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PR Day 2015

2015 PR Day logo

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This year’s theme is: “Define PR” - Strategically defining the practice as we advance the profession.

As PR practitioners, we all know the textbook definition of public relations. Nevertheless, when asked by our friends, family and peers what we do, sometimes it can be challenging to #DefinePR.

This year, we will journey into discussions about many of the different roles we play as communications specialists. We will be discussing a more comprehensive definition of public relations and highlight specializations involved in providing solutions for our clients and the tactics used in the execution of communications strategies.


Norris Conference Centers
816 Town & Country Blvd., Suite 210
Houston, TX 77024



Click on the links below to register:


Lunch Keynote Speaker:

An Exercise in Experimentation and Experiential Marketing: How NRG Gets Consumers to Love Their Power


Customers today demand transparency, commitment to the community and experiences that resonate long after they occur. In this day and age, that's really the only way to get people to care about your brand. NRG has met those expectations with marketing experimentation, going out to meet the public—be it Coachella or the NFL—diving into experiential marketing and picking a spokesperson that made "Alright, Alright, Alright" a way of life. Sicily Dickenson, CMO of NRG, will share how marketing and media inventiveness can change a slow-moving industry like energy and create mission messengers out of customers.

Sicily Dickenson

Closing Keynote Speakers:

SUPER-Sized “Party” Planning


Is Houston ready for some Super Bowl football? Sharon Adams, executive vice president for corporate affairs, for the 2017 Houston Super Bowl Host Committee will give a behind-the-scenes look at the daunting responsibility that comes with hosting a city-wide Super Bowl “party” that will impress long-time residents, a diverse group of out-of-town guests and an international TV audience. While the big game is more than one year away, the Super Bowl LI Host Committee is already working tirelessly on a PR plan to successfully bring a multitude of visitors, unprecedented global media attention, and tremendous economic impact to Houston.

Sharon Adams


Morning Session (8:45 - 9:45am)

View From the Top: How Industry Leaders #DefinePR


Five of Houston’s most powerful PR agency leaders walk into a breakfast together. It’s no joke. Join Deborah Ward Buks, one of PR Week’s Top 70 Women in PR and president of Ward, the 2013 PRSA Houston Grand Excalibur recipient; Allie Danziger, a Houston Business Journal 40 Under 40 recipient and founder and president of Integrate; Alex Negrete, president and CEO of Lopez Negrete, the largest independently owned Hispanic advertising and communications firm in the country; Phil Morabito, a former Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and CEO of Pierpont Communications; and Aimee Woodall, another Houston Business Journal 40 Under 40 recipient, League of Women Voters “Rising Star,” and president of The Black Sheep Agency, PRSA’s 2015 Mid-Sized PR Agency of the Year; for enlightening insights from the corner offices of some of Houston’s most successful agencies.

 Buks Danziger Negrete Morabito Woodall       

   Buks                 Danziger            Lopez             Morabito            Woodall      



Session I (10:00 - 10:45am)

 Lessons from an Accidental PR Pro


Successful public engagement is more art than science. At the community level, more often than not the most effective engagement comes from grassroots leaders who have picked up messaging skills by trial and error. Reda Hicks, the 2014 Army Spouse of the Year and one of the Houston Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” in the same year, will use examples from her grassroots engagement and advocacy efforts, especially on topics that affect military families, to help PR pros understand what can be learned from those who lead with substance while learning the form along the way.

Reda Hicks

Businesses Cannot Hide in Era of Transparency

Andrew Biar, founder and president of Strategic Public Affairs, will draw on more than a quarter of a century of experience in government, politics and business to explain how the increasing transparency being ushered in by the always-connected technological age impacts effective stakeholder outreach across key sectors of the economy, including energy, utility, healthcare, automotive, airline, engineering, homebuilding, finance and more.


Andrew Biar

 Primary Public Affairs P’s: Protect and Promote


Less than a decade ago, Rice University was comfortably enclosed by its famous hedges and operated under the philosophy that if you didn’t know anything about Rice, then you didn’t deserve to know.  President David Leebron decided that “hiding your light under a bushel basket is not a strategy.” Linda Thrane, Rice’s vice president for public affairs since 2007, will describe how the university undertook a transformative campaign to equip its public affairs operation with the talent and tools needed to compete head-to-head with the country’s best universities for students, faculty and resources.

Linda Thrane


Session II (11:00 - 11:45am)

  Using Street Art as a Marketing & PR Campaign Tool for the Houston Zoo


Kirsten Ufer, creative director, and Jackie Wallace, director of public relations, will share with participants how the nearly 100-year-old Houston Zoo reinvented its marketing strategies in order to gain city-wide connectivity for the brand-new gorilla habitat, months before seven western lowland gorillas moved to the Bayou City. By partnering with five of the city’s most well-regarded street artists, the zoo was able to reach a completely new audience, and establish itself as a zoo in-touch with the modern age.

Jackie Wallace
Kirsten_Ufer Kirsten Ufer

 Getting Through the First Few


Studies have shown that turnover is a very real threat in the early stages of a PR practitioner’s career. Nell Reed, director of marketing and public relations at Houston Community College, will help PR professionals understand and overcome some of the hurdles they may face, especially as newcomers during the early years. Attendees will gain a better understanding of the rigor and expectations in the field and learn survive skills to help them cope and adapt before they consider leaving a position, or the profession indefinitely.



Nell Reed

 Reacting to Real-Time Events: Integrating PR and Social to Engage the Moment


Amanda Hansen, senior vice president of marketing, and Maggie Malek, head of public relations and social media, at MMI Agency will share three easy steps – listen early, pre-plan engagement, and hit the ground running – they used to create integrated real-time PR and social strategies for the Shell Houston Open and MD Anderson Boot Walk. They will also detail some of the preferred tools and technologies MMI uses to integrate PR and social for real-time success.

AmandaAmanda HansenMalekMaggie Malek


APR Information Session (1:10 - 1:40pm)

Accreditation is a voluntary certification program for public relations professionals, administered by the Universal Accreditation Board and the PRSA. Accredited members carry the designation "Accredited in Public Relations" (APR), signifying a high professional level of experience and competence. Julie Fix, APR, Fellow PRSA, director of undergraduate studies for the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at the University of Houston and president and principal of Fix & Associates, Inc. Public Relations, will give an overview of the review and computer-based examination process involved in becoming accredited.

Julie Fix, APR


Session III (1:55 - 2:40pm)

 Social Media Organic Reach and Email Aren’t Dead Yet


As the social media director for the City of Houston for the last two years, Melissa Ragsdale Darragh has increased followers, engagement and reach across multiple platforms. She recommends administrators who manage social media for their organizations approach each post or email with the mindset of an end user with a voracious appetite for multimedia content and consider how they prefer to see information in their own news feeds or inboxes. Participants will get the behind-the-scenes details on what it’s like to tweet for Mayor Annise Parker and a city as big and diverse as Houston.


Melissa Radsdale Darragh

How to Use Social Media to Engage the Media


Instead of waiting for the media to write your story, start the conversation on your own digital platforms. Ashley Small, President and CEO, and Alexis Jones, Account Executive, with Medley Inc. will help participants learn how to extend their messaging to meet journalists where they are, instead of trying to interrupt them with traditional methods. Learn how you can use social media to make an immediate impact on audiences without having to wait for a press release to make the rounds. Small and Jones will show how, for the first time in the history of PR, practitioners have unique access to key decision makers in the newsroom and in the field.



Ashley Small


Alexis Jones

Way Behind: Starting, or Jump-Starting, Your Social Media Program


Are you still waiting to dip your toe into the social media age? Or has your Twitter account been dormant since 2013, when the intern who opened it went back to school? Sara Cress, social media manager at CenterPoint Energy, will discuss the challenges – and benefits! – of embracing social media, even if your organization is late to the game. Using CenterPoint – whose journey to social media began in 2011, which was late even for a utility – as an example, she will explain how to go about getting buy-in from employees who may not be familiar with social media and to attempt changing, for the better, a company culture that has been in the making for 150 years.


Sara Cress


Session IV (2:55 - 3:40pm)

 How to Turbocharge Your Ox Cart: Crisis Communications in the Time of Twitter


The advent of social media has profoundly impacted crisis communications— from accelerating the news cycle to rewriting the rules for dealing with media. Communications professionals must learn to harness this incredible channel rather than attempt to control it. Chris Jones, a FEMA-certified crisis communications professional with Pierpont, will use his experiences developing effective crisis plans and conducting media training and emergency response exercises to review actual crisis response situations and examine the role social media played in both the media and the crisis response teams responsible for communications.


Chris Jones

 War: An International Digital Communication Crisis


When an ongoing, international conflict breaks out, how does a diplomatic mission on the other side of the world handle it? Digitally. Karen Naumann, communication and digital diplomacy officer for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest United States, will demonstrate the necessity of fully utilizing social media as a primary channel of information dissemination, especially when representing an international organization or government. A case study of Operational Protective Edge, which occurred during the summer of 2014, will help participants learn to filter and customize global information to specific regional audiences and for the different “personas” of the available online platforms.


Karen Naumann

 I Shot a Fake Horse


Chad Shanks, now the director of marketing for StatMuse, was the award-winning social media manager for the Houston Rockets until a lapse in judgment cost him his job and made him a trending topic on Twitter. Shanks will reflect on his time managing high-profile social media accounts, the media frenzy that followed his firing, and the steps he took to salvage his reputation. This casual conversation will help participants learn how the PR tools they use for business can also be key to ensuring one personal mistake doesn’t define a career.


Chad Shanks


Swag Bag Sponsor


Lanyard Sponsor


Technology + Interactive Session Sponsor


Individual Scholarship Sponsor


Home Alarm Systems in Houston

In-Kind Design Sponsor


In- Kind Print Sponsor


In-Kind Videographer Sponsor




To arrange a sponsorship opportunity, please contact the sponsorship chair, Julia McGowen, at or 713-408-6855. To see this year's sponsorship opportunities and benefits, please click here.


Contact PR Day Co-Chairs Sarah Baker at or Annie Song at