PRSA Chicago Officers and Committee Chairs, 2018

Executive Committee Officers

Virginia Mann
Principal and Chief Influencer
Virginia V. Mann, Etc.

Virginia Mann is an award-winning corporate communications, public relations and public affairs professional with a solid understanding of business. A strategic leader, she is able to interpret information and create programs that persuade and motivate internal and external audiences. Her experience includes substantial work with CEOs, Boards of Directors and the media. She has extensive experience in executive speech-writing and coaching. Virginia has done award-winning work in media relations, crisis communications, investor communications and employee communications. Media successes include placements in The New York Times; The Wall Street Journal; U. S. News & World Report; Crain’s Chicago Business; USA Today; and numerous newspapers, television stations, radio stations and trade publications across the nation and around the globe.

Virginia’s broad range of experience includes extensive work with blue-chip, Fortune 500 companies in a variety of industries including: Brunswick Corporation; Hewitt Associates; Sears, Roebuck & Co.; United Airlines; Topco Associates; Fujisawa Pharmaceuticals; American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; National Association of Manufacturers; and others. She also has extensive experience in animal health and welfare, working with organizations such as the American Kennel Club, The Puppy Mill Project, Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center/MedVet Chicago and many others. Mann began her career with former Illinois Secretary of State Jim Edgar. She is a graduated with a B.A. in Economics and Political Science.

Shane Winn
General Manager

Shane Winn is general manager of Allison+Partners’ Chicago office, and has built a two-decade career in consumer public relations, brand development and corporate communications on both client and agency sides of the business. Shane previously managed the day-to-day operations of Chicago-based Alpaytac PR, and before that, was a Senior Director at Burson-Marsteller, where he led the Chicago Consumer and Brand Marketing practice.

Prior, he spent two years with MetLife in New York, leading all brand communications in the Americas, including all sports marketing PR, primarily supporting the title sponsorship of MetLife Stadium. Shane has represented brands such as Oakley, JLT Specialty U.S., IKEA and Discover Financial Services.

While in-house at Washington Mutual, Shane helped drive the growth of the regional public relations team inside the company, eventually managing the national team. While much of the early work with WaMu was proactive and consumer-focused, the financial industry crisis facing the U.S. in 2008 led him deeply into the world of crisis communications and reactive media relations.

Shane began his agency career at the boutique public affairs agency, Jasculca Terman and Associates, where his clients included banks, insurance companies, universities, hospitals and myriad not-for-profits. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Northern Illinois University and bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Public Administration from Augustana College.

Dane Roth
Vice President/Account Director

Dane has more than 16 years of experience working in corporate communications. His experience spans a range of communications activities, including business-to-business communications, corporate reputation management, employee communications and integrated marketing. He began his career in the Corporate/Marketing Communications department of The Timken Company, where he managed the company’s year-long global centennial celebration.

After moving to Chicago from Ohio, Dane worked SPSS (IBM) and then at GolinHarris, leading various corporate accounts in his four-year tenure there. Since February 2004, Dane has worked Ketchum Public Relations, where he has managed industry communications, executive leadership initiatives and integrated PR/marketing efforts for a number of clients including Navistar, United Airlines, Walgreen’s, ConAgra Foods, Kellogg and FedEx.

Kelly Drinkwine
Vice President, Communications Strategy
Kindle Communications

Kelly came to Aon in Jan. 2009 from the agency world, where she oversaw KemperLesnik’s top financial services and technology public relations accounts as well as media relations for The Art of Food & Wine Palm Desert annual festival in California.

She most recently served as the global leader of internal and external communications for Aon Risk Solutions, the $6+ billion global risk management business of Aon plc (NYSE: AON), the professional services firm ranked 420 on Fortune’s Global 2000. In this role, Kelly focused on strategic positioning and executive communications, working closely with the CEO and his leadership team to help drive the short- and long-term objectives of the business.

Previously, Kelly served as director / global head of public relations for Aon Risk Solutions, senior director / head of global marketing and communications for Aon Broking and in a chief of staff role for the CEO of Aon Risk Solutions.

She counseled Aon’s top leaders and experts on messaging, branding and delivery on topics ranging in scope from the risks inherent to doing business in Brazil to those facing filmmakers in Hollywood. In her tenure at Aon, Kelly led the early charge on social media channels such as Twitter as well as the integration of search engine optimization tactics into news release development on a global basis.

Prior to KemperLesnik and Aon, Kelly served as a consultant to business-to-business and media clients in Chicago and spent several years in New York City with ABC television network, where she cut her teeth in production and ultimately oversaw advertising for the network’s sports division.

Committee Chairs

Edward M. Bury, APR
Coordinator of Public Information
University of Chicago, Urban Transportation Center

Edward M. Bury, APR, is a senior Chicago-based communications professional/strategic thinker with proven experience in marketing, public relations and related disciplines.  He currently manages all internal and external communications for the Urban Transportation Center, a transportation research unit at University of Illinois at Chicago. During his career, he’s helped build the brand for leading Chicago-headquartered and international commercial real estate associations and developed and nurtured strategic alliances to reach goals and provide solutions.  One of 3,800 PR professionals to hold Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential, he’s passionate about the value of Accreditation in modern public relations.  He’s served on three PRSA national committees and has been an active member of PRSA Chicago for more than a decade.  He blogs about “public relations and other stuff” at www.prdude.wordpress.com.  Bury got his career start at the legendary City News Bureau of Chicago in 1977.  He’s the principal of a communications consultancy serving restaurant/hospitality, real estate, mortgage and other businesses.

Maris Callahan
Director of Communications

Maris Callahan is the director of communications for @properties, the #1 real estate brokerage in Chicago and one of the top 11 residential brokerages in the U.S. by sales volume. She leads all digital marketing, content strategy, social media and public relations initiatives for the firm and its 2300+ brokers.  As a food and lifestyle blogger for the past decade, Maris is an avid believer in the intersection of new and traditional media. Her work has been featured in national publications and she is a frequent guest on the local morning show circuit. Maris leads the auxiliary board for Youth Outreach Services, a local non-profit that serves at-risk teens in underserved communities, and is a volunteer and advocate for the pet rescue community.

Brian Flad
Senior Vice President, General Manager
Olson Engage

With more than a decade of consumer brand-marketing and public-relations experience, Brian Flad plays several key leadership roles within Olson Engage, PR Week’s 2014 Agency of the Year.

Brian leads the agency’s oldest and highest-profile client relationship, MillerCoors, a business he’s helped to grow and drive since 2006, when he joined Olson Engage (then known as Dig Communications). In addition, he serves as senior counsel to a broad range of accounts across the agency in order to ensure clients are creating connected consumer experiences on- and off-line through events, content and activation.

Brian served as an account director for Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing, Inc., a global entertainment-marketing company, where he connected PR agencies and their clients with relevant celebrities. Previously, he worked in the consumer brand division of Ketchum’s Los Angeles division, and on the McDonald’s account at Golin in Chicago.

Brian received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from San Diego State University, where he graduated magna cum laude.

Natasha Vuppuluri
Director of Global Marketing and New Business Knowledge Management
Zeno Group

Natasha joined Zeno’s Global Marketing and Integration team in 2016. She oversees internal and external communications for the agency and as well as global new business efforts. Her work includes managing global and regional agency marketing; sponsorship and event coordination; employee engagement; media relations; executive visibility; and video production. Prior to joining Zeno, Natasha worked at Northwestern Medicine and Presence Health where she leveraged her skills in finance and communications. During graduate school, she worked on a variety of startups in Chicago in a hybrid marketing and operations capacities. She secured a variety speaking engagements for the startups including a pitch at the Technori Showcase as well as media placements in Built in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune, The Big Plate, Silicon Prairie News, and the Omaha World Herald. Natasha started her career at Edelman Public Relations, working in New Business and Marketing as well as the Health Practice, focusing on consumer health clients such as Abbott Animal Health, Amylin Lilly and Sara Lee Brands amongst others.

She is also an active member of the Chicago Innovation Awards and a participant in the Spring 2017 Women’s Mentorship Co-op. She also is dedicated to giving back to the Loyola University Chicago community and serves as a Graduate Ambassador. Natasha is an active supporter of animal welfare and healthcare, volunteering for the Midwest Boston Terrier Rescue and the Canine Therapy Corps.

Natasha received her Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an emphasis on International Business and Entrepreneurship and her Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA) from Loyola University Chicago’s Quinlan Graduate School of Business. She also received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Advertising and Public Relations from Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication.

Michelle Flowers Welch
Founder and CEO
Flowers Communications Group

A visionary public relations and marketing entrepreneur, Michelle Flowers Welch is an award-winning expert in the field of multicultural communications. She founded Flowers Communications Group, one of the nation’s top multicultural integrated marketing agencies, in 1991. Known as a strategic, innovative thought leader, Flowers Welch serves as a trusted senior counselor to clients and an inspiring mentor to the next generation of communications professionals.

She began her career in agency public relations at Golin/Harris and later joined Burrell Communications Group to pursue her desire to work in ethnic marketing.

Flowers Welch holds a master’s degree in advertising from Northwestern University and is a magna cum laude graduate of Winston-Salem State University. She has received more than 75 industry awards for communications excellence. A charter inductee into Northwestern University’s Hall of Fame, Flowers Welch is the recipient of the Publicity Club of Chicago’s Lifetime Achievement Award and was named PRSA Chicago’s 2017 Distinguished Senior Leader.

Mailee Garcia
Director of Marketing & Communications
Heartland Alliance

Jennifer McGuffin
Vice President, Global Communications

Jill Allread, APR
Public Communications Inc.

In her role as Public Communications Inc.’s CEO, Jill Allread, APR, counsels a wide variety of national clients to enhance their brand and reputation by more effectively telling their story through strategic communications and planning.

She joined PCI’s ownership team in 1994, after a journalism career in daily newspapers. Many of her clients are in the areas of corporate reputation management, healthcare, environment and not-for-profits, and she counsels them in strategy, messaging, and crisis management.

Jill is a frequent national speaker on crisis management and executive leadership communications and brand building. She’s earned six PRSA Silver and Bronze Anvil awards and more than 135 additional industry awards effective PR campaigns. She was named as one of Chicago Business Journal’s Women of Influence; and received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Publicity Club of Chicago.

Jill is an active civic leader and her services earned her national recognition with the prestigious Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Paul Lund Public Service Award.

Amanda McConnell, APR
Marketing & Development Coordinator
Engineers in Action

Lisa Lesniak
Vice President, Public Affairs
Advocate Health Care

Lisa Trafficanta Lesniak is Vice President of Public Affairs for Advocate Health Care, the largest, fully integrated health care delivery system in Illinois. With more than 15 years of experience, Lisa is a strategist and seasoned leader with broad-based expertise in media relations, internal communications, public affairs, issues management, executive communications, reputation management, brand journalism and crisis communications.

In her current role, she is responsible for internal and external communications strategy and execution. She manages system-wide integrated communications campaigns aimed at enhancing engagement and awareness while proactively managing the organization’s reputation with both internal and external stakeholders, including the media, elected officials and community influencers.

Previously, she was a Vice President at Res Publica Group, a Chicago-based public affairs firm, where she provided high-level communications counsel to clients in the public and private sectors across many industries including health care, education, real estate and transportation.

She has helped win approval to build new hospitals, pave the way for large development projects, and brought the media spotlight to important community programs and innovative initiatives resulting in news coverage in local and national outlets including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Crains Chicago Business and Modern Healthcare along with broadcast media.

Lisa holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a member of the Public Relations Society of America, Publicity Club of Chicago and the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development.

Lanie Friedman
Senior Director, Brand Communications
Conagra Brands

Lanie Friedman is Senior Director, Brand Communications at Conagra Brands. She oversees a team that manages public relations and social media for recognized brands such as Marie Callender’s®, Slim Jim®, Hebrew National®, Orville Redenbacher’s®, Reddi-wip®, PAM®, Hunt’s® and more, as well as the company’s cause programs.

For more than five years, she’s led media strategy and execution for a variety of company and brand programs resulting in top industry awards including Sabre, PRWeek, Skyline and Holmes. In addition to proactive company and brand communication, Lanie has had a variety of responsibilities during the past few years including coordinating CEO interviews and messaging, M&A communication and issues management.

Prior to joining Conagra, Lanie worked on the agency side, leading programs for some of America’s most iconic brands.

Lanie was honored as one of PR Week’s 40 Under 40, and is a member of PRSA and Arthur Page Society’s PageUp. In her spare time, she enjoys running, exploring Chicago neighborhoods and restaurants and spending time with her husband, Michael and dog, Marvin.

Kayee Ip
Pubic & Media Relations Strategist
American Academy of Orthopeadic Surgeons

Kayee Ip is the Digital, Public and Media Relations Strategist at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). She is passionate about health literacy, public health education, and has lead a breadth of award-winning, orthopaedic-focused public awareness initiatives to support those efforts including Decide to Drive; Safe and Accessible Playground Build; and Wounded in Action: An Art Exhibition of Orthopaedic Advancements.

In her current role, Kayee provides strategic counsel on social and traditional media initiatives for various public engagement/awareness efforts, and manages visual/graphic design and website content development/management on several websites including the award-winning A Nation in Motion® campaign. She also spearheads the Communities in Motion event to help empower kids and adults to take control of their bone and joint health; and serves as the liaison to several organizational business units to best leverage communications efforts.

Kayee holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Communications from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Master of Science in Health Communication from Northwestern University. She also trains in kyokushin karate, is an avid food photographer, an adventurer, and loves the company of her dog, Gus.

Bridget Coffing

Senior Communications Consultant
Former Chief Communications Officer and SVP, McDonald’s Corporation

Bridget Coffing has more than 35 years of communications experience including public affairs and issues management, marketing communications and public relations for both major corporations and public relations and  advertising agencies. She most recently served as Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations for McDonald’s Corporation. In this role, Coffing was the company’s Chief Communications Officer and reported to McDonald’s Chief Executive Officer.

As a member of the Senior Leadership Team, she oversaw the Global Government and Public Affairs department; Global External Communications, encompassing media and public relations, marketing communications, and global digital communications; and the Global System Communications group, including internal communications, meetings and events, creative services and McDonald’s archives.

Earlier, as Vice President of Global External Communications, Coffing developed communications strategies to reinforce McDonald’s commitment to children’s well-being, Ronald McDonald House Charities, marketing leadership, sports and entertainment alliances, and consumer brand activities including McDonald’s FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games sponsorships.

Coffing joined McDonald’s in 1985 from Golin/Harris Communications, where she specialized in food and consumer marketing. Coffing previously worked at Stephan and Brady Advertising and Regal Ware, Inc. concentrating on retail promotions and reputation management.

Coffing has received numerous industry awards and McDonald’s recognition, including the McDonald’s Presidents’ Award, annually awarded to the top one percent of employees, and McDonald’s Team and Circle of Excellence Awards.  She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Publicity Club of Chicago, and the Distinguished Senior Leader Award from the Chicago Public Relations Society.

She is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and the Public Relations Society of America, Chicago Chapter; on the Executive Committee of the Board of Visitors of the University of Wisconsin School of Human Ecology; and a member of the Arthur Page Society.

Rich Jernstedt
The Jernstedt Company
President and CEO

Rich’s experience includes military public affairs,  marketing communications for a large corporation, and agencies.

He is known for developing integrated communications programs across disciplines and geographies. Rich’s professional  focus is reputation management, thought leadership and marketing communications.

He was a consultant to Porter Novelli for five years and CMO during part of his seven years as an EVP at FleishmanHillard. For more than 25 years at Golin he helped build the one-office firm in to one of the largest in the world. He was CEO for 12 years.

He has been on Silver Anvil and Skyline Awards “Best of Show” teams, and was the Chapter’s 2015 “Distinguished Senior Leader.” Rich has been a board member of the Arthur Page Society and chairman of the Council of Public Relations Firms. He is a board member of Off The Street Club.

His journalist degree is from the University of Oregon where he was a trustee for eight years.

Caiti Bieberich
Account Supervisor

Caiti Bieberich is an Account Supervisor at Ketchum Chicago. Caiti has been with Ketchum since June 2012, helping to support earned media, influencer, experiential and agility strategy and execution for clients within the agency’s consumer brand practice. Internally, she is also involved with recruitment and global media network specialty groups.

Caiti currently serves on the PRSA Chicago board, leading judging within the Skylines committee. Prior to that, she spent two years as co-chair and chair of the Young Professionals Network and was named the 2016 PRSA Chicago Young Professional of the Year.

Outside of work, Caiti holds certifications in ACE group fitness and Les Miles BODYPUMP and is currently an instructor at her alma mater’s facility—the Ray Meyer Fitness Center. Caiti earned her bachelor’s degrees in Public Relations and Advertising and Communication Studies from DePaul University in 2012 and remains an active alum.

David Zapata
Zapwater Communications

David M. Zapata is President and Founder of Zapwater Communications, a public relations agency specializing in lifestyle brands and with offices in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Zapata is an award-winning public relations executive with diverse government, political and agency experience. He has advised clients ranging from major consumer brands to Fortune 500 companies and technology start-ups to elected officials. At Zapwater, he continues to work with a unique blend of clients in a wide variety of categories. The list includes numerous global and trendsetting lifestyle brands. Under Zapata’s leadership, the agency has won 90+ major industry awards including HSMAI Adrian Awards, Holmes Report Gold Sabre Awards, PCC Golden Trumpets, PRSA Skylines, PRSA PRism and Bulldog Awards.

In 2013, Zapwater won Grand Prize/Best of Show at the Bulldog Media Relations Awards. In 2016, Zapwater won The Platinum Award/Best of Show at the Publicity Club of Chicago’s Golden Trumpets. The award is given to the public relations campaign of the year in the Chicagoland area.

Zapwater was named “A best agency to work for in the U.S.” by The Holmes Report in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. The agency was also named to the “50 Best Places to Work in PR” list by PR News.

Christie Zielinski, APR
Vice President

Christie Zielinski is a vice president with KemperLesnik, serving clients in the consumer products and services, travel, real estate and technology industries. She is responsible for providing strategic PR counsel and support to such companies as Aon Affinity, Brunswick, RESTORE, and Streamsong Resort.

Christie has 20 years of public relations industry experience, bringing a focus on driving bottom line results for clients and expertise in strategy and message development, media relations, media training, social media, corporate social responsibility, issues management, and crisis communications. At KemperLesnik, she has led the teams responsible for driving media results for the NFL Draft in Chicago, revealing Brian Urlacher’s bold new look to the world, educating consumers about the importance of flood insurance on behalf of Aon National Flood Services, opening Streamsong – one of the nation’s most critically acclaimed golf resorts, and more.

Previously, Christie spent 15 years at Cushman/Amberg Communications in a variety of leadership positions, working on behalf of such clients as BainUltra, DeVry, GE Healthcare Financial Services, Protiviti, Sandals & Beaches Resorts and U.S. Cellular.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio University and is accredited by the Public Relations Society of America.

Maria Gemskie
Senior Consultant
Gagen MacDonald

Maria is a highly skilled strategic corporate communications leader, recognized as an expert problem solver and a passionate business evangelist. She has drawn on her expertise to help firms achieve their objectives and strengthen relationships with stakeholders within the company and throughout the community. Recognized by senior leadership as a forward-thinking, motivated team leader, Maria has helped executives address the complex communications challenges facing high-profile organizations at Walgreens Boots Alliance, Chicago Board of Trade, Allstate and William Blair & Company and currently serves at Gagen MacDonald. Maria holds a B.S. in Public Affairs, with a major in Management, from Indiana University.

Erika Kubik
Communications Specialist
Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

Erika serves as the Communications Specialist for the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. She’s the face of the Commission’s online platforms, developing strategies that increase 2Civility’s social presence across all digital media channels, bringing a fresh take on the brand’s methods of engagement and strengthening the Commission’s level of influence amongst the legal profession online.

However, her focus isn’t solely digital. Erika also works to enhance the Commission’s reputation through more traditional methods as the primary media relations contact. She works to develop and maintain relationships with local and national media as well as other legal professionals and influencers across the globe to leverage the work of the 2Civilty Team solidifying the credibility of the brand.

Erika received her Bachelor of Arts from Bradley University in May 2015 studying Public Relations and Social Media Marketing where her passion for writing and brand development took flight. Outside of the Commission and her involvement with the PRSA, Erika is the President of the City of Chicago Kappa Delta Alumnae Chapter.

Tanner Walters
Senior Communications Specialist
Walker Sands

Tanner Walters is a senior content specialist at Walker Sands Communications, specializing in writing content for B2B clients across the retail and marketing technology space.

Prior to Walker Sands, Tanner worked at Loyola University Chicago’s in-house marketing division, conducting media relations, writing for Loyola magazine and managing social media. He also worked at Jackalope Theatre Company as marketing director.

Tanner was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago.