|8:30 – 9:00 a.m.
|Registration/Check-In and Breakfast
Marsha Pitts-Phillips, APR, President and Founder, MRPP & Associates Communications, and 2024 Minnesota PRSA Chapter President
Marsha R. Pitts-Phillips, APR, president and founder of MRPP & Associates Communications, is an accomplished public relations leader. She is a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow at the University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communications and has served as keynote speaker at several industry-related events.
She is the President of Minnesota PRSA and the Immediate Past Co-Chair of the national PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Marsha has received numerous honors including the chapter’s Donald G. Padilla Community Service Excellence Award, was named a 2023 Minneapolis–St. Paul Business Journal’s Twin Cities Black Leader and an MSPBJ Women in Business Honoree, was a recipient of PRSA’s highest honor for exemplary work in diversity, equity and inclusion – the D. Parke Gibson Pioneer Award.
In addition to PRSA, Marsha is a member of the National Black Public Relations Society; the National Association of Black Journalists Media-Related Members Task Force; and its local affiliate, the Twin Cities Black Journalists, and a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She serves on the board of directors for Prepare + Prosper and the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies Leadership Advisory Council.
She describes herself as a “connector” – and loves bringing together individuals, organizations. Marsha is an ordained minister, serving in leadership capacities at her Minneapolis-based church.
|9:00 – 9:55 a.m.
|Preparing for a PR Career
• What jobs does PR entail?
• Building a portfolio
• Resume must-haves
• Interview tips
• Your personal elevator pitch
Lacey Nygard, Communications Manager, U.S. Bank
Lacey Nygard, a seasoned strategic communications professional, brings over a dozen years of experience to the industry. Passionate about reputation, issues management and fostering positive relationships with clients and the media, she recently joined U.S. Bank's Public Affairs and Communications team. Nygard held previous roles in public and media relations at Xcel Energy and at the University of Minnesota. She began her communications career at Flint Communications, where she advised clients across several industries.
Nygard holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications with an emphasis on integrated advertising and public relations from Minnesota State University Moorhead. She also earned a master's degree in strategic communication from the University of Minnesota in 2017. Beyond her professional endeavors, Nygard indulges in musicals, movies, game nights, travel adventures (especially culinary ones), and, of course, has a soft spot for Taylor Swift.
Emily Chaney, APR, Director, Public Relations + Trends, Marvin
Emily Chaney, APR, is the Director of Public Relations at Marvin, a fourth-generation family-owned and -lead manufacturer of premium windows and doors. With nearly 20 years of public relations experience, Emily has spent her career creating memorable and differentiated communications on behalf of brands and organizations in healthcare, manufacturing, food and beverage, technology and professional services. Prior to Marvin, Emily was Vice President, Group Account Director at Karwoski & Courage Public Relations, a full-service integrated agency where she discovered strategic public relations makes cool stuff happen and good crisis communications has the power to shape minds and save organizations. When she's not working, Emily is eating and drinking her way through Minneapolis one new restaurant at a time.
Brooke LaTour, Associate Director of Communications, Optum Corporate Communications
Brooke LaTour is a communications professional with 19 years of experience in agency and corporate environments. With expertise in PR and corporate communications, Brooke has supported health care, technology, agriculture and non-profit organizations. She is currently associate director of communications at Optum, a leading health services company and part of Fortune 5 company UnitedHealth Group. Prior to Optum, Brooke spent nine years at Karwoski & Courage Public Relations in Minneapolis partnering with and advising clients on strategic PR and marketing efforts.
Jason Sprenger, APR, Owner, Founder and Principal, Game Changer Communications
Jason Sprenger is the owner, founder and principal of Game Changer Communications. Since the firm was born in September 2012, Sprenger has served a diverse roster of more than 60 clients and led successful strategic and tactical campaigns that have moved the needle in amazing ways – helping companies sell business units for remarkable profits, integrate new products and technologies, improve share prices, achieve visibility in new and existing markets and much more.
Sprenger has volunteered extensively with the pre-eminent trade organization for our industry, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). I currently serve on PRSA’s National Board of Directors, and I’m happy to serve and advocate for our 20,000 members and the profession as a whole. Previously, I chaired PRSA’s 2,200-member Midwest District in 2020, served as President of PRSA’s 400-member Minnesota Chapter in 2016 and held other leadership roles throughout the Society for about 20 years.
Sprenger is Accredited in Public Relations (APR), and has been since 2009. Sprenger has sat on the SXSW Advisory Board, the Board of Directors of Minneapolis-based Bolder Options, and Board of Directors of The LEAD Project. Sprenger is an adjunct professor of strategic communications at the University of Minnesota. In 2017, the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication awarded Sprenger its Above the Fold award – given annually to just four alumni who have “achieved great accomplishment and prestige early in their careers.”
Learn how to stand out to land the job. From portfolio creation to interview tips, our panel will help prepare you to get your foot in the door and ace interviews. Elevate your professional presence with elevator pitch strategies to leave a lasting impression on potential employers. We’ll also talk about the kinds of jobs that fall under the umbrella of PR so you know what to expect on your path to PR success.
|9:55 – 10:00 a.m.
|10:00 – 10:55 a.m.
|Soft Skills in the Workplace
• Making the most of a hybrid or virtual work environment
• Personal conduct in business settings
• Professional guidance
• Networking skills
Carter Collins, Director of Communications, University of Minnesota Alumni Association
Carter D. Collins is the director of communications at the University of Minnesota Alumni Association (UMAA). He co-leads the communications team and is responsible for the nonprofit’s overall communications and marketing strategy. His leadership has resulted in the UMAA surpassing Big Ten Conference benchmarks for annual alumni engagement by 3%.
Prior to joining the UMAA in Jan. 2021, Carter lived in Dallas, TX and worked for an Omnicom agency, VOX Global — an integrated public affairs and strategic communications agency specializing in environment, social and governance (ESG) topics. His portfolio included Fortune 15 companies, global nonprofits, and American universities. Carter was raised in rural Iowa and graduated in journalism and mass communication, and political science from Iowa State University. As a four-time Iowa State Fair award-winning baker, Carter enjoys whipping up treats in his free time. You can often find him and his partner, Jacob, at a new restaurant, catching shows at the Guthrie Theater, and cheering on Minnesota’s sports teams.
Kimberly Huston, Director, Padilla
Kimberly combines her consumer marketing and event planning experience to serve the firm’s agriculture and environmental clients. She has delivered outstanding project management and award-winning marketing strategies to clients such as Midwest Dairy, Edward Jones, Almond Board of California, Cargill and Polaris. Kimberly’s range of expertise includes product launches, media relations campaigns and video production projects. Kimberly also has extensive consumer marketing focusing mostly in the food category. Kimberly received her bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Southwest Minnesota State University.
Grete Lavrenz, APR, Senior Partner, Carmichael Lynch Relate
As general manager, Grete runs day-to-day operations of the New York and Minneapolis offices of Carmichael Lynch Relate ensuring staff has the resources needed and each team is producing the very best work for each client. She has a history of success reinvigorating brands and getting existing audiences to reappraise them while acquiring new audiences, changing perceptions and leading to strong business results and engagement. Grete’s portfolio of work has been recognized by the PR industry’s PRWeek, PRSA, PR News and SABRE awards. Grete currently serves on the Board of Directors for Minnesota PRSA.
Jill Spiekerman Bonham, APR, MA, Teaching Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communications
Jill Spiekerman Bonham, APR, MA, is a teaching assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communications where she teaches professional writing and integrated marketing communications. She serves as advisor to the UMN PRSSA Chapter.
She has managed communications programs from both the agency and client side for more than 35 years. She’s worked for three advertising and public relations agencies, leading public relations and strategic planning for a mix of agricultural and consumer clients.
Jill’s teaching started at Iowa State University. After serving as the professional liaison to the ISU PRSSA Chapter for 15 years, Jill began with one class which soon turned into teaching full-time. At ISU, she taught media ethics, media buying and public relations techniques and tactics. After moving to Minnesota, she filled in during a one-year sabbatical teaching for Minnesota State University in Mankato, college of business, school of management. She taught organizational communications online at St. Mary’s University in Winona for five years.
After serving a term on the Minnesota PRSA board of directors, Jill transitioned her involvement to the Minnesota PRSA Student Relations Committee. She misses that committee so much, she continues to volunteer with PR North.
Jill grew up on a farm in Michigan and graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree. She earned a master’s degree at Drake University and is accredited in public relations by the Public Relations Society of America.
You’ve landed your first “real” job. Now what? We’ve got you. In this session, we’ll explore tips for acting appropriately in business settings, how to get the most from hybrid or virtual environments, time management, effective networking skills crucial for success and more. Our expert speakers will provide practical insights to excel in the evolving workplace, equipping you with essential soft skills. Don't miss this opportunity to enhance your employability.
|10:55 – 11:00 a.m.
|11:00 – 11:55 a.m.
|DEI in Public Relations
Mira LaNasa, PR Specialist, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota
Mira LaNasa works as a public relations specialist at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Her primary responsibilities include social media management, media relations and corporate communications. She joined the company full-time in 2022. Mira attended the University of Minnesota and graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She currently volunteers with Hope for Tomorrow as a mentor.
Kiara Davis, Account Executive, Exponent PR, and Minnesota PRSA DEI Committee co-chair
Kiara currently serves as Minnesota PRSA’s DEI Committee Co-Chair. She joined Exponent PR in Minneapolis as Account Executive in 2022. She was first introduced to the industry through the BrandLab program that focuses on diversifying the areas of marketing, advertising and communications. So, she’s a big advocate for DEI initiatives and passionate being the representation who students want to see.
Kiara is a graduate of Hampton University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in strategic communications and marketing.
Leah Kondes, Senior Director, Padilla, and Minnesota PRSA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer
Leah Kondes has been a member of PRSA since 1997. She currently serves on the board of the Minnesota chapter as its DEI officer. In 2021, Leah earned her Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace Certificate from the University of South Florida Muma College of Business. She currently works in Padilla’s corporate advisory group as a senior director with a focus on social impact.
Darryl Sellers, Public, Media Relations and Communications Consultant and Strategist
As a versatile, customer-centric and savvy communications, public and media relations professional, I’ve helped to secure hundreds of local, national interviews and have written dozens of news stories for clients, including the Biden-Harris Administration’s “We Can Do This” Covid-19 Public Education Campaign, encouraging more Black Americans and all Americans to get vaccinated.
Noted for extensive experience shining a light organizations’ wonderful causes – and extraordinary people – helping them share with more people how they positively impact the world. I’m looking to use this passion, expertise and entrepreneurial spirit in a leadership role that will help an organization develop innovative and successful campaigns.
It’s up to all of us to drive our industry toward more inclusion and diversity. You’ll learn how to implement DEI best practices as an employee, with practical tips tailored to people starting their career. Our panelists will talk about how you can champion the DEI efforts within your organization, ensuring you become a catalyst for positive change.
|11:55 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
|12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
|Lunch/Keynote Presentation: AI in PR
• Ethical Concerns
• AI Use Cases/Practical Implementation
Kris Patrow, Senior Director, Padilla
As one of Padilla’s veteran coaches and corporate strategists, Kris saw firsthand the unique communications challenges clients experienced as a result of the pandemic. To address these challenges, she initiated an agency-wide effort to create PadillaPrep, our industry-leading coaching curriculum that combines the best of Padilla's expert coaches with the newest best practices, tools and techniques for successfully communicating in today's virtual, hybrid and in‑person landscape.
Kris has helped hundreds of clients across multiple industries immediately improve their communications skills, from leadership communications and presentation skills, to media interviews, panel discussions and crisis media management skills. Her unique background as a national broadcast journalist, multimedia corporate strategist, author and public speaker make her a unique force in the industry and an invaluable resource for Padilla clients.
You tried the AI yearbook trend and use ChatGPT – but what does AI really mean for the public relations industry? With a keen understanding of PRSA guidelines and AI, our keynote speaker, Kris Patrow, navigates the ethical and practical considerations. She’ll compare AI coaching apps and human coaches, offering useful insight and case studies. ChatGPT suggested we call this session “Navigating the Future: AI vs. Human Coaching in PR, a Comparative Exploration with Kris Patrow.” Not bad, ChatGPT, not bad.
|1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
|Career Fair, Mock Interviews, Headshots