Jessica Kersey

Company: Macromedia

Title: Director of corporate communications

Jessica Kersey has achieved much in her post with Macromedia, the

company behind popular graphic design and Web publishing software

programs such as FreeHand and Dreamweaver, as well as interactive

entertainment site Shockwave.com. Since May 1999, Kersey has instituted

a competitive communications review process, speakers’ bureaus,

proactive industry analyst relations and a program for strategic

partners. However, many Silicon Valley insiders probably remember Kersey

best from her stint as the top PR dog at Novell during its glory days

from 1992 to 1995. Kersey also made a name for herself in tech circles

during the late eighties, when she spent six years driving PR for PC



Name: Melissa London

Company: Red Hat

Title: PR director

As PR director of one of the hottest hi-tech start-ups, Melissa London

has ensured that Red Hat and Linux have become household words. Add the

fact that London is the only PR person inside the company - which does

no advertising - and it’s hard to dispute what an incredible job she’s

done. Since joining the company three years ago, London, who had no

previous PR experience, has directed a PR effort that has generated

thousands of articles, and resulted in Red Hat achieving ten times the

brand recognition of its next-best-known competitor, according to a

February 1999 Linux World survey. The November 1999 Harris Interactive

survey ranked Red Hat as the 17th ’best regarded’ company, right after

IBM and Motorola.


Name: Janine Kromhout

Company: BroadVision

Title: Director of PR

During Janine Kromhout’s tenure, BroadVision has seen a 1,081% increase

in stock valuation and a growth in its customer base from eight to more

than 450. She helped the company win at least 20 awards this year,

including its ranking as number one on Barron’s ’List of Top Internet

Companies’ and number two on Business Week’s ’InfoTech 100.’ In addition

to global media relations, she has primary responsibility for the

disclosure of information to the investment community and analyst

relations. Kromhout leads eight agencies internationally and Capstone

Communications for work in the states. Previously, she helped grow The

Weber Group’s Palo Alto office from three people to 40.


Name: Mich Mathews

Company: Microsoft

Title: Vice president, corporate communications

No matter how you feel about Microsoft as a company, it’s hard to

dispute the sheer muscle of its PR machine - especially given the daily

challenges it has faced with Bill Gates and the antitrust trial. And, as

illustrated in a 1998 Brill’s Content article, Mich Mathews is clearly

the brains behind the software giant’s communications. Working alongside

agency of record Waggener Edstrom, Mathews officially leads all

communication plans and strategies, including PR and advertising.

Unofficially, she is said to be Gates’ right-hand communications

consultant. Her proximity to the chief exec can be traced in part to her

long history with the company; prior to joining Microsoft in 1993,

Mathews handled its UK account for Text 100.


Name: Kevin McKee

Company: IBM

Title: Director of communications, Storage Systems Division

Even in a company as big as IBM, Kevin McKee has managed to make his

mark as an essential communications player. As director of the San Jose,

CA-based Storage Systems Division, McKee oversees all PR, consultant

relations and internal communications for the company’s storage


The stellar results by his team are said to have even gotten nods from

CEO Lou Gerstner - certainly not the norm for most division PR


Some of McKee’s success on the media relations side can likely be traced

to his journalism background. Prior to being, as he says, ’seduced by

the dark side,’ McKee spent several years as a writer and editor for

technology pubs.


Name: Michele Perry

Company: Lycos

Title: Director of marketing communications

It’s hard to keep on top of the changes at Lycos and harder still to

communicate them to the press, but Michele Perry has done just that.

Since she joined Lycos in the spring of 1998, the company’s brand

awareness and media coverage have increased significantly, traffic on

the Lycos Network has climbed to more than 30 million unique visitors

per month and the company’s stock price is flirting with its all-time

high. Perry has overseen external communications for six major

acquisitions in the past 12 months, as well as the rise and fall of the

USA Networks deal.

She has ultimate responsibility for launching new products and

initiatives, as well as communicating consumer, advertising, industry

and investment messages.


Name: Michelle Moore

Company: Dell Computer Corp.

Title: Vice president, corporate communications

In an industry where employee loyalty and longevity are scarce, Michelle

Moore is an anomaly. Since joining Dell in 1989, she has assisted in the

company’s rise from the 25th-largest PC maker in the world to its

current place as number one in the US and number two in the world - a

dollars 24 billion corporation with more than 30,000 employees. During

her tenure at Dell, Moore’s department has grown from a single member to

more than 100. Her team is credited with delivering consistent results,

including pushing up the stock price and contributing to Dell’s position

as Fortune’s fourth ’Most Admired Company’ in the US. Moore’s department

has also received many industry awards.


Name: Kevin Pursglove

Company: eBay

Title: Senior director, communications

Nearly every corporate PR pro has had at least one brush with crisis

communications over the course of his or her career. But for eBay’s

Kevin Pursglove, putting out media fires is almost a daily occurrence.

Since joining the wildly popular auction site a year ago, Pursglove has

tackled such PR challenges as prolonged outages, questions about its

competitive business policies and a constant barrage of individuals

ready to sell everything from body parts to babies. Despite the

obstacles - and as a testament to Pursglove’s media relations skills -

eBay has retained its status as a top-five destination for Web surfers

and its leadership position in an increasingly crowded market.


Name: Bob O’Brien

Company: Compuware’s NuMega Lab

Title: Manager of corporate communications

In the five years he has been managing PR for NuMega, a once-tiny

debugging software tools developer acquired by Compuware in 1998, Bob

O’Brien has achieved results and the respect of his industry peers. Most

say O’Brien’s efficient and friendly manner with reporters and

influencers has been the key to NuMega’s extraordinary track record with

press coverage (it has garnered hundreds of clips) and its numerous

’best of’ product awards.

According to one former co-worker, O’Brien ’was able to turn sand into

gold’ at the tiny engineer-driven start-up by ’uncovering new

opportunities with key partners and industry contacts.’


Name: Russ Robinson

Company: Sprint Advanced Technologies

Title: Director of corporate communications

Russ Robinson provides a good argument for the power of PR within the

marketing mix. He led the communications team that launched Sprint

Passport, the company’s ISP, in 1996, garnering more than 200,000

customers for the new service without any advertising support. In 1997,

Robinson moved into corporate communications, where he drove the debut

of Sprint’s Integrated On-Demand Network. Last year, he began working on

Sprint’s corporate strategy team, helping promote plans to purchase more

than dollars 1.2 billion of assets in wireless companies and handling

communications surrounding Sprint’s pending merger with MCI WorldCom.

Prior to joining Sprint four years ago, the one-time Pulitzer-Prize

nominated reporter worked for CompuServe.


Name: Becca Perata-Rosati

Company: Women.com Networks

Title: Director of public relations

As head of corporate PR for one of the leading Internet destinations for

women, Becca Perata-Rosati has directed a media outreach program that

generated more than 100 million media impressions in a month. While she

has only been at Women.com since June, Perata-Rosati boasts a

blue-ribbon resume, including stints at Sun Microsystems, where she

served as senior communications strategist for the Solaris software

division, and Pacific Telesis, where she handled PR for the launch of

Pacific Bell’s caller ID service. Most recently, she served as director

of PR for Beyond.com.

The daughter of California state senator Don Perata, Perata-Rosati has

also been involved with many political campaigns and causes, including

providing pro bono PR for ’The Race for the Cure.’


Name: Krista Rollins

Company: Trilogy Software

Title: Vice president of corporate communications

As VP of corporate communications for one of the hottest privately held

software companies, Krista Rollins helped establish Trilogy as a market

leader in enterprise software and created the foundation on which

Trilogy is building its reputation as a leading provider of e-commerce

applications for the Fortune 500. Under Rollins’ leadership, the company

has repeatedly graced the covers of The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and

Fast Company.

She was one of Trilogy’s first employees and is responsible for

worldwide marketing initiatives, including market awareness, PR and

demand generation.

During her six years at Trilogy, Rollins has held positions in business

development and sales, customer training and direct marketing.


Name: Erica Scheidt

Company: Netcentives

Title: Director of corporate communications

As director of corporate communications for Netcentives, the company

behind popular online consumer loyalty program ClickRewards, Erica

Scheidt works with everyone from junior PR team members to VPs of

marketing at start-ups seeking strategic partnerships. However, it’s the

reputation she has developed among journalists for ’integrity’ and

’quick response time’ that Scheidt calls her proudest achievement.

Indeed it seems the skillful media relations has paid off -

InformationWeek recently named the company among its ’E-Business 100.’

Before joining Netcentives in 1998, Scheidt spent several years on the

agency side, managing accounts such as Excite, IBM Internet, Inktomi and

MetaCreations for Fleishman-Hillard and Interactive PR.


Name: Lawrence Sennett

Company: Hewlett-Packard Co.

Title: Communications manager for the office of the president and


As HP CEO Carly Fiorina’s right-hand man, Lawrence Sennett is

responsible for CEO relations, which includes handling customer requests

and managing Fiorina’s speaking appearances and speeches - no small

task, considering that Sennett says he receives about 100 such requests

per week. He also assisted in positioning HP as a company of inventors.

Before assuming his current job this September (for which Fiorina

requested him), Sennett was communications director for the HP Computer

Products Organization, with responsibility for worldwide media and

analyst relations, as well as executive communications and business



Name: Jeff Simek

Company: Xerox Corp.

Title: Director, corporate public relations

While boasting one of the world’s best-recognized brand names, Xerox

increasingly faces challenges to its market share from competitors in

the copier arena. That makes Jeff Simek’s role as the lead corporate PR

contact even more essential to Xerox’s bottom line. In his current post,

which he assumed about a year ago, Simek is responsible for developing

and deploying media relations and corporate communications initiatives

that help shape and enhance the public reputation of Xerox


Simek has been with the company for nine years, first as corporate PR

manager and later, from 1995 to late 1998, as manager for worldwide

strategic PR, overseeing international media relations, technology

counsel and perception management at home and abroad.


Name: Marlene M. Somsak

Company: Hewlett-Packard Co.

Title: Media/financial communications manager

Hewlett-Packard and its superstar CEO Carly Fiorina received boatloads

of positive press in 1999, which can be credited in large part to the

efforts of Marlene Somsak. A former newspaper reporter who crossed over

to PR 12 years ago, Somsak oversees HP’s worldwide media relations

activities and leads all of this Fortune 500 company’s financial

communications, including earnings releases, annual reports and the

investor web site.

In addition, she develops corporate policies and coordinates with HP’s

broad network of PR professionals and their agencies on everything from

product launches to crises. Notable recent announcements she has led

include the naming of Fiorina as CEO and HP’s new brand campaign



Name: Jeffrey Spotts

Company: Ardent Software

Title: Vice president, corporate development and communications

Jeffrey Spotts has been credited with successfully shifting the public

perception of Ardent Software from that of an embedded database vendor

to a leading data management company. Since Spotts joined Ardent in

1995, the company’s stock price rose from dollars 6 to dollars 35 a

share, much of which can be attributed to Spotts’ efforts to increase

corporate awareness, enhance credibility and build the brand. He

directed all communications activities associated with the acquisition

of database vendor Unidata by Vmark Software, which created Ardent

Software in 1998. He also devised communication strategy for Ardent’s

acquisition of Dovetail Software.


Name: Heather Staples

Company: Ask Jeeves

Title: Vice president, corporate communications

In a landscape cluttered with dot-com competitors and dozens of daily

IPOs, 29-year-old Heather Staples has steered Ask Jeeves into its

position as a Wall Street high-flyer and a media darling. Since joining

the Internet start-up in March, Staples has employed guerrilla tactics

(placing butlers on the streets of the most wired cities in America to

help consumers cross the street, get directions or hail a cab) and

traditional means of exposure (securing a spot for Jeeves in the Macy’s

Thanksgiving Day Parade) to help the company cut through the marketing

clutter. These efforts have paid off with more than 400 million media

impressions - and one of 1999’s top 25 IPOs.


Name: Tony Welz

Company: Network Associates

Title: PR manager

If 1999 was the year of the virus, it was also the year for Network

Associates’ name to be splashed across the headlines of the business and

technology press. As PR manager for the world’s largest independent

network security and management software company, Tony Welz was

responsible for notifying the press when the Melissa virus - which did

dollars 80 million in damage - broke.

In addition to the virus work, Welz also oversees PR for Network

Associates’ security division and assists with the planning phase of

corporate PR.

He was previously employed at The Weber Group, where he worked on

accounts such as IBM and Phoenix Technologies.


Name: Debby Fry Wilson

Company: drugstore.com

Title: Director of public and government relations

Before drugstore.com launched in February 1999, the company had created

such buzz that it, along with competitor PlanetRx, was fighting for the

title of leading online pharmacy in the press. First to launch,

drugstore.com saw a 179% jump in its IPO price on its first day. This

was in no small part due to Debby Fry Wilson, who oversaw the launch,

communications surrounding the company’s IPO and brand-building efforts.

Fry Wilson also managed the regulatory and public affairs issues

surrounding the practice of online pharmacies. Previously, she was

director of PR for MSNBC on the Internet and VP of public and government

affairs at Court TV.


Name: Karen Carlton Wood

Company: CNET

Title: Vice president, corporate relations

Since joining CNET in 1996, Karen Wood has developed a winning PR

strategy that has helped it grow into the 13th largest network on the

Web, with more than 9.5 million unique users per month. Wood has steered

the introductions and ongoing communications programs for more than a

dozen CNET services and three TV shows, as well as the launch of Snap!,

now part of NBC. Currently her responsibilities include PR, government

relations, community affairs and corporate giving. She also manages the

company’s in-house PR department and its recently hired PR firm, Connors


Previously, she worked at an agency specializing in new media and

interactive entertainment companies such as Red Sky Films and America



Name: Wendy Ziner

Company: Akamai Technologies

Title: Director of marketing

An 18-year hi-tech marketing veteran, Wendy Ziner has created massive

buzz around Akamai in less than a year and has established it as one of

the hottest names on the Net. She has brought focus to the booming field

of content delivery and is responsible for all of the company’s

marketing activities, including PR. Ziner has seen the company through

its transition from a privately held firm to a public company in an IPO

that was ranked as the fourth-highest first-day gain ever, rising 458%.

Previously, Ziner was director of marketing communications for Open

Market during one of the most successful IPOs in 1996, and during a

period where revenue grew revenue grew from dollars 1.8 million and to

dollars 62 million in 1998. She also oversaw three successful


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