The Innovation 50

50 rising stars of tech PR and digital communications in the agency, in-house, and social media sectors

The Innovation 50

For the first time, PRWeek profiles 50 rising stars of tech PR and digital communications in the agency, in-house, and social media sectors. Click here for individual profiles of these innovators.

Ana Andreescu, Dropbox
Ana Andreescu is a seasoned tech PR pro, having worked at a range of agencies and brands in Silicon Valley before joining Dropbox a year ago to work in corporate communications. Andreescu started her career in marketing at Gartner, and has since done stints at Hill+Knowlton, OutCast, HP, Jive Software and GoodData. It has been a busy year for Andreescu at Dropbox, as it transitioned into its "second chapter." The digital storage firm is morphing into an app platform, having made a series of acquisitions and new feature launches. Dropbox has also beefed up its services for business and more recently announced a price drop. As Dropbox continues to grow – it now has 300 million users – keeping security and privacy issues well communicated amid fierce competition from Google and Amazon will continue to be a challenge for Andreescu.

Jessie Baker, Facebook
Rising tech PR star Jessie Baker leads communications for all of Facebook's consumer products, including newsfeed, groups, timeline, and search, as well as its standalone apps across the web and mobile. With Facebook continuing to develop new apps and products at breakneck speed, it is crucial for Baker and her team to keep users onboard with latest developments, particularly since there are so many other startups vying for users’ attention. British transplant Baker moved to San Francisco to join Facebook two years ago. She worked on Instagram initially, including the high-profile launch of Instagram video. Baker’s natural ability to communicate combined with an analytical way of thinking has seen her thrive at the engineering-led company.  She made the initial connection with Facebook when it was her client at Brunswick Group in New York. She also worked at Brunswick in Washington, DC, gaining a wide range of experience that spans politics, corporate communications, and mergers and acquisitions.

Laura Barganier, Day One Agency
As a senior account director at Day One Agency, Laura Barganier is helping to build the fledgling firm from the ground up. She joined the digital marketing and communications agency in April, about a month after former M Booth staffers Josh Rosenberg, Brad Laney, and Rob Longert officially opened its doors. Previously, she spent a few years at tech PR firm Brew Media Relations, working with startups including, Bluefin Labs, GroupMe, and Zong. She started her career in the consumer marketing team at Weber Shandwick, serving clients such as Amazon. Barganier’s specialty is the tech and business press, and she is well-connected in the technology and startup world, says Longert. "One of the keys to being a good PR person is staying on top of everything that’s out there… if news breaks or a reporter moves to another publication, [Barganier] is the first to know," he says. "She’s a true rock star."

Katherine Barna, Tumblr
Katherine Barna has led communications at Tumblr for more than three years. Before that, she was a publicist at Newsweek and held stints at XM Satellite Radio and Cohn Dutcher Associates. At Tumblr, she has overseen PR efforts for the popular blogging platform from its days as a scrappy New York startup to its $1.1 billion acquisition by Yahoo last year. Tumblr, with its fast-growing user base, proved an attractive prospect for Yahoo as the struggling Internet giant attempted to reinvent itself. In the year since the acquisition, Tumblr more than doubled its staff and grew its audience by 22%, but the company has not yet solved the revenue growth puzzle. In this new era of Tumblr, Barna and her colleagues must prove the business has what it takes to succeed in the big leagues, while staying true to its indie roots and maintaining its appeal to legions of loyal users.

Jessica Bass, Beats by Dre
Jessica Bass not only has the perfect name to be working in the music PR industry, she also has a solid track record, having worked at Myspace and entertainment PR agency Bender/Helper Impact before joining Beats By Dr Dre two years ago. Beats co-founder Dr Dre has proven he is as much a pioneer in tech as he has been in hip hop. Beats started out manufacturing headphones before moving onto speakers and digital music streaming. In six years it has grown into a phenomenally successful brand that caught the attention of Apple, which snapped it up for $3 billion this year in its largest acquisition to date. As Beats' senior PR manager, Bass told the story of Beats and its acquisition and will have to ensure brand communications hits the right note with its loyal fan base. No doubt the next episode for Bass at Beats will be as exciting as the last.

Mallory Blair, Small Girls PR
Mallory Blair is a small girl with big ambitions. At her 21st birthday party, she met another enterprising woman of petite stature, Bianca Caampued, and the two created a digital marketing and PR company called Small Girls PR. In just a few years, the women have worked with tech clients including GE, Google, AOL, Hinge, and Meetup, as well as media companies such as Flavorpill and Gawker. Their efforts have also caught the attention of outlets ranging from Glamour and Marie Claire to the New York Post and Forbes. Blair and her team stand out for their ability to build buzz for brands while maintaining a personable, playful touch. Blair’s PR philosophy could be summed up in her quote from a DailyCandy article, "Your business’ reputation drives its bottom line. Meanie heads finish last." At a time when technology changes and information circulates at breakneck speed, that could be just the kind of personal interaction consumers are seeking.

Sheila Bryson, Betable
In a past life, Sheila Bryson did standup comedy, but now she channels some of that energy into PR and communications efforts for gaming platform Betable. Prior to her nearly three years at Betable, Bryson spent several years at Sparkpr with accounts such as Electronic Arts, Vevo, Walmart Labs, and Warner Brothers; served as Sony Computer Entertainment America’s PR manager; and supported clients HP and Blu-Ray Disc Association at Blanc & Otus. Betable, which is headquartered in London and has an office in San Francisco, provides licenses and betting infrastructure for developers to integrate real-money gambling in online games and apps. Last year the company raised an additional $18.5 million in funding, with plans to grow its team, launch new features, and support more developers. Bryson is helping the startup at a time when online gaming offers booming business prospects for Silicon Valley. Betting on mobile devices could become a $100 billion worldwide industry by 2017, according to estimates from Juniper Research.

Ashley Burke, The OutCast Agency
Ashley Burke has built her PR career at The OutCast Agency, telling stories for companies including EMC, GE, Jawbone,, Andreessen Horowitz, Quicken, and ZocDoc. She joined the firm’s San Francisco headquarters in 2010 as an associate and has since transferred to the New York office. As an account executive, Burke specializes in consumer, enterprise, and mobile technology. She is a member of the agency’s consumer media and digital taskforces, working across traditional and social channels to lead PR programs and develop communications strategy for her clients. "[Her] thoughtfulness, creativity, and ability to think strategically across all platforms are great assets to our clients," says OutCast VP Aziza Johnson.

Liz Clinkenbeard, GitHub
Liz Clinkenbeard heads up communications at one of the Internet's hottest properties of the moment. San Francisco-based GitHub is an open-source platform that enables developers to collaborate on code. Founded in 2008, it is growing rapidly and has 6.7 million users. Shortly after Andreessen Horowitz invested $100m in the business two years ago – at the time its biggest single investment – Clinkenbeard joined from SutherlandGold Group. Prior to this, she was an account director at OutCast for almost seven years, serving enterprise software, mobile, and consumer technology brands including VMware and DNAnexus. While Clinkenbeard has earned GitHub lots of positive press coverage, particularly around its open policy partnership with the White House last year, she has also had to handle plenty of negative press. A sexism scandal rocked the firm this year, after a female engineer quit over public claims she experienced gender-based harassment at the startup, prompting GitHub to be more transparent.

Sara Cohen, Etsy
Sara Cohen is communications director at Etsy, the Brooklyn-based e-commerce platform focused on vintage, handmade, and one-of-a-kind products. Since being founded in 2005, Etsy has grown to 600 employees, more than one million active shops, $1.35 billion in merchandise sales, and offices in New York, San Francisco, Berlin, London, Dublin, and Toronto. Its expanded reach means the site is not just for hipsters anymore, and Cohen and her colleagues must tackle a host of larger communications challenges. Take, for instance, the company’s launch of Etsy Wholesale, a new site that allows sellers to take wholesale orders from retailers - or Etsy’s fight against the FCC’s net neutrality proposal. Before she joined Etsy in 2011 as a senior events manager, Cohen worked at The OutCast Agency, serving clients including Yahoo, VMware, TiVo, and

April Conyers, Brew Media Relations
At the beginning of this year, April Conyers was promoted to VP at Brew Media Relations, a firm that helps companies in the tech space with media relations, strategy, and networking. The agency’s client list includes, Charity:Water, Oracle, NetSuite, WordPress, and Refinery29. After growing her role at Brew in New York City for more than three years, Conyers spearheaded the opening of the firm’s San Francisco office. She is a "powerhouse," says Brew founder Brooke Hammerling, who is herself entrenched in the tech and startup scene. "She represents the Brew brand to perfection with a deep knowledge and passion for technology and a remarkable gift of communicating." Previously, Conyers worked as an account supervisor at M Booth and marketing manager at, and spent several years climbing the ranks at Cohn & Wolfe.

Laura Covington, Foursquare
Laura Covington is one half of Foursquare’s lean communications team. She joined Foursquare in 2011 after a spell at nonprofit Alliance for Health Reform, and now serves as senior communications associate. Along with Foursquare corporate communications director Brendan Lewis and PR agency DKC, Covington is responsible for telling the company’s story during a period of great transformation. Over the summer, Foursquare split into two separate apps: Swarm, which acts as a social heat map and allows users to check in to locations, and a relaunched eponymous app focusing on discovery and personalized local search. The new Foursquare repositions the company for the future and helps it compete with sites such as Yelp and Google. However, not everyone welcomed the changes, with some social media users protesting Swarm after its launch with hashtags such as #killswarm. Covington has a big role to play in explaining Foursquare’s new direction and introducing the apps to a larger audience, as well as convincing investors the new strategy can make money.

Amy Cronk, Pure Storage
Amy Cronk just completed her first year at fast-growing data storage startup Pure Storage. Cronk joined the business from VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, where she was a marketing partner. As well as VC experience, Cronk has also worked on the agency and brand side, with stints at The Horn Group, Zeno, Oracle, and Apple. As demand for enterprise data storage increases, Pure Storage hopes to unseat rivals in the space, such as EMC, by offering Flash memory technology it claims is faster and more energy efficient than commonly used hard-drive storage. And the plan appears to be working, with Pure Storage experiencing 700% year-on-year growth, according to TechCrunch. In May, Pure Storage raised $225 million in an investment round, valuing the company at more than $3 billion. Having recently hired a former finance executive from Google as its CFO, speculation is building that an IPO is also on the agenda for Pure Storage.

Blair Decembrele, LinkedIn
Blair Decembrele leads communications for LinkedIn's influencer and member content program, aimed at inspiring the business network's members to be better professionals. Launched two years ago, the content program marked a strategy shift for the business network, moving away from its roots as a place for headhunters and job seekers and taking on a more Facebook-like dimension, where users share and engage with content. This year the program expanded beyond business personalities, such as Michael Bloomberg and Richard Branson, to include any member who applies. Decembrele has a strong track record in media relations and strategy, having joined LinkedIn almost two years ago from women's publisher Meredith Communications. "Blair is incredibly talented, and part of what makes her so strong is her ability to zero in on the story the media will want to tell and work the LinkedIn narrative into that storyline," says her manager at LinkedIn Catherine Fisher. "She’s an all-star."

Grace Ellis, Andreessen Horowitz
Working with the world's pre-eminent digital brands, including Facebook, Foursquare, Airbnb, and, most recently, Buzzfeed, VC firm Andreessen Horowitz has built a strong and well-known brand in its own right. But it is also the founders' media savvy that has built the brand. Co-founder Marc Andreessen is a pioneering software engineer while other co-founder Ben Horowitz's open and honest blog posts are popular with those who follow the fintech scene. As such, the firm attracts a great deal of attention due to its high-profile investments, the communications around which are handled by spokesperson and marketing partner Grace Ellis. Ellis joined the VC firm three-and-a-half years ago from video media site Blinkx, where she was a senior marketing manager for four years. Before this, Ellis handled PR for tech clients at OutCast – the agency co-founded by Andreessen Horowitz partner Margit Wennmachers.

Anne Espiritu, Yahoo
After many years in the doldrums and a string of leadership changes, Yahoo has struggled to attract talent. However, that changed when it hired former Google executive Marissa Mayer. While the internet company's troubles are certainly not over, Mayer has brought about many positive changes. She also brought Google talent with her too. Anne Espiritu, Yahoo's VP, global PR, was one such hire, having worked closely with Mayer and been a key driver of her public image for the past eight years. During her seven years at Google, Espiritu worked across many Google products, including search, and most recently played a key part in the rollout of its social network Google+. Espiritu leads a team of talented PR professionals that has reinvigorated Yahoo's brand under Mayer's leadership. But challenges still remain at the business as the company battles disappointing financial results, with many commentators questioning whether time is running out for Mayer in her bid to turn the business around.

Alyssa Galella, Huge
Alyssa Galella is director of earned media at Huge, a leading digital agency based in DUMBO, Brooklyn with offices in the US, London, and Rio de Janeiro. Earlier in her career, she served as Huge’s communications manager, running PR and social media for the agency and its internal Huge Labs tech startups. She also worked in the consumer tech and FirstWord Digital groups at M Booth with companies including Zynga, American Express, and Getty Images. In her current role, Galella is charged with helping brands such as Audi, TD Ameritrade, and President Cheese approach PR through a digital and social lens. Those PR opportunities included teaming up President Cheese earlier this year with food bloggers to create cheese recipes and a tantalizing microsite and Pinterest board, or Audi using Snapchat to connect with new audiences on Super Bowl Sunday. In her free time, Galella also helps keep Brooklyn’s digital community satiated by running the @DUMBOFoodTrucks Twitter handle, which tracks food trucks in the neighborhood.

Natalie Gerke, DKC
A client of Natalie Gerke’s has one word for the budding PR pro: "amazing." Gerke is a senior account executive at DKC, the agency of record for Foursquare since February. She previously held roles at C. Milan Communications and Cohn & Wolfe, where she worked on b-to-b technology accounts. At DKC, Gerke is part of the team helping reshape Foursquare’s narrative in the US during a crucial year for the company. Foursquare recently revamped its eponymous app to focus on local search and launched a second app, Swarm, that reimagines the check-in feature. Gerke’s efforts since then included facilitating an Entrepreneur feature, in which Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley shares his best business advice. Getting immersed in communications for Foursquare is a significant career milestone for Gerke, whose Twitter bio reads, "PR never sleeps."

Erin Gleason, Founders Fund
Erin Gleason is a self-described "one-woman show" at venture capital firm Founders Fund, which backs startups across sectors such as consumer Internet and media, analytics and software, aerospace, and biotechnology. Founders Fund brought on Gleason in February for its first in-house communications position so she could offer guidance to its portfolio companies, which include Facebook, Lyft, Spotify, and TaskRabbit. She is also in charge of branding and marketing efforts for the San Francisco-based firm. With her deep roots in the technology scene, Gleason is up for the job. Before this, she was an account supervisor at The Hatch Agency, a tech PR firm serving clients such as Dropbox and Beats by Dre. She was also an early hire of Foursquare, overseeing PR efforts as the company grew its user base from one million to more than 45 million. She began her career at Google and worked as a deputy field organizer for President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign.

Kelsey Grady, Nextdoor
Described as the Facebook for local communities, Nextdoor has been riding a wave of hype since it launched three years ago. It works as a series of localized mini-networks, beginning life as a place for neighbors to recommend gardeners and babysitters or seek help to find a lost pet. In her role as head of communications, Grady has earned the site plenty of high profile coverage from major outlets, including CNN, Time and Wired, as well as local press. Before joining Nextdoor three years ago, Grady was agency-side, with stints at Loomis Group and Macy + Associates. As the local network grows beyond 40,000 neighborhood websites, the main communications challenge Grady faces is ensuring the privacy of its users. The site is stepping up as a public safety platform, partnering with local police forces, but this messaging was thrown into crisis when CEO Nirav Tolia was recently charged with a misdemeanor hit-and-run after causing injury in an auto accident.

Lacey Haines, Apple
Lacey Haines has been a PR manager at Apple for three years, working on the Mac team. She joined from Next Fifteen agency Bite, where she served clients including HP and TiVo. Apple’s Mac computer remains a shining star for the company, outpacing PC sales, according to Fortune. Along with iPhone sales, the Mac drove record third quarter revenues for the tech company, at $37.4 billion. Its soon-to-be-launched OS X Yosemite operating system will allow for closer integration between Macs and iPhones. Haines and the Apple communications team are in a transformational period after long-standing global comms lead Katie Cotton, who played a key role in shaping the Apple brand, retired earlier this year. Some commentators suggest Cotton’s departure will mean more open communications at the tech giant. Maintaining the company’s reputation for innovation will be a key challenge for communications, particularly with speculation that Apple is to about to make a big play in wearables.

Nairi Hourdajian, Uber
Uber is "changing the way cities work, and that’s fundamentally a third rail," CEO Travis Kalanick said in an interview with Re/code at the Code Conference last May. "We’re in a political campaign, and the candidate is Uber." As part of the global communications team at the transportation startup, Nairi Hourdajian is a key player in that campaign. Uber may have won over some customers with its convenient taxi-hailing app and extra promotions such as ice-cream delivery in the summer, but the taxi industry is fighting hard against it. Earlier this year, cab drivers in cities including Washington, DC, London, Paris, Madrid, and Berlin gridlocked traffic in protest against Uber and similar apps. Uber has also faced regulatory bans in cities such as Berlin and is in fierce competition with rival Lyft, both of which have accused each other of ordering rides and then canceling them to slow down services. To further its campaign, Uber last month brought on former Obama for America aide David Plouffe as SVP of policy and strategy. Uber widened its reach at the end of August, launching in 24 new markets. Hourdajian and her team have raised Uber’s brand awareness amid its battle, but heated challenges around the world prove not everyone takes kindly to disruption from the tech industry.

Abby Hunt, GrubHub
Abby Hunt heads up communications for Chicago-based online food service GrubHub. She started her PR career at Edelman and has a range of experience under her belt, working at CKPR, higher education brand Kaplan and online travel service Orbitz. She joined GrubHub from Interpublic’s Golin three years ago, and during this period GrubHub has undergone significant change. GrubHub started out in 2004 as a simple restaurant listings site and has continued to evolve with its customers' needs, morphing into the multiplatform food ordering service it is today. Last year, it merged with its New York rival Seamless, and in April GrubHub Seamless went public. In 2013, GrubHub processed $1.3 billion in food orders, a fraction of the predicted $60 billion Americans spend on takeouts from independent restaurants every year, according to Reuters. But there is still plenty of room for competition in the sector, and reports suggest Amazon plans to eat GrubHub's lunch with a soon-to-launch rival service.

Meredith Kendall, The Pramana Collective
In August, Meredith Kendall took on the role of principal at The Pramana Collective, the consultancy founded last year by tech PR heavyweights Sean Garrett, Brandee Barker, and Brian O’Shaughnessy. Kendall was another significant addition to Pramana, having spent the prior three years leading communications for video-streaming platform Hulu, one of the companies along with Netflix that is reshaping the TV industry. While at Hulu, she reported directly to the CEO as part of the leadership team, managed seven staffers, and oversaw communications efforts including corporate, product, content, advertising, and distribution. Before Hulu, Kendall led PR for online video startup Break Media (now Defy Media) and served as a talent manager for 19 Entertainment, working on shows such as American Idol. She began her career in the global communications department of Google. Such experience leaves her well-suited for her new job at Pramana, where she will use her innovative communications expertise to counsel clients from the heart of Silicon Valley.

Malorie Lucich, Pinterest
Facebook alum Malorie Lucich made the leap to the internet's inspiration board Pinterest last year. Lucich has a track record of working with small teams to grow businesses, which is precisely what she did while managing PR for Facebook’s platforms for four-and-a-half years. Lucich, who has a reputation as a smart and efficient communicator and a background in writing, originally handled media relations for Facebook and other tech firms when she worked at OutCast in San Francisco. As Pinterest's manager of product communications, Lucich has to raise the profile of the site’s regular stream of new features, such as its video collections partnership with music video site Vevo. A big challenge for Pinterest's communications team is dispelling the perception that the platform is only used by women. Internally, however, it must tip the gender balance the other way after it disclosed, like many of its tech peers, it lacks diversity.

David Mack, Lyft
In April this year David Mack, principal at Next Fifteen's public affairs shop 463 Communications, left after nearly four-and-a-half years to join one of the tech world's fiercest battles – alternative taxicab services. As director of policy communications at peer-to-peer car-sharing service Lyft, Mack, who also previously worked at Next Fifteen’s Bite Communications, has a stiff task to convince city administrators, regulators, and citizens that Lyft – and its pink fluffy 'tache – is better than traditional taxicabs and its rival start-ups, which include Uber, Hailo, GetCab and SideCar. This was put to the test when Lyft recently launched in New York City and Mack and his team had a shaky ride overcoming regulatory bumps in the road. Its rivalry with Uber has stepped up a gear, with Uber resorting to aggressive campaigns to undercut Lyft’s supply of drivers. Amid the mud-slinging, communications will play a key role in keeping Lyft ahead in this particular tech race.

Rachel Manson, Cutline Communications
Though it sometimes flies under the radar, Cutline Communications has garnered a reputation as a tech communications agency to watch. Rachel Manson is a senior account manager at the firm, which she joined more than three years ago. Based in San Francisco, she manages four staffers and oversees the account teams for smartwatch Pebble and social sharing tool ShareThis, as well as collaborating with partner and president Erin Fors on initiatives for Yahoo. "We often hear from her direct reports that she’s the best manager they’ve had. Even people who don’t report in directly to her seek her out for advice and mentorship," Fors says of Manson. "Clients absolutely love her and regularly sing her praises." Before her days at Cutline, Manson spent more than two years at Flashpoint PR.

Chelsea Maughan, Google
It has been 10 years since Google went public and, in that time, its revenue has grown over 1,640%, from $3.2 billion in 2004 to $55.52 billion last year. Despite being a public company and dealing with the pressures of shareholders and quarterly reporting cycles, Google continues to create world-changing innovations. In her year in post, Chelsea Maughan has worked on some of these pioneering projects. She is currently part of the global communications and policy team for Android and Chrome at a crucial stage in the operating systems' development, as they become increasingly intertwined. Before this she worked on communications for Google Glass, helping to roll out its explorer program and attempting to allay any public backlash the eye-ware generated. Prior to Glass, she worked for Google’s video site YouTube. As with all Google products, the main communications challenge will be maintaining consumer trust and privacy in a market that is experiencing intense change and competition.

Ashley Mayer, Box
Ashley Mayer leads global communications for online storage startup Box, which is planning to go public by the end of this year. To prove its financial viability, the company recently revealed that it would remove file storage limits for business customers and also integrate its service with rival Microsoft’s Office 365. Mayer has overseen communications for such announcements and other business milestones since joining the company in 2009. She started at Box as a community manager and subsequently worked her way up to head of the communications team. Previously, she was an account executive at Hill & Knowlton (now Hill+Knowlton Strategies), where her clients included Qualcomm, eBay, Chevron, and the US Marines. Her aim now is to help show that Box is "not really building a storage company," as CEO Aaron Levie said at the Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado earlier this year. "We’re building a company that lets you do different things with your content." Those efforts have helped Box land big customers such as General Electric.

Matt McLernon, YouTube
During Matt McLernon’s four years at Google subsidiary YouTube, the video-sharing site has undergone a major transformation. Once the place where internet junkies could enjoy videos of sneezing Pandas, it has now matured into a credible media platform that pursues quality content. McLernon joined YouTube as communications manager having previously worked agency-side at Ruder Finn and Bite with tech brands including HP and TiVo. McLernon's responsibilities include managing YouTube’s social media presence and building its reputation at industry events such as CES. A major communications push this year has been its advertising campaign to promote YouTube "stars" such as beauty video creators Michelle Phan and Bethany Mota. One of the main objectives of the campaign was to raise awareness among brands about the stars’ abilities to attract huge audiences to their channels. McLernon will help YouTube continue to compete with TV for eyeballs, in a bid to convince advertisers it is a valuable place to ally with great content.

Dani Metz, The Hatch Agency
Early in Dani Metz’s career, she got experience under her belt at The OutCast Agency assisting tech companies including Yahoo, Zynga, Autodesk, Bump, and Jawbone. She then moved on to The Hatch Agency, a San Francisco-based communications firm founded in January 2012 by two former OutCast partners, Amy Swanson and Reema Bahnasy. As a startup itself, The Hatch Agency helps other pioneering brands make their mark. Metz worked her way up to be an account supervisor at the agency, serving clients such as Beats Electronics; Nike; Glow; Nextdoor; Xapo; Karma, which was acquired by Facebook; and Wavii, which was acquired by Google. Her PR challenges have included assisting social network Path, which last year faced layoffs and a Federal Trade Commission settlement over alleged privacy violations.  Path has since increased users, launched a messaging app called Path Talk, and acquired TalkTo, an app for messaging local companies.

Natalie Miyake, Twitter
This week, Natalie Miyake joined Twitter as a senior communications associate. Miyake will focus on corporate communications from the social media company’s San Francisco office. Nearly a year after its IPO, Twitter exceeded earnings expectations by growing revenue 124% to $312 million and monthly active users by 24% to 271 million during the second quarter. It is a crucial time for the microblogging business as it continues to find ways to expand its user base and monetize its platform, and Miyake will play a role in addressing the company’s communications challenges. Prior to this, she showed her rising star status by counseling clients at Brunswick Group on critical business issues such as crises, M&A, leadership transition, and litigation. She also worked at RLM Finsbury (formerly Robinson Lerer & Montgomery), managing national campaigns for companies in the financial, healthcare, auto, entertainment, and food service sectors.

Julie Mossler, Waze
Julie Mossler arrived at Waze just in time to manage communications during the mobile navigation service’s $966 million acquisition by Google last year. Waze caught the tech giant’s eye for its app that provides maps and directions based on input from millions of drivers. As head of global communications and creative strategy at Waze, Mossler is in charge of developing integrated marketing and communications programs to help build the company’s community around the world. Before Waze, she was the first PR hire at Groupon, where she faced communications challenges such as the company’s expansion into 48 countries and botched IPO. She also managed to launch lighthearted, popular initiatives including Live Off Groupon, in which a customer survived for a year on Groupon offers. This creative thinking landed Mossler on PRWeek’s 40 Under 40 list in 2011 and will serve her well on Waze’s own path to growth under Google.

Kaitlyn Nagy, Nasty Gal
Over the past year it was hard to miss the buzz about Nasty Gal, the online retailer selling retro-inspired clothes with an edge. Behind the scenes is PR director Kaitlyn Nagy, who has been with the company since 2012. Nagy has a captivating story to share about her employer. Nasty Gal founder and CEO Sophia Amoruso started the brand, named after the 1975 album by Betty Davis, as an eBay shop, which she promoted on MySpace. It has since grown into a $100 million business with 350 employees, and 30-year-old Amoruso has transformed into an entrepreneurial guru with the publication of her book #GirlBoss. Nasty Gal and its founder built a large, loyal following through social media and word-of-mouth, which has lately been the subject of many press interviews. Nagy helps the brand keep up its badass persona and reach the customer who, as Amoruso described in a recent Fast Company article, "doesn't really differentiate between consuming content, shopping for something, and hanging out with her friends online."

Max Nelson, SalientMG
Max Nelson has over eight years of experience in tech PR. He currently leads PR for marketing firm SalientMG, working across the company’s client base, which includes Angry Birds game-maker Rovio, on PR strategy, media relations, executive visibility, and speaking engagements. Nelson is a strategic thinker who advises clients on when and how to leverage their backgrounds to become expert commentators and he creates custom content creation strategies for both clients and individual executives. Before Salient, Nelson was senior corporate communications manager at ad tech firm Millennial Media, where he met SalientMG founder and CEO Mack McKelvey, who was SVP of marketing. At Millennial Media, Nelson led the communications and PR strategy around the company’s IPO in 2012. Previously, Nelson worked at the SutherlandGold Group in San Francisco. His tech clients included Brightcove, Lookout Mobile Security, RadiumOne and Break Media.

Andrew Noyes, Brigade Media
Brigade Media wants to revitalize American politics and, as newly installed VP of communications, Andrew Noyes is charged with helping the startup achieve that goal. Founded in 2014 by Silicon Valley veterans Sean Parker and Marc Benioff, Brigade aims to combat apathy about all levels of politics and boost civic engagement in the US. Earlier this year the company raised $9.5 million in funding and acquired a controlling stake in Philotic, which owns online campaign platform and political advocacy startup Votizen. Noyes has a history of aligning himself with innovative companies. Before this, he led corporate communications at transport app Uber, helping build its brand as it faced legal battles around the world. He was also the first communications head in Washington, DC for Facebook, where for more than three years he managed comms and public policy during product launches, legal cases, privacy issues, political campaign initiatives, and other efforts that give him a wide-ranging view of the challenges now faced by Brigade.

Rosette Pambakian, Tinder
Rosette Pambakian serves as VP of communications for one of the hottest tech companies of the moment, Tinder. With its addictive feature that allows users to swipe left or right to select potential matches, the app has captured people’s attention for simplifying online dating. It has also caught the eye of investors, with and OKCupid owner IAC/InterActiveCorp. buying a major stake in the company. Like many startups, however, Tinder has not yet turned a profit. Pambakian’s job is to tell Tinder’s story amid a period of intense scrutiny - not all of it positive. In July, former Tinder marketing VP Whitney Wolfe sued the company for sexual harassment and discrimination. The suit raised questions not only about Tinder’s internal culture, but also about gender diversity in the tech industry. Pambakian is in a position to help burnish Tinder’s reputation while also setting an example of a savvy woman contributing to a startup’s success.

Nick Papas, Airbnb
Nick Papas joined Airbnb last year as the accommodation rental website expanded its Washington presence and geared up for PR battles around the world. Papas came from the Obama administration, where he served as assistant press secretary and communications director for the White House Office of Health Reform. He also held communications roles for former Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), the California gubernatorial campaign of Phil Angelides, and Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD). Papas’ political chops are what Airbnb needs as it faces opposition from the hotel industry and authorities in cities including New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Berlin, and Barcelona. The hotel industry fears a bite out of its business due to Airbnb’s cheap accommodation offerings, while city authorities contend the service violates local housing and tax laws. Papas and his team are fighting back, with PR campaigns such as one in New York that includes subway ads and a website that declares, "New Yorkers support Airbnb." In May, Airbnb appointed former Coca-Cola marketing exec Jonathan Mildenhall as CMO, just a couple months before the company rebranded to create a more emotional connection with consumers.

Carolyn Penner, Twitter
It has been a whirlwind 18 months for Twitter during which it embarked on – and completed – its journey to go public. As Twitter's chief spokesperson for products, Carolyn Penner informs the public about the social media service's constantly evolving product updates, which is no easy task given the rate of change and scrutiny it faces from its loyal users and now shareholders. One big update in recent months was its new profile pages, which are more visual with larger profile and header images. Another update, which Penner hinted at recently in a tweet that was picked up by vigilant tech reporters, is a feature that enables users to add additional comment to a retweet. Working at an innovative company that is constantly in the limelight is nothing new to Penner, who joined Twitter in 2010 from Google, where she was an associate in the global communications and public affairs department for three years.

Sarahjane Sacchetti, Secret
Sarahjane Sacchetti heads up marketing at Secret, an anonymous message-sharing app that is causing quite a stir in Silicon Valley. Unlike rivals Whispr and PostSecret, Secret allows users to share private messages with a select group of friends. As chief spokesperson, Sacchetti has to manage issues surrounding privacy and security, which is a key concern for the startup after hackers exposed some of its users' names. Secret has already become fertile ground for rumor-mongering – most notably a hoax message that claimed Evernote was about to get acquired. But its rise comes at a time when there are calls to reveal true identities online to prevent abuse. Brands are also starting to experiment, with Gap the first major brand to use Secret. In Sacchetti’s 15 years in the business she has worked with startups, such as messaging service Formspring, and run her own communications startup Story Labs. She was also a director at Bite Communications for over four years.

Michael Selvidge, AppLovin
Michael Selvidge has put his expertise in mobile PR to good use in his current role as director of communications at mobile adtech startup AppLovin. Selvidge is an active member of the tech community, and while he has worked at both agencies and corporations over the years, including SparkPR and Electronic Arts, he is passionate about watching startups grow or get acquired. Before joining AppLovin three months ago, he spent almost three years as senior corporate communications manager at cloud communications company Twilio, which was his client at Spark. The mobile advertising market is notoriously hard to crack and Selvidge will have to ensure AppLovin communicates its point of difference from other players in the industry. Key differentiators include a product focus and four times the number of engineers to sales and advertising people. AppLovin has a promising future, having announced in June that hit a $100 million run rate for annual revenue.

Elizabeth Shepherd, Instagram
Elizabeth Shepherd took a less conventional path into the world of tech PR, having started out in Washington, DC where she held several communications roles, most recently assistant press secretary to the Democratic National Committee. A year into her role at Instagram the business continues to grow in popularity, reshaping the way people communicate online through its visual language. A big focus for the Facebook-owned business, which boasts 200 million monthly active users and 60 million photo shares a day, is advertising. While it is already popular with brands because it enables deep engagement through its visually rich content, Instagram rolled out ads, in the form of sponsored images and videos, at the end of last year. Ensuring users are happy with the increased brand presence will continue to be a key challenge for Shepherd and the communications team at Instagram.

Jennifer Spector, M Booth
As an account supervisor in the consumer tech practice at M Booth, Jennifer Spector works with companies such as OpenTable, which recently ventured into mobile payment. Following a pilot program in San Francisco, OpenTable introduced an option for New Yorkers to pay for restaurant meals directly from its app, and the company plans to roll out the feature to 20 other cities by the end of the year. That came two months after OpenTable entered the spotlight because of its $2.6 billion acquisition by Priceline. Other exciting tech accounts Spector has worked on during more than two years at M Booth include Waze, Google, Getty Images, Indeed, StumbleUpon, HowAboutWe, and Joyus. Previously, she cut her teeth in the corporate communications and public affairs practices at The Harbour Group, where she served clients such as AT&T, investment firm Revolution, and The Case Foundation.

CJ Stanley, Spotify
The digital music market is highly fragmented and Scandi music service Spotify faces competition from all directions. Still, with 40 million active users, a quarter of which are paying subscribers, Spotify is the biggest on-demand streaming service. The music site is making a big push to boost user numbers, which has led some to speculate an IPO might be on the horizon, though Spotify has denied this. Consumer PR plays a key role in this growth strategy and is led by London-based CJ Stanley, who joined Spotify about three years ago from UK telecoms brands Orange and Everything Everywhere (now EE). Prior to this, Stanley was PR manager at Yahoo in London, working with her current boss at Spotify, Angela Watts, for the first time. With Spotify expanding across the globe, Stanley has to ensure communications are relevant and nuanced by creating consumer campaigns "in a box", which are then repackaged to suit each market.

Semonti Stephens, Square
Created by tech star and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, payments startup Square is one of the most-watched companies in the industry. Semonti Stephens has been a product communications manager there for over a year, but she has proven to be just as adept outside the tech space. Before Square, she spent more than four years serving First Lady Michelle Obama, as deputy press secretary and deputy communications director. During her time in the White House, her work involved tackling issues such as childhood obesity and military families, coordinating the first lady’s first tweet, planning outreach for events such as the Chefs Move to Schools launch, and developing communications plans for diplomatic efforts in South Africa and Botswana. As Square attempts to diversify, items on Stephens’ communications agenda include promoting new products such as food pickup app Square Order (which replaced the dissolved Square Wallet), a merchant cash advance program called Square Capital, and customer survey product Square Feedback.

Betsy Weber Sund, Netflix
Netflix can lay solid claim to having a key role in ushering in the golden age of TV, having funded many stunning original content series, including the critically acclaimed House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. On the flip side, by showing these TV series in one go it can also be blamed (or praised) for the binge-viewing phenomenon, shaking the linear TV industry to its core. Betsy Weber Sund joined Netflix in 2011, after three-and-a-half years at Weber Shandwick. As senior global communications manager, she looks after consumer PR in the UK, Ireland, Nordics and Netherlands, where the brand is expanding. While Netflix has ignited a huge demand for streaming video content, it has also found itself at the center of a major dispute over net neutrality in the US. Weber Sund and her team must ensure Netflix continues to supply content worthy of its price hike.

Victoria Taylor, Reddit
Described as the front page of the internet, in many ways Reddit has become its heart and soul, speaking up about key industry issues such as net neutrality. Victoria Taylor's personal passion for Reddit persuaded her to relocate from Los Angeles, where she was working for PR agency ID, to New York last year. As Reddit’s first director of communications Taylor has helped tell the social network’s story and stay relevant as it continues to evolve. Its Ask Me Anything Q&A format continues to blossom, with a line-up of celebrities and influencers that even included President Obama in 2012 driving press coverage for the site. Compared to other internet companies of the same vintage, Reddit's team remains fairly lean. But its swelling and self-sustaining community of highly engaged users is a marketer's dream. Taylor must continue to raise the profile of Reddit among businesses and brands, while ensuring it can keep its passionate user base happy, loyal, and engaged.

Carol Tong, Shoutlet
With social media ROI still a burning industry issue, marketing software platform Shoutlet aims to help brands build valuable relationships with consumers on social media. As marketing communications director, Carol Tong’s responsibilities include PR, events, content creation, community management, and social marketing. Tong is also growing Shoutlet's marketing communications group, having been in the role for over a year following stints at agencies including Bite and Atomic in the past. One big PR push for Shoutlet has been around thought leadership, regularly producing articles and webinars on key issues in the industry. Tong herself writes about digital media marketing on the Shoutlet blog. Shoutlet recently partnered with IBM to offer clients social media tracking and ROI. As brands ramp up their social media investment they are also seeking traceable results, so Shoutlet finds itself at the heart of a very important market.

Erika White, Pandora
Erika White has been at internet radio service Pandora for a year now, having worked at Visa for five years rising through the corporate comms ranks to director. Prior to that, she worked at hotel chain Hilton and adtech firm Spot Runner. Amid rivalry from similar, but slightly different digital music offerings Spotify and iTunes, Pandora is battling profit loss and a decline in its user base, according to reports. And in May this year, White and her colleagues faced the challenge of communicating a price hike to users, taking the subscription fee to $5 a month, plus a court battle over royalties. Unlike its tech peers, Pandora is winning at gender diversity. While most tech companies have a 70-30 men-to-women ratio, Pandora’s is 51-49. A focus for White and her team will be working with brands developing original video and audio content on Pandora, enabling it to be a creative partner rather than just a media buy.

Ashley Zandy, Facebook
Over several years, Ashley Zandy’s career has brought her into the heat of pivotal technology moments. In her most recent job, she led corporate and financial communications in the US for Alibaba Group as the Chinese e-commerce giant prepared for what could be the biggest-ever initial public offering. Before that, she worked at another company that went through a highly anticipated IPO – Facebook – where she led the corporate media relations team and provided communications support to the finance, corporate development, and legal departments. Early in her career, she spent more than five years at Brunswick Group, working on sensitive M&A assignments and crises, and over a year in investor relations at Brainerd Communicators. Zandy recently rejoined Facebook and relocated to London for her new role. After recovering from its IPO debacle in 2012, Facebook now faces other communications challenges, especially among its users, such as the controversial split with its Messenger app, privacy issues, and updates to its advertising model.

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