40 Under 40 2014: Heavy hitters

When it comes to being an influential leader, innovator, and pioneer in PR, age is just a number. PRWeek profiles 40 MVPs under 40, nominated by colleagues and peers, who are evolving the comms industry to new heights.

40 Under 40 2014: Heavy hitters

Click here for extended profiles of each honoree, plus a look at where some 40 Under 40 alumni have ended up.

Matt Anchin
SVP, global communications, Monster Worldwide, 39

Matt Anchin’s role as SVP of global communications at online job board Monster Worldwide is just the latest stint in a career full of roaring successes.

Since assuming the role in March 2013, he has facilitated Monster’s integration of digital and social media into its all-around marketing offer, notably strengthening its voice in the industry.

Before joining Monster, he held the same post at Nielsen. There, he managed communications for a $1.9 billion IPO in 2011 and set up Nielsen Wire, a leading online destination for insights and data.

At American Express, Anchin wrote the company’s social media policy and initiated a $6 million global intranet redesign, working with HR and IT to reach out to employees, which resulted in a $15 million increase in productivity among mid-tier management.

And, during his time at IBM from 1998 to 2006, he produced the company’s award-winning annual reports, among many other accomplishments.

"Matt embodies the communications role as strategic counsel to the business," says Jim Dowd, MD of the global consumer practice at SparkPR, who has worked with Anchin. "He looks to drive the profession forward."

Rebecca Ballard
VP and head of external communications, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, 34

In an industry where people tend to change companies frequently, Rebecca Ballard has flourished at the same firm for 10-plus years. 

Last November, she celebrated a decade of working at Hill+Knowlton by assuming leadership of its external communications, a year after being promoted to VP.

A key achievement has been coordinating the late-2013 rollout of the firm’s character research project, which Ballard considers her career highlight.

During her time at H+K, Ballard has supported clients in a wide variety of sectors. Her work with Bridgestone Americas is just one example of a longstanding and successful relationship, which led to the launch of the tire company’s young driver safety initiative. Through tips, classroom activities, and online content and social media, the program has reached teenagers, parents, and teachers nationwide.

"Rebecca has met and exceeded every responsibility placed in front of her with poise, acumen, and skill," says Jack Martin, global chairman and CEO at H+K. "She has an eye to the future that is more insightful and informed than many of her more seasoned colleagues."

Rebecca Bentley
Global director, corporate media relations, financial/IR communications, strategy communications, and M&As, The Dow Chemical Company, 39

From overseeing its global media relations unit to being responsible for all financial announcements, Rebecca Bentley leads all communications for Dow Chemical, a company with more than $57 billion in annual revenue, 53,000-plus employees, and north of 6,000 products manufactured and marketed across the globe.   

Furthermore, nearly all senior executives at the company, including CEO Andrew Liveris, rely on her counsel.

Bentley managed statewide outreach for Dow, one of Louisiana’s largest employers, through high-stakes events including Hurricane Katrina. Meanwhile, amid the global economic crisis, during which Dow had to shut down sites and reduce staff, she led a global public affairs and branding initiative to revitalize the company’s building and construction business.

"Rebecca is one of the most talented PR pros I have worked with," says Matt Davis, corporate VP of public affairs and government affairs at Dow. "She has a 15-year track record of managing extremely complex, sensitive issues at Dow and has earned a ‘seat at the table’ within the highest levels of the company."

Kristin Binns
VP of PR, WellPoint, 33

Kristin Binns is used to working in a politically charged environment. Early in her career, she served as press intern for Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) during the post-9/11 invasion of Iraq.

That experience is paying off at WellPoint, the second-largest health insurer in the country, where she led the PR team during the tumultuous healthcare reform debate. Through leadership changes and reputation challenges, Binns, who has been with WellPoint since 2008, has kept a cool head. Widely known for her "think outside the box" mantra, her hard work has also helped the company enjoy an increased stock price and $6 billion boost in revenue in the past five years.

And with the public able to shop for health insurance for the first time, Binns has built valuable relationships with mom bloggers and delivered bespoke messages to consumers. As a result, at the close of the first open enrollment period, membership to WellPoint plans exceeded 500,000.

"She leads by example, both in her approach to media relations and in the way she has structured her team, often pushing the boundaries of the industry’s more traditional media approach," says Jill Becher, corporate media relations director at WellPoint.

Natalie Boden
Founder and MD, BodenPR, 37

Natalie Boden is not only the founder and MD of a thriving boutique PR and communications firm, but she is also a champion for women and girls across the country.

Her understanding of the US Hispanic market has helped make her eponymous agency one of the fastest-growing Hispanic PR and social media firms in the US, with various Fortune 500 clients.

"Natalie has a strong focus on reaching Latina consumers and understands their mindset and relationship with brands," says Manny Ruiz, cofounder and chairman of Hispanicize. "She has really studied how companies can leverage social to target US Hispanics."

In 2013, both Target and AT&T hired her agency for various projects. More recently, McDonald’s tapped BodenPR to handle Hispanic earned media strategy, national Hispanic media relations, blogger relations, and social media for its Spanish-language Twitter account.

Throughout her career, Boden has been a strong advocate for the advancement of young women and girls. The agency is a Women’s Business Enterprise National Council-certified women-owned company, while Boden is part of the Latina Advisory Board for Girls, a nonprofit that strives to empower young girls in the US.

Eric Brielmann
Partner, Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher, 38

When the partners at Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher sought someone to open the agency’s first new office outside New York – in San Francisco – they turned to Eric Brielmann. 

That decision is a testament to his leadership and ability, but is just one achievement in a distinguished career. Brielmann joined the agency in 2001, having previously worked on Vice President Al Gore’s presidential campaign, and quickly rose up the ranks.

Brielmann is a trusted adviser to CEOs, CFOs, general counsels, and boards of directors at various Fortune 500 companies. He has led high-stakes assignments including counseling Merck in its merger with Schering-Plough, Amgen in its acquisition of Onyx Pharmaceuticals, and Microsoft in its unsolicited acquisition proposal for Yahoo.

One of the longest-serving members of the team, Brielmann plays a key role in mentoring and training junior staff. He also regularly speaks to business and communications students at Columbia and Stony Brook Universities.

"Eric is an outstanding leader," note various colleagues. "The relationships he has maintained with the firm’s largest clients are a testament to his skill, counsel, and acumen."

Ashley Callahan
Content strategy manager, Chick-fil-A, 32

A still blossoming career spent at the forefront of social media innovation, Ashley Callahan took her talents to Chick-fil-A this July after two-plus years at Coca-Cola. There, she played a part in revolutionizing Coke’s global PR strategy by helping transform its website into a dazzling digital media platform.

Not only did she develop the strategy behind Coca-Cola Journey, she also spearheaded the platform as managing editor, creating and writing content that made the 127-year-old heritage brand a global leader in the digital space.

"Ashley was able to shift Coke’s focus from standard press releases posted to its archetypal corporate website to branded content that tells stories via this new, dynamic online magazine," say colleagues at consumer engagement firm 206.

The numbers underscore the success she enjoyed. In 2013, Journey had 13.1 million visits, 33 million page views, more than 1,200 articles from 350-plus authors, and 6,800 videos posted.

As part of her work on Journey, Callahan also helped ensure its successful adoption across the globe, including coordinating a training conference for 19 international Coca-Cola teams. 

Another career highlight includes launching and implementing Coca-Cola’s global social media program for the 2012 London Olympics.

Ian Cohen
Global executive producer, Weber Shandwick, 34

Ian Cohen came to Weber Shandwick in 2011 having worked both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Since joining the agency, he has produced videos for leading brands including Bank of America, Verizon, and Ocean Spray.

Overseeing a team of 125-plus creators, producers, directors, and editors worldwide, Cohen has been instrumental in the creation, launch, and execution of both Mediaco and GoLive, Weber’s groundbreaking broadcast platforms. As executive producer of Mediaco, Cohen puts the clients in the driver’s seat and enables brands to tell their story on their own channels and on their own terms.

As cofounder of GoLive, he helps brands communicate live, on location, and instantly to the masses.

This January, Cohen took GoLive to the Sundance Film Festival for the first Live@Sundance event. He has also used GoLive to communicate with Weber employees via EATV – Engaged, Always Television.

"Ian is a respected creative force throughout the communications industry," says Micho Spring, chair of Weber’s global corporate practice and president of the New England region. "He has focused his energy on helping his clients and colleagues rethink their approach to content in order to engage with audiences."

Farrah Cox
Executive director, global practice leader, digital, Golin, 37

While analytics is a scary concept for some, Farrah Cox is at the forefront of this brave new world.

At the helm of Golin’s global digital content marketing strategy, Cox created a process that helps target the right person on the right channel at the right time via the agency’s Bridge. Through this operation, the agency curates more than 65,000 pieces of content each year for large global brands.

Meanwhile, she has revolutionized Golin’s approach to digital marketing by developing a training program for account leaders to ensure they make the most of the company’s digital capabilities to help clients.

On top of that, Cox successfully piloted global real-time social media in eight countries simultaneously at Golin, working with digital community managers around the world. She also pioneered the firm’s nimble thought leadership program to help ensure clients get their key messages across at the optimal moment.

"Farrah realizes we are on the cusp of an evolution in the communications industry," says Gary Rudnick, president, Americas at Golin. "She is fervent, zealous, and fanatical about getting brands to understand this evolution and how it is sustainable – and profitable – for them in the future."

Morgan Crinklaw
Manager, risk mitigation communications, Chevron, 34

When Chevron faced one of its most important reputational issues ever, the company called Morgan Crinklaw. 

He was appointed to his current role last year at a turning point in a 20-year legal battle in Ecuador where the global energy giant was immersed in a $19 billion lawsuit just months before the racketeering trial that would uncover evidence of fraud in the case against the company.

He developed a flawless communications plan and created a groundbreaking news website devoted to the case. This resulted in coverage in every major US and international media outlet. Most importantly, Crinklaw successfully managed and enhanced Chevron’s reputation throughout the trial and continues that work today.

Described by Dave Samson, GM of public affairs at Chevron, as "an exceptional performer," Crinklaw’s efforts were reflected in a March 2014 editorial in The Wall Street Journal calling the lawsuit against Chevron the "judicial fraud of the century."

Crinklaw also oversees the public affairs team responsible for managing all of Chevron’s remediation efforts worldwide, including more than 300 superfund projects.

Peter Donald
Public affairs specialist, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York, 27

Peter Donald, 27, is the youngest of this year’s 40 Under 40. He has been at the forefront of managing major news stories from the FBI’s investigation into the Benghazi attacks in Libya to the renewed search for Etan Patz, a six-year-old boy who disappeared in Manhattan in 1979.

Donald’s accomplishments include work to publicize the FBI’s crackdown on insider trading on Wall Street, including the production of a PSA featuring Michael Douglas reprising his iconic Gordon Gekko role from the classic film Wall Street.

Donald has launched and managed social media channels for the FBI in New York to enable the bureau to communicate more quickly and accurately in a crisis. He also planned interviews and coverage for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

And, for the first Super Bowl played in the New York Tri-State Area, Donald planned interviews with all major TV networks around the FBI’s role in protecting the city and the big game.

"Peter has been involved in every major takedown, announcement, and search," says supervisory special agent Christos Sinos. "He has been integral in shaping the FBI’s reputation at every turn."

Greg Efthimiou
Director, corporate communications, Duke Energy, 37

Greg Efthimiou has proved he can keep a cool head in a crisis. While dramatic boardroom coups are rare in the energy industry, this is exactly what happened as Duke Energy completed its drawn-out and tempestuous $32 billion merger with Progress Energy.

"I knew I needed a rare talent to unite, inform, and engage the combined company’s shell-shocked and fractured workforce of 29,000 employees," recalls Virginia Mackin, who was Duke Energy’s CCO at the time. "I turned to Greg."

Hired in 2008 to serve as the chief editor, principal writer, and project manager for Duke Energy’s flagship annual publication The Sustainability Report, his work quickly earned him a role leading PR efforts for the company’s wind and solar power business. 

And when the merger was completed in 2012, Efthimiou took charge of the efforts to bridge the gap between employees from the two companies. Today, he leads the creation of more than 250 articles, videos, blogs, and discussion forums each year. In addition, Efthimiou has championed the use of digital and social media to help the company reach out to staffers, especially those without regular access to computers.

Andrea Fassacesia
SVP, media and strategy, Marina Maher Communications, 29

After graduating from college in 2007, Andrea Fassacesia vowed to become an SVP at a PR firm before she was 30 – a goal she reached with two years to spare.

Today, she has carved out a reputation as one of the most in-demand healthcare strategists in the industry with a reputation for crafting must-cover stories. Since joining Marina Maher Communications last year, she has been a key player in teams that added more than $2.5 million in fees to the agency’s health and well-being practice.

Key achievements include masterminding a hugely successful media strategy to publicize $6 million in funding from the Merck for Mothers initiative to re-duce the maternal mortality rate in the US. Fassacesia also kept a cool head when working on a complex media strategy around delays to the launch of Eisai’s new epilepsy drug Fycompa and the filing of a lawsuit, securing an exclusive in The Wall Street Journal that got all Eisai’s key messages across.

"Since joining just one year ago, Andrea has fully integrated into the agency’s account teams," says Diana Littman Paige, EVP at Marina Maher’s health and well-being practice. "She has established herself as the agency’s go-to media strategist."

Joe Flores
SVP, Catalyst, 34

Having pursued a lifelong dream of working in sports and entertainment, Joe Flores has risen from an unpaid intern at Alan Taylor Communications to a senior executive at spin-off firm Catalyst.

After handling key accounts such as Microsoft and MasterCard at Taylor, Catalyst hired Flores in 2011 to oversee its Charlotte office. In bestowing upon him the SVP title, he became the youngest executive to achieve that status in the agency’s history.

Since his arrival, Catalyst has doubled its staff in Charlotte and seen overall revenue growth of 60%. His orchestration was key as Dick’s Sporting Goods named the firm AOR. Flores later grew the ac-count to include social media duties.

Flores also pioneered a sports, entertainment, and influencer AOR partnership with Microsoft, supporting its devices and studios portfolio of brands including Xbox and Surface.

Just as his clients do, Catalyst’s staff benefits greatly from Flores’ talents.

"Joe’s positive attitude, competitive spirit, and tireless work ethic are contagious," says managing partner Bret Werner, "while his heartfelt encouragement of staffers keeps his team motivated. Simply put, he makes working at Catalyst fun."

Sara Garibaldi
VP and account director, Ketchum, 33

As a PR and communications professional, Sara Garibaldi is "the total package," according to colleagues. In 13 years, the past six at Ketchum, she has already made an extraordinary contribution.

She is among the agency’s senior talent, guiding global engagement with Procter & Gamble, one of Ketchum’s largest clients. In addition, Garibaldi leads the firm’s relationship with Gillette in North America. She played an integral role in the P&G brand’s Man of Steel initiative, named PRWeek’s 2014 Campaign of the Year. This integrated campaign generated fantastic results, including a double-digit increase in Gillette sales at a top retailer.

"Sara is an incredible steward of our business," says Kurt Iverson, communications leader for Gillette North American Shave Care.

Born to Argentinian parents, Garibaldi is a first-generation American who is committed to reaching diverse communities. In fact, she has led Ketchum’s work in this area for Ikea, JPMorgan Chase, and Wendy’s.

"When I try to recruit people to the firm or even persuade them to learn more about our field, I cite Sara as an example," says Mike Doyle, partner and director of the agency’s New York office.

Shana Glickfield
Partner, Beekeeper Group, 38

As her firm’s name suggests, Shana Glickfield knows how to create buzz. Her innovative use of social media channels has helped numerous clients mobilize the public and gain attention from top politicians and decision-makers.

Glickfield is a founding – and the only female – partner at Beekeeper Group, which was recognized as PRWeek’s 2014 Boutique PR Agency of the Year. She deftly handles client work, helping in-crease revenue by 43% last year, while simultaneously managing a growing hive of employees.

Her creative approach to digital campaigns has been a significant factor in the success of clients such as the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, Blackboard, and Credit Union National Association.

Glickfield has also been an energetic voice in the "social lobbying" movement and frequently trains members of nonprofits and trade associations on social lobbying tactics.

"Shana is an expert at translating complex issues for the social Web," says Leslie Kimball, VP of communications at the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. "Her messaging and tactics have helped us reach more activists online than ever before."

Jeremiah Glodoveza
PR director, NetApp, 37

In just two years at Net-App, Jeremiah Glodoveza has made his mark and now leads all global PR and social media with the company’s worldwide campaigns consistently exceeding expectations.

Under his leadership, the global communications team has adopted a more consistent approach that uses storytelling to truly speak to customers. And he has been able to tie these communications efforts with marketing goals.

During the course of his career, Glodoveza has managed and executed highly successful campaigns and launches. For example, he spearheaded a Microsoft national product trial and demo tour, hitting 12 cities and resulting in 150,000 product demonstrations and 5 million consumer impressions in less than a month.

During his time at Cohn & Wolfe, Glodoveza launched Walmart’s first mobile app and introduced its disc-to-digital service.

Glodoveza is known around the office as a "catalyst for change and inspiring innovation," says Sarah Storelli, a client executive at Voce Communications, which works with NetApp. "His approach to integrated communications has helped him provide unique contributions that differentiate him from his peers."

Glenn Harston
President, The Gemini Group, 39

Glenn Harston is a force to be reckoned with. That is the unanimous opinion of his colleagues at The Gemini Group, a Chicago-based integrated communications and PR firm with strong community ties and a focus on black and young urban consumer markets.

Harston has contributed to the success of many high-profile brands, companies, people, and organizations, including Barack Obama’s Illinois state and US Senate campaigns, the Chicago Cubs, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Miller Brewing Co., McDonald’s, and Wendy’s.

Known for his impressive work ethic and unfaltering ability to champion his clients’ needs and draw attention to their brands and causes, Harston’s achievements have been recognized with numerous accolades. He was named Businessman of the Year by the African American Contractors Association, while Gemini won Startup Business of the Year from Black Contractors United.

Harston is respected by clients and colleagues alike. According to Gemini Group colleague Michael Bailey, "Glenn is one of the best strategic minds, crisis managers, and most influential people I have come across."

Rob Imig
SVP, global PR and communications, Kiehl’s Since 1851, L’Oréal, 38

For some, PR is just a job. For Rob Imig, say colleagues, it is a way of life.

He has worked for L’Oréal USA’s luxury products division since 2006 and his creativity, talent, and strategies have helped make Kiehl’s Since 1851 one of the most sought-after cult beauty companies in the industry. Under his direction and without the support of advertising, the brand has consistently achieved the number one skincare ranking in frequency and impressions.

Imig has identified opportunities to tell the brand’s story across 41 countries and most recently his Artfully Made social media campaign doubled global engagement with the brand.

Most striking is his drive to turn Kiehl’s into a top philanthropic brand, raising more than $6 million for various charitable organizations and securing millions of media impressions through annual events.

"Rob is a true believer in PR," says Hearst Magazine Corporation’s Shazi Golchin. "He not only uses the power of PR to build his own brand, but also has the foresight to continue to learn, evolve, and ensure PR continues to be one of the most important functions in an organization."

Paula Keve
CCO, Dow Jones, 35

Just a few years into her already stellar career, Paula Keve was managing the distribution of a multimillion-dollar budget to arts and charitable causes for Bloomberg.

She went on to work for Bloomberg client BNP Paribas, initially taking responsibility for communications within the French bank’s equities and commodities division, before being promoted to run marketing and communications for the Americas.

At Dow Jones, Keve has transformed communications, expertly reorganizing and recruiting a world-class 15-strong team across three continents. She developed an innovative communications infrastructure that sees one set of content flow through all channels, which helped the organization earn a 2014 PRWeek Award for Internal Communications Campaign of the Year.

Keve has also helped Dow Jones change its perception from a traditional publisher to a modern, ambitious media company despite challenging situations involving parent company News Corp.

"Paula is a visionary and an innovator," says Lex Fenwick, former CEO of Dow Jones. "She has a unique ability to rationalize complex situations and manage the broadest range of stakeholders, both internally and externally."

Marcie Kohenak
VP, health, Zeno Group, 29

Marcie Kohenak leads Zeno Group’s Washington, DC, office and manages two of the agency’s flagship healthcare clients, Merck and AstraZeneca – two extraordinary achievements for someone who has not yet reached her 30th birthday.

Career highlights to date include Kohenak’s innovative work for AstraZeneca’s oncology breast cancer brands. For breast cancer awareness month last October, her team launched a groundbreaking website devoted to supporting patients during treatment. While sponsored by AstraZeneca, the site carries no corporate content or product details.

For Merck, Kohenak manages campaigns for three of the company’s leading vaccines. She also leads its first above-the-brands program, which continues to exceed targets. Now in its third year, the initiative has become the foundation for all brand programs and thought leadership activities.

Known for her "positive and can-do attitude," Kohenak is also a "master of details," according to colleagues. Zeno Group CEO Barby Siegel describes Kohenak as a pillar of the company whose "fearless spirit" has earned the respect of clients, peers, and the industry at large.

Andrew Koneschusky
Partner, CLS Strategies, 33

Andrew Koneschusky is a high flier in more ways than one. Not only is he a certified private pilot, but he has also helped his firm ascend to new heights.

For the past two years, he has been working to pave the way for the integration of unmanned aircraft systems – drones – into US airspace by 2015.

The public affairs campaign he has spearheaded has changed perceptions of the technology and generated support from governors, members of Congress, academics, and Amazon. As a result, the unmanned systems industry is on track to unlock an $89 billion market and create more than 100,000 new jobs in the US in years to come.

Other key achievements include Koneschusky’s campaign to restore Kenya’s image in the US following post-election violence in 2008. Working with the Kenyan embassy in Washington, he helped ensure the country got recognition for passing a new constitution, implementing reforms, combating militants in Somalia, and growing its economy.

"Andrew skillfully guides our diverse clients to achieve their goals and avoid major pitfalls, while also helping to chart the future of our business," explains Bob Chlopak, founding partner at CLS Strategies.

Jeff Koo
Senior director, digital lifestyle and LGBT practice groups, SparkPR, 34

Jeff Koo is a trailblazer in the world of PR and communications.

As the son of two non-English speaking immigrants with no formal training in communications, he started off as an entry-level account coordinator at SparkPR, working his way up to management in just seven years via five successive promotions. From 2010 to 2013, his teams have brought in more than $3.2 million in billings for the firm.

Koo was responsible for bringing in key clients including Dropcam, Lowe’s Home Improvement, and subscription digital music service Rdio. He masterminded the PR strategy behind the launch of the Dropcam Pro as the brand secured 50 original stories, which resulted in the company’s largest ever day of sales.

As well as launching SparkPR’s digital lifestyle practice, he also established its first LGBT unit. His work in this area has included rebranding some of the industry’s top gay-dating apps, such as Mister, and repositioning Jack’d as the fastest-growing gay app among young gay men aged 18 to 30.

"Jeff is an innovative thinker who has been the architect behind some of SparkPR’s most successful campaigns," says cofounder Donna Sokolsky Burke.

Amy Lee
Head of corporate marketing and communications, Sensity Systems, 39

Amy Lee always thinks big, helping young companies achieve the recognition they never felt possible.

As head of corporate marketing at Sensity Systems, she has helped ensure the LED lighting company and its groundbreaking Light Sensory Network truly shine.

Already this year, Lee has secured a prime slot for her company on the front page of The New York Times, as well as a two-page spread in Delta Air Lines’ Delta Sky magazine. Previously, she launched the company last year with a big story in The Wall Street Journal.

"Most young companies are delighted with mentions in the major magazines," explains Steve Thompson of TriplePlay Media, who has worked with Lee on several projects. "Amy’s companies get multi-page articles."

The secret to her success is that "she never thinks small," adds Thompson, as she targets national media attention from the outset for her brands.

In a dazzling career to date, she has already masterminded PR for two stock market launches and is known in Silicon Valley as a go-to person when an IPO is in the offing. She helped launch ONI Systems and oversaw its IPO in 2000. Later, she guided Inphi throughout its successful public offering in 2010.

Ross Levanto
SVP, technology practice group lead, MSLGroup Boston, 38

An inspiring leader and a brilliant strategist, Ross Levanto is also not afraid to get his hands dirty.

As director of the Boston technology practice, he oversees a staff of 60, manages 35 client companies, and is responsible for 50% of the office’s revenue.

Levanto is not only an ace at winning new business, with an impressive track record of one new client per month, but he has also generated significant sums of new revenue from existing clients. In addition, he formed partnerships with providers of new technologies, while also driving PR programs for some of the most innovative companies in the enterprise software, IT security, and data-center markets.

Levanto was instrumental in setting up the agency’s data security specialty, turning it into the nation’s largest and most experienced group of online security PR experts.

According to David Close, MD of MSLGroup Boston, Levanto is the embodiment of the "next generation" agency leader, not just because he is consistently ahead of the curve, but also because of his hands-on, no-nonsense approach. "Ross engages with clients’ CEOs, CMOs, and CTOs, but he also jumps in to help with the real work," adds Close.

Katy Michael
VP, global communications, Crocs, 34

Katy Michael is the youngest VP in the history of footwear brand Crocs.

Since joining the billion-dollar company in January 2012, her achievements include driving its 10th anniversary celebration that year and gaining high-profile coverage for the brand and its executives.

Thanks to Michael’s efforts, Crocs has been featured favorably in Forbes, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal, among other outlets.

In 2013, she was part of the team that launched Crocs’ largest global marketing initiative to date, International Comfort Day, in all 90 of its worldwide markets. The campaign culminated in a donation of more than 20,000 pairs of Crocs shoes to those in need around the world and locally to families affected by the 2013 Colorado flooding.

What is remarkable is that Michael has achieved all this while living with Crohn’s disease.

"Katy has helped nurture and grow Crocs’ communications department and made everyone who works with her better," says Dan Hart, chief legal and administration officer at the company. "She manages to be everyone at once – colleague, friend, mother, and leader – and has done all this with the odds stacked against her."

Sean Mills
Regional director, North America, Bite, 38

Sean Mills sinks his teeth into every role, most recently turning around the fortunes of Bite in North America.

He quickly rose to leadership roles at Phase Two Strategies, PeopleSoft, and Oracle, be-fore being named a VP at Bite Communications at the age of 30. Three years later, he began running the firm’s New York office.

In that time, he won the AMD business, expanding it from a $120,000 to $4.5 million account through award-winning campaigns.

He later joined Edelman’s corporate practice as an SVP, where he led a major turnaround for Juniper and managed the HP corporate media program before rejoining Bite last year. The well-respected Mills turned the struggling North America region around in just eight months, restoring its profitability for the first time in three years, and winning nine new clients worth $1.5 million.

"Sean is one of the most naturally strategic PR thinkers I’ve ever worked with," says Tim Dyson, CEO of Next Fifteen, Bite’s parent company. "He’s proven this client after client, transforming the reputations of some of the most troubled or unappreciated brands in the tech industry and, most recently, transforming an agency."

Nicole Mraz
SVP, ReviveHealth, 36

In the delicate world of healthcare communications, Nicole Mraz has mastered the art of translating complex issues into innovative and effective campaigns.

During her 15-year career in healthcare, she has designed and managed hundreds of successful, award-winning communications programs for clients across 46 states.

After spells at Ogilvy PR, Porter Novelli, and Davies Public Affairs, she helped launch ReviveHealth in 2009.

Mraz served as VP in the firm’s issues and crisis group, leading an account team, before being promoted to SVP in 2013. She now spearheads the issues and crisis unit and her work centers around high-profile managed care contracting, labor relations and disputes, litigation support, corporate restructuring, M&As, rebranding, and other complex issues.

Mraz has been key in propelling the company into an unprecedented period of growth and four consecutive years of double-digit profitability.

She is regarded as being a "smart leader," says ReviveHealth CEO and founder Brandon Edwards. "Nicole’s hard work, commitment to the craft, and national expertise in a super-niche space deserves recognition."

Amy O’Connor
Senior director, digital and social media communications – corporate affairs, Eli Lilly and Co., 33

At 33, Amy O’Connor became one of the youngest senior directors in the history of pharma giant Eli Lilly.

Her rapid rise is testament to her work, which has fundamentally changed the way the company – and the industry – communicates with the world.

For example, with her digital savvy, she developed and expanded the company’s involvement in public policy and championed key programs that have helped ensure people can access new and life-changing medicines.

She also masterminded and launched the groundbreaking LillyPad blog, which has one of the largest social media presences in the pharmaceutical industry.

A true industry pioneer, O’Connor helped create the first global oncology digital policy initiative via Lilly’s Patient Access to Cancer Care Excellence network. She has also driven work to change perceptions in the US of the industry’s public policy goals, from Medicare to intellectual property and access restrictions.

"Amy leads her team with a mindset that encourages innovation and collaboration, while always keeping an eye on the future," says Beekeeper Group partner Michael Panetta, who worked with O’Connor on the LillyPad project.

Jim O’Leary
EVP, global client relationship manager, Edelman, 34

In the last three years, Jim O’Leary has worked on several high-profile corporate transformations at Edelman, including leading the team that supported Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman’s five-year turnaround strategy.

O’Leary, the youngest global client relationship manager at Edelman, notably grew the extent of the firm’s work with HP in less than two years, expanding its scope to 44 countries and building a team of 160 people in 18 months.

His work with ITT Corporation is equally impressive. This included developing the corporate communications strategy around its 2011 demerger, which saw O’Leary manage a team of more than 40 people working across five offices globally.

At the same time, he helped build and manage communications for each of the three new companies – ITT Corp., Exelis, and Xylem.

His work on the campaign, which won a PRWeek Award in 2012 for Financial Communications Campaign of the Year, was praised by B.J. Talley, director of corporate communications at Exelis. "This effort has been recognized as one of the fastest and most successful corporate transformations in recent history, receiving many of the PR industry’s top awards," he says.

Elizabeth Sanzone
VP, LaunchSquad, 36

Elizabeth Sanzone has been at the frontline of some of the biggest communications issues of our time and influenced public policy at the highest levels.

As press secretary for US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, she helped shape his response to the events of 9/11, the war in Iraq, and other major policy and legislative issues. Sanzone went on to serve as the US Embassy spokesperson and media affairs attaché in Afghanistan, garnering positive coverage of the US’ efforts to rehabilitate the country.

At APCO Worldwide, she was the project lead for the multimillion-dollar Partnership for Prescription Assistance, developing the strategy behind the hugely successful pharma campaign, which led to thousands of articles being written about the program.

In her current role at LaunchSquad, she has played a key role in the growth of some of the company’s leading clients, including the Exploratorium, the iconic San Francisco museum. When the Exploratorium moved from its former location to a new home, Sanzone and her team created a year-long campaign that led to a huge surge in media coverage.

"Beth is fearless in her bold thinking and approach and is passionate about helping her clients," says LaunchSquad cofounder Jason Throckmorton. "She’s a leader among leaders in the PR world."

Nzinga Shaw
Secretary, board of directors of the National Black Public Relations Society, 34

A true champion for diversity in the PR industry, Nzinga Shaw is serving a two-year term as secretary on the board of directors of the National Black Public Relation Society.

She has helped the organization go from strength to strength. In 2013, Shaw exceeded her fundraising goals by 200% and was responsible for more than 60% of the group’s income.

Deborah Hyman, immediate past president of the society, praised her leadership skills.

"Nzinga is an exemplary individual who is an agent for change in the PR industry," she says.

Not only has Shaw served as an advocate for black professionals, but she has also been a pioneer and leader within her own firm – Edelman. After joining the firm as a VP of HR in its New York office, she went on to become Edelman’s first US director of diversity and inclusion, while leading the HR function for its Southeast region. Thanks to her efforts, Edelman has seen its ethnic and gender diversity increase year on year.

Most recently, she helped establish an internship scheme for ethnic minority students at Syracuse University and created a training program to educate Edelman staffers about the importance of the diversity.

Jessica Smith
MD, public affairs and crisis practice, Burson-Marsteller, 37

Jessica Smith is no stranger to fast-paced media relations and crisis communications. Before joining Burson-Marsteller in 2013, she worked for FEMA as director of its office of external affairs and communications, managing more than 130 employees across seven offices.

In that role, Smith served as the lead communicator for the federal government during more than 140 natural disasters, including Superstorm Sandy. As a spokesperson for the Justice Department, she was on the frontline of the federal government’s response to the Jared Loughner attack in Arizona.

Smith also advised on other high-profile cases such as the US vs. Barry Bonds and orchestrated media campaigns for the department’s 9/11 Victims Fund, among others.

In her current role, she leveraged her skill set to good effect, including managing Ford’s launch of its 2015 F-150 pickup truck, garnering more than 90 million media impressions.

"Jessica’s extensive background in strategic communications, campaign strategy, policy development, and stakeholder research is an invaluable asset to our firm," says Dave DenHerder, US CEO of Burson-Marsteller.

Catherine St-Laurent
Senior communications officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 33

Catherine St-Laurent is helping to transform the lives of women around the world.

In her current role at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, St-Laurent is the strategy lead for Melinda Gates, supporting her involvement in groundbreaking campaigns, such as the Family Planning 20-20 plan, which Gates launched in summer 2012 in London alongside world leaders. The program aims to ensure contraception is available to 120 million women around the world who currently do not have access to birth control.

"Catherine has played a key role in enabling Melinda’s voice to be used as effectively as possible," says Jeremy Hillman, the foundation’s director of external relations. "The work she has done will contribute to saving the lives of women and girls around the world."

St-Laurent oversees Melinda Gates’ internal and external communications engagements, which have helped Gates gain broad recognition, such as her inclusion in Forbes’ list of most influential women in 2013.

In a prior role, St-Laurent was behind the successful international communications campaign for Rio de Janeiro’s bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

Craig Taguchi
Product communications manager, Toyota Motor Sales USA, 34

Craig Taguchi is a driving force in the world of automotive PR and a rising star in Toyota’s communications outfit.

Taguchi took on sole responsibility for marketing the Scion brand, executing the hugely successful launch of the FR-S sports coupe. The brand joined forces with the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), giving parts manufacturers a preview of the new model, encouraging them to develop accessories. As a result, more than 100 modified Scion coupes graced the floor at the SEMA show in Las Vegas.

Taguchi also came up with an innovative concept for the launch of the Toyota FT-1 Sports Car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, when his team created a press conference that featured the car in the PlayStation game Gran Turismo 6.

The event attracted coverage from a range of tech, gaming, and lifestyle media that would not usually cover an auto show launch.

Taguchi has changed the face of automotive PR, according to Julie Hamp, CCO at Toyota North America.

"Craig has an innate sense for message amplification through social media and citizen influencers," she adds.

Stacey Tank
SVP and chief corporate relations officer, Heineken USA, 33

As the only female chief corporate relations officer at a major US beer brand, Stacey Tank is a trailblazer.

Since joining Heineken USA, she boosted the company’s reputation among key stakeholders and streamlined its communications strategy, driving a more coordinated approach to media relations. As a result, the overall portfolio garnered 2.8 billion unique media impressions during the course of 2013, a 278% increase from 2012.

Her innovative campaigns have helped set the brand apart from others in the crowded beer category through programs such as the hugely popular Departure Roulette to the introduction of Strongbow cider. Of equal note are Tank’s efforts on leading the brand through reputation challenges, including Heineken’s withdrawal from sponsorship of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade due to the exclusion of the LGBT community.

A champion communicator, she has also played a key role in boosting employee engagement from 22% to more than 68% – an all-time high at the company.

"Stacey’s individual purpose has always been about pushing boundaries and proving that the impossible is possible," says CEO Dolf van den Brink. "By continuously challenging herself and her colleagues, she continues to drive success."

Doug Terfehr
PR director, Pizza Hut, 39

In less than two years at Pizza Hut, Doug Terfehr has cooked up award-winning work that crosses PR, marketing, and digital.

In his first few months, he spearheaded a hugely successful national campaign for Super Bowl XLVII that generated more than 343 million earned media impressions.

Terfehr also led the headline-grabbing search to find the brand’s next social media manager, or "manager of digital greatness," which included giving candidates 140-second speed interviews to impress at SXSW.

The brand’s Xbox Live Ordering App, the first app to allow someone to order a product via a gaming console, was Terfehr’s creation. The concept was the result of a groundbreaking partnership between Pizza Hut and Microsoft. Downloads for launch day were predicted to be about 1,000, but came in at 35,000 as he made sure the effort gained maximum exposure – 300 million earned media impressions.

Pizza Hut also exceeded its year-end goal for Xbox-related sales by achieving more than $1.5 million in sales in just six months.

"Doug is one of a kind," adds Sarah Beddoe, director of digital experience at Pizza Hut. "He pushes the limits of possibility, all with an eye to elevating the brand."

Amy Terpeluk
Partner, Finn Partners, 39

Amy Terpeluk has shown how the power of PR and communications can change lives.

Terpeluk, who leads Finn Partners’ global issues practice, worked with client Kate Spade & Company to get parents involved in the company’s Love is Not Abuse program, which raised awareness of domestic violence affecting teenagers.

She also collaborated with the National Foundation for Women Legislators to push for laws to ensure schools teach teens about dating abuse. More recently, Terpeluk has been managing media relations for No More, the first branding symbol supported by major organizations working to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault.

She is also a proven professional at getting people to rally behind a good cause. Examples include the US launch of Good Deeds Day, an annual global event that saw New Yorkers take part in a day-long volunteering marathon and garnering coverage for the Verizon Foundation’s Innovative App Challenge for schools.

"People genuinely admire Amy for her fierce work ethic," explains Anne Glauber, managing partner at Finn Partners, "but also truly like her as a friend and colleague."

Scott Warfield
Senior director, social media integration and broadcasting comms, NASCAR, 32

A real driving force at NASCAR, Scott Warfield leads communications for four of the company’s biggest profit centers.

In the past three years, he has led or played a key role in some of the most high-profile programs, announcements, and initiatives in the sport’s history.

For example, he spearheaded work on NASCAR’s record-setting multibillion-dollar TV and multimedia deals.

Warfield also successfully managed the brand’s biggest announcement of the past year, as NBC Sports became its newest broadcast partner. And he played a key role in leading and building NASCAR’s integrated marketing communications team, which recently helped the sanctioning body's digital media unit roll out two new apps, a fantasy game, and a homepage redesign.

All the while, he continues to change the way the sport is perceived by breaking down barriers, garnering stories in outlets including US Weekly, OK!, Star, and In Touch Weekly.

"Scott has mastered the art of turning critics into advocates by removing barriers for entry into the sport," says Brett Jewkes, NASCAR’s VP and CCO. "He has single-handedly converted some of our toughest, most outspoken, and highly influential detractors out there."

Danielle Wuschke
SVP and partner, GM, FleishmanHillard Boston, 39

The youngest GM in FleishmanHillard’s global network, Danielle Wuschke has built the Boston office into one of the firm’s fastest growing and most profitable units. Under her leadership, the staff has quadrupled to about 40, with revenue of more than $5 million.

Since joining Fleishman in 2007, Wuschke has earned a reputation as a fearless leader, strategic adviser, and talented customer relations manager. She currently co-leads the firm’s US technology practice and has won major pieces of business, including Walmart and Autodesk.

In addition, she led AT&T’s b-to-b corporate communications strategy for the Northeast region.

With an enthusiasm for developing emerging talent, she revitalized Fleishman’s staff-training program and created a new peer education scheme specifically for social media and community management, as well as boosting leadership and management training.

"Danielle’s commitment to leadership, client service, collaboration, innovation, and mentorship is exceptional," says Robert Dowling, president and senior partner, Eastern region at Fleishman, as well as its GM in New York.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in