PRSA Chicago Summer Social, ‘Network with Senior Leaders’ | July 24
The PRSA Chicago summer social is taking networking to a whole new level. The event will be attended by senior PR pros from Chicago’s top companies – McDonald’s, Hyatt Hotels, Boeing – who are there to mix and mingle with attendees. The social will take place at Quay on Wednesday, July 24. We hope to see you there!
Senior Leader Attendees
Tom Amberg, Amberg Consulting
Keith Burton, Brunswick Group
Bridget Coffing, McDonald’s Corporation
John Dern, Boeing
Doug Holt, Northern Trust
Farley Kern, Hyatt Hotels
Mike Lynch, American Medical Association
Eva Penar, The Chicago Community Trust
Andrea Smalec, APR, John G. Shedd Aqaurium
Gary Weitman, Tribune Company
Bonita Brodt, Northwestern Memorial Hospital
If you are paying at the door, please pay with exact change, credit card or check. PRSA will not have change.
If you are a student and have not attended a PRSA event in the past, you will NOT be able to register for the student rate. To get the $5 rate, please e-mail Ann Scheible at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to the system as a student. Ann will add you and advise when you can register online.
Learn More About the Senior Leaders
Thomas L. Amberg
Amberg Consulting, Inc.
Tom Amberg has been in the communications business for more than 40 years, beginning as a journalist with the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. In that role, he was a political writer and later the chief investigative reporter.
Serving as the Bureau Chief in Springfield, Illinois, Tom covered the governor and legislature in Illinois for three years before returning to St. Louis as the State Editor in charge of the newspaper’s bureaus in Springfield, Jefferson City and Washington, D.C. He returned to active political coverage two years later, covering Congressional, gubernatorial, Senatorial, and Presidential politics. In 1980, he traveled full time with Ronald Reagan as part of the national press corps, covering his run for the White House.
He joined Aaron D. Cushman & Associates in 1983 as general manager of the St. Louis office, and in 1991 moved to Chicago as president of the firm. When Aaron Cushman retired in 1997, Amberg bought the firm and added his own name to it, renaming the firm Cushman/Amberg Communications.
The firm represented both large and small companies, and at various points had offices in St. Louis, New York, Los Angeles, Omaha, Neb, and Washington, D.C. in addition to its headquarters in Chicago.
In 2012, Amberg created Amberg Consulting, Inc. to focus on message management strategies, crisis management, and business-to-business consulting.
Tom is a Fellow of PRSA, a Sage in the Counselors Academy, and holds an MBA from the University of Missouri.
For more than two decades, Keith has been recognized as one of the leading global practitioners in employee engagement and internal communication. He joined Brunswick in 2013 and leads a global group of practitioners who are focused exclusively on improving organizational performance by building employee trust, advancing internal communication as a strategic discipline, and helping drive change at many of the world’s leading corporations.
During his professional career, Keith has worked with companies in virtually every major industry sector and served such clients as American Airlines, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Tyson Foods, Covidien, Visa International, FedEx, IBM Corp. and Georgia-Pacific Corp. Keith founded and served as President of Insidedge, a leading employee communication consultancy supporting major agencies in the Interpublic Group of Companies, from 1991 until 2012. He also served as a senior executive leader with GolinHarris, Hill & Knowlton and Ketchum earlier in his career.
Keith was an Algur H. Meadows Fellow at Southern Methodist University, where he earned a master of fine arts degree in mass communication and a bachelor of fine arts in journalism. He serves on the boards of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at the University of Alabama and the Institute for Public Relations. Keith is also an executive-in-residence in the IMC program at the Medill School, Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill.
Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations
Bridget Coffing serves as Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations for McDonald’s Corporation. In this role, Coffing is the company’s Chief Communications Officer and reports to McDonald’s Chief Executive Officer. As a member of the Senior Leadership Team, she oversees the Global Government and Public Affairs department; Global External Communications, which encompasses media relations, public relations, marketing communications, and global digital communications; and the Global System Communications group, including internal communications, meetings and events, creative services and the McDonald’s archives.
A 27-year veteran of McDonald’s, Coffing leads a global team of company communicators to invigorate dialogue with employees, international media, stakeholders, customers, and the NGO community. She helps shape strategic Brand communications to strengthen the company’s work to make a difference as a corporate citizen.
Coffing leads the McDonald’s Global Communications Council, driving system-wide communications alignment, and the Worldwide Corporate Relations Council, helping facilitate issues preparedness and crisis management.
In her previous role as Vice President of Global External Communications, Coffing developed communications strategies and initiatives to reinforce McDonald’s commitment to children’s well-being, Ronald McDonald House Charities, marketing leadership, sports and entertainment alliances, global field communications, and worldwide 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 in the advertising and retail promotion industry.
Coffing is the recipient of numerous top industry awards and McDonald’s recognition, including the McDonald’s Presidents’ Award, which is annually awarded to the organization’s top one percent of employees, and McDonald’s Team and Circle of Excellence Awards.
She is a member of the Arthur Page Society, The Seminar and a Board member of the Public Relations Society of America, Chicago chapter.
Vice President, Public Relations
As a member of the Boeing Communications team in Chicago, John Dern has responsibility for developing, implementing and coordinating communications strategies and programs to protect and enhance the company’s reputation. He manages communication strategy associated with corporate legal, governance, leadership and people issues, and leads the company’s media relations team.
Dern has served the company for 20 years in corporate communications positions spanning media relations and airplane safety communications for the company’s Commercial Airplanes business unit; advertising and public relations supporting airplane sales and marketing efforts in Western Europe; and communications support to the 737 and 757 airplane programs. He was responsible for implementing the company’s media relations strategy associated with the corporate headquarters move to Chicago from Seattle.
In his role as manager, airplane safety communications, he planned and implemented communication programs associated with the in-service safety and performance of the Boeing commercial airplane fleet, including guiding company’s airplane-accident response. In this capacity, he traveled with Boeing response teams to two accident sites in 1999: Newport, Rhode Island, site of the EgyptAir 990 accident; and Little Rock, Arkansas after American Airlines flight 1420 ran off the runway.
Prior to joining Boeing in 1990, he was part of the communications team at Los Angeles-based Quotron Systems, and represented television writers at Creative Artists Agency, a leading Los Angeles talent and literary agency. He is a graduate of Pomona College in Claremont, CA, and earned an M.A. from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications.
Senior Vice President
The Northern Trust Company
Douglas Holt is a Senior Vice President at Northern Trust and is head of corporate communications, overseeing global media relations and internal communications.
Prior to joining Northern Trust in September 2008, Holt served for four years as a Director in the Media Practice at Burson-Marsteller. Prior to his public relations experience, Holt worked as a journalist for 15 years, writing for newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News. His experience at the Tribune includes editorial writing and political, business and Pentagon reporting. He also wrote as a Mexico-based freelancer for a major oil industry trade journal and as a freelancer for Newsweek’s Chicago bureau.
Holt is a graduate of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Central African Republic.
Vice President, Corporate Communications
Hyatt Hotels Corporation
Farley Kern joined Hyatt in February of 2008 as Director of Brand Public Relations, North America and was named Vice President, Corporate Communications in 2009. In this role, she is responsible for company and brand public and media relations, corporate and crisis communications, executive positioning and internal communications for the publicly-traded, multi-brand global hospitality company. She oversaw the media relations associated with Hyatt’s successful public offering in 2009 and has led the effort to create the robust communications capability required the company’s relatively new status as a public company and its ambitious growth plans.
Kern has broad strategic communications experience in both the consumer and business-to-business realms. Prior to joining Hyatt, she held various public relations, marketing communications and corporate communications positions at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Sea-Land Service and CSX Corporation. In addition, she has worked as an independent communications consultant for a wide variety of clients and in the corporate practice at Fleishman-Hillard’s New York office.
An honors graduate of The University of Virginia, with a master’s degree from Duke University, Kern also has taught English and writing at the college level. In another life, she was a founder of and partner in an independent bookstore in Connecticut.
Vice President, External Communications
American Medical Association
Mike Lynch is vice president of external communications at the American Medical Association. He works with AMA spokespersons to ensure their messages are communicated effectively to media and the public. He played a key role in the AMA’s recent campaign on health system reform. A veteran of organized medicine for 17 years, Mike conducts training for various medical leaders and other groups throughout the year and has taught graduate courses in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University. Before joining the ranks of organized medicine, he was a newspaper reporter for The Daily Herald.
Director, Marketing & Communications
The Chicago Community Trust
Eva Penar is the director of marketing and communications and a member of the management committee at The Chicago Community Trust, where she is involved in day-to-day practices that support the vision for all Trust marketing and communications activities. She previously served as manager of public relations, increasing the Trust’s visibility and elevating the work of grant recipients and donors.
Prior to joining the Trust, Penar was part of the launch team behind Time Out Chicago. As marketing manager/events, promotions and publicity, she developed partnerships that made the introduction to the Chicago market so successful. Penar also worked at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum for five years. During her tenure there, she worked on the “Gelman Collection: Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and 20th Century Mexican Art” exhibition and supported an expansion that tripled the museum’s size. Her hard work was recognized at the Chicago Emmy ceremony in 2004, where a public-service announcement that she coordinated with Univision Channel 66 won an award. She has also worked as a communications associate for the Chicago Millennium Celebration, Department of Cultural Affairs for the City of Chicago. Penar is fluent in Polish and Spanish. In 2009, Time Out Chicago recognized Penar as a “Super Connector” in its feature about Chicagoans who go above and beyond in networking. In 2012 Penar participated in the Young Atlanticist Summit during the NATO summit that took place in Chicago. She serves as a steering committee member for CommA, the professional association of communicators affiliated with the Council on Foundations.
Andrea Smalec, APR
Vice President, Communications & Public Relations
John G. Shedd Aqaurium
Andrea provides strategic leadership and oversight for Shedd Aquarium’s communications and public relations division, including its national media relations, reputation management and integrated communications programs which support the organization’s mission-based global conservation science and research, education and animal care efforts. As Chicago’s most-visited cultural attraction welcoming more than 2.1 million guests annually, Shedd also earned the position of most-attended aquarium in the United States in 2012 during her tenure. Prior to joining Shedd, Andrea was the director of marketing and public relations for a full-service law firm where she built the company’s communications, business development and charitable giving programs from the ground up. Previously, she provided strategic public relations counsel for Stone Ward’s local and national agency clients. Andrea is accredited in public relations (APR) and is a former PRSA chapter president, district board member, accreditation chair and national assembly delegate.
Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations
Gary Weitman was named senior vice president/corporate relations in 2008, and he has served as the company’s chief communication officer since late 2007. He is responsible for the company’s internal and external communications, including media relations, employee communications, company publications, speechwriting, the company’s intranet site and the tribune.com website. Weitman joined Tribune in October 2000 as vice president/corporate communications.
Previously, Weitman was executive director/corporate communications at Allied Riser Communications Corp., a broadband data and Internet services provider. From 1997 through 1999, he served as senior vice president/media relations at Hill and Knowlton, Inc., in Chicago, where he was responsible for all aspects of communication strategies for Fortune 100 clients, including media training, crisis communications and employee and labor relations. Weitman served 11 years in broadcast journalism at WBBM-TV, Chicago. From 1994 to 1997, he was managing editor, responsible for the direction and editorial content of news broadcasts. Before that, he held several broadcast management roles, including executive producer, investigative producer and political affairs producer. He also served two years at WFLD-TV, Chicago, as executive producer of “Fox News Chicago.”
A native of St. Louis, born January 19, 1957, Weitman holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He was a William Benton Fellow in broadcast journalism at the University of Chicago from 1989 to 1990.
Weitman served on the board of directors of the Public Relations Society of America, Chicago chapter from 2000 to 2009. He was formerly a member of the Public Relations Council advising the board of trustees at Washington University, and the gala committee of the Alzheimer’s Association of Chicago. He was involved with the Alzheimer’s Association from 1997 to 2005. In October 2003, Weitman was named to the board of directors of the Juvenile Protective Association, a private non-profit agency dedicated to helping children and families affected by abuse or neglect. He was a member of the board of directors for WBEZ-FM, Chicago’s public radio station, serving from 1998 to 2007.
Bonita Brodt, APR
Director of Communications
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
At Northwestern Memorial Hospital, one of the country’s premier academic medical center hospitals, Bonita Brodt, APR, provides executive-level leadership for corporate, internal and brand communication. She guides the organizational voice and has been instrumental leading the strategic development and implementation of the new Northwestern Medicine master brand that connects the health system and the affiliated medical school, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Bonita drove the transformation of internal communication beyond print to a dynamic digital and print environment that is aligned with business, engagement and health system growth strategies. She leads an award-winning 11-member creative services team and her work has been recognized with numerous awards for excellence, both as a corporate communicator in print, video and digital and formerly as a journalist with the Chicago Tribune.