Laura Howe: 40 Under 40 2013

VP of PR, American Red Cross

Laura Howe’s expertise in communications has saved lives. Having worked with the American Red Cross for 12 years in various PR roles, she was promoted to VP of PR in 2010. During her time at the organization she has harnessed all the tools of 21st century communications to enable the Red Cross to reach those in need.

In times of disaster Howe spearheads efforts to inform people about how they can get and give help, including doing interviews with national media and ensuring the right people are in the correct place to get key messages across. As an early user of Twitter, she quickly recognized its potential and has been at the forefront of using social media in disaster communications. She has not only built a team to manage the Red Cross’ place in the social universe, but also created a cadre of trained digital volunteers around the world to help dispense critical information when disasters strike.

Howe has also worked with Dell to create the first social media center for humanitarian purposes, which has greatly enhanced the organization’s ability to monitor social media activity during disasters. The center launched in 2012 and proved especially valuable in disasters such as Super-storm Sandy, providing real-time information from Tweets and Facebook posts that helped people on the ground work out transport routes and get food and other supplies to those who needed them most.

Howe’s other achievements include launching the Red Cross advanced public affairs team – an elite group of staff and volunteers trained as national media spokespeople for major disasters. Her experience and skills represent "the perfect combination" for the Red Cross, according to chief public affairs officer Suzy DeFrancis.

"Laura’s expertise in all forms of communications and her leadership in pioneering the use of social media in disaster response has literally saved lives and strongly merits her inclusion in this list," explains DeFrancis

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