2018 SouthwestDistrictConference logo  

The New Mexico Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America is hosting the 2018 PRSA Southwest District Conference, taking place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, March 7-9, 2018. The 2018 Southwest District Conference will champion “Blue Sky Thinking” in a city noted for 300+ days of sunshine per year and clear turquoise skies.


Keynote Speakers

DAngelo.lowresAnthony D’Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA, Syracuse University, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
National Chair, PRSA; Professor of Practice, Public Relations; Director, Executive Master’s Program, Communications Management

Following more than 25 years in public relations leadership roles in the corporate and agency sectors, Anthony D’Angelo joined the faculty of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications in August 2015. His practice areas include change management, reputation management, branding and marketing communications.

D’Angelo is PRSA’s 2018 National Chair, a past chair of its College of Fellows and a founder of PRSA’s MBA Program to bring strategic communications content to MBA curricula nationwide. His articles on the importance of strategic communications to organizational leadership have appeared in BusinessWeek, the Financial Times, the Public Relations Strategist and other publications, and he is a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal’s “Crisis of the Week” column.



Breakout Speakers and Panels

Aileen Katcher, APR, Fellow PRSA
Principal, Katcher Strategic Communications

Katcher has more than three decades of public relations and crisis planning and communications experience. She is certified by the Institute for Crisis Management. Career highlights: Member of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's Crisis Management Team (CMT) following a data theft of PHI from 1 million members. Crisis communications counsel to a Christian college involved in personnel dispute which became sensationalized by the media nationally. CMT member for a publicly-traded, international military weapons manufacturer following explosion resulting in deaths and injuries. Created crisis plans and conducted training for companies in a variety of industries including health care, construction and nonprofits.

Ira M. Gostin, MBA, APR
President & Chief Marketing Officer - 120 West Strategic Communications LLC

Ira Gostin, entrepreneur, marketer and communications strategist, is an influential and creative business development advisor specializing in achieving measurable results. 120 West combines his passions and entrepreneurial spirit while crafting strategies for clients.

He recently directed investor relations and corporate communications for Tahoe Resources Inc. (NYSE: TAHO), a $4+ billion publicly traded company, where he was a founding executive and established the company’s brand as one of the top precious metals producers in the world. He coordinated Tahoe’s $505 million IPO in 2010 and directed communications and branding for mergers in 2015 and 2016. Tahoe was named a TopGun company in Canada for 2016.

Ira launched his career as a photojournalist for the Associated Press, honing his newsroom intuition to effectively brand a company’s external communications. After having his photos featured in publications ranging from Time magazine to the Washington Post to the New York Times and for many Fortune 500 companies, Ira retired from photography, earned his MBA and began career number two. He was also an adjunct professor at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Reynolds School of Journalism.

Jenn Baier
Senior Advisor - AARP West Region, AARP

Jenn is the Senior Regional Advisor for the West Region of AARP #WestisBest For the past twelve years she’s been focused on growing the social footprint of AARP’s social media accounts. Passionate about video, Jennifer has been spending much of her time conducting trainings on shooting iPhone videos. Jenn’s work focuses on analyzing data, sharing best practices and setting benchmarks for the association. She’s a road warrior, but Wisconsin is her home base. Her trusty sidekicks Tonks - the Husky, Darth Jader - the Turkish Angora Cat, and Bill - the husband keep things running while she’s away.


Kristelle Siarza
Owner/CEO, Siarza Social Digital 

Kristelle is a digital communications and marketing specialist with over 15 years of experience. In 2014, after 11 years in agencies and marketing/comms departments, she founded Siarza Social Digital - a 360 degree digital communications firm that pivots on innovation, curation, and creativity.


Annemarie Ciepiela Henton, APR  
Director of Communications & Marketing - Albuquerque Economic Development, Inc. 

Annemarie has more than 10 years' experience developing and implementing integrated marketing and communications strategy. As director of communications and marketing at Albuquerque Economic Development, Inc., she is responsible for directing, managing and evaluating the organization's ongoing marketing and communications efforts. She also is a member of AED's recruitment team, working to bring new employers to the Albuquerque metro area. In addition to her role at AED, Annemarie served in an executive-on-loan capacity to the Mayor's Office for the City of Albuquerque's Innovation Team in 2015 and 2016. Annemarie holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Arizona, and in 2014, earned her Accreditation in Public Relations.

Deanna Crawley  
Marketing Director - Dion's 

If Deena isn’t in her office, you’ll probably find her running a marathon somewhere. In fact, we think she’s the fastest gal in town. She has been in her current role for five years, but also worked on the operations side during an earlier stint with Dion’s. Prior to her position as Marketing Director, Deena worked in brand planning at McKee Wallwork + Company.

She is a two-time Effie finalist, a former President of the American Advertising Federation NM, has been inducted into the University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Leadership NM. She has a degree in Business Administration from the University of New Mexico.

Deena and her husband, Travis, have three dogs.

What’s Your Slice? Endurance running.

What’s Your Favorite Dion’s Order? Slice of pineapple, half tossed salad with Ranch dressing and if it’s a Friday, I’ll throw in a chocolate chip cookie.


David Zapata 
President - Zapwater Communications, Inc.

David Zapata is President and Founder of Zapwater Communications, an award-winning public relations agency with offices in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Zapata is a public affairs and 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.

Throughout his career, Zapata has worked on dozens of federal, state and local political and issue campaigns across the United States. His creative approach to politics has been recognized in major newspapers throughout the United States. He has also served as aide to a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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.

Jennifer Lake 
Senior Vice President - Zapwater Communications, Inc.

Jennifer Lake is the Senior Vice President of Zapwater Communications where she leads the agency’s new business development and key accounts. Previously worked as the Vice President of Skirt PR for 6 years where she lead the agency’s fashion, beauty and lifestyle division.

To date, Lake has managed 70+ industry award-winning campaigns, including the Publicity Club of Chicago’s Jeffrey D. Bierig Brand Builder Award, and Gold SABRE Awards for Best Fashion and Beauty Campaign and Best Web-Based Business Campaign in North America.

She’s a former Publicity Club of Chicago Board Member and has extensive experience in retail, lifestyle, travel, real estate and design, including managing campaigns for CIM Group, Block 37, TOPSHOP/TOPMAN, Kiehl’s Since 1851, The Tie Bar, Visit Finland, Visit Maldives, Ted Baker London and Hickory Street Capital to name a few. 


Kathryn Heller, APR
Account Supervisor - Ghidotti Communications

Kathryn is on the leadership team at Ghidotti Communications where she leads the account services team and oversees business development.

Kathryn manages day-to-day client relationships and creates strategic plans that address every client need. She supports the entire team in a variety of capacities and brings value to the clients through a deep understanding of key issues and industry trends.

With her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), Kathryn understands strategy and how marketing and Public Relations can affect the bottom line.

Elizabeth Edwards
Founder & President - Volume PR

Elizabeth Edwards is an award-winning communicator, speaker and author, who founded Volume in 2001. Her mind-science practice has led to the development of a map of guidelines to the laws and effects that govern how the American mind is hard wired to be positively engaged. Edwards and her team train and support brands from Fortune 100s to start-ups with their one-of-a-kind system for success.

A graduate of Pepperdine University, Edwards worked in communication at Boeing's Rocketdyne Propulsion & Power, and at Ogilvy PR's telecom practice before founding Volume and starting the communication world on a path toward more scientifically precise engagement. 

Erin Bodine
Marketing Communications Manager - Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation

Erin Bodine is a seasoned marketing communications professional with more than a decade of experience in public relations, community relations, marketing, digital strategy, branding and copywriting. At Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation, she oversees strategic marketing communications for major events and manages communications strategy for the organization’s philanthropy directors. Before that, Erin served as an account director at Development Counselors International, a New York-based agency that specializes in marketing cities, regions, states, provinces and countries for economic development, talent and tourism. The marketing campaigns she built have earned multiple awards from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and Southern Economic Development Council (SEDC). She holds a master’s degree in print journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Carleton College.

Steve Krizman
Assistant Professor - Metropolitan State University

Steve Krizman is a former health care marketing and communication executive who currently teaches journalism and public relations at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He has developed and launched content marketing, automated marketing, and social media programs. His early career as a newspaper editor gives him experience in spotting trends and creating content that engages a broad range of audiences.

Steve and his teams have won awards from the Business Marketing Association, the Content Marketing Association, the Public Relations Society of America, and Ragan Communications. Steve was one of three finalists for Market’s Visionary Marketing Executive award in 2014.

Michelle Murray
Director of Marketing Communications - Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation

Michele Murray is the director of marketing communications for the Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation, where she leads strategic communications for the organization. Previously, Michele led communications for LiveWell Colorado where she helped increase visibility through public affairs, media relations and advertising. Michele also directed integrated communications for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, where she led a 20-person communications team, which included the national “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.” advertising campaign.

Michele has earned several communications awards, including two PRSA Silver Anvils, National Agri-Marketing Awards, the International Association for Business Communicators Gold Quill Award, PRWeek Crisis/Issues Management Campaign of the Year and Creativity in Public Relations Award. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications from Drake University.

John Forde, APR, Fellow PRSA
Professor / Department Head - Mississippi State University

Dr. John E. Forde, APR, Fellow PRSA, has taught at Mississippi State University since 1987. He has served as department head since 2004, and he teaches Principles of Public Relations in person and online.

He was inducted into the Southern Public Relations Hall of Fame, Public Relations Society of America College of Fellows, and the University of Southern Mississippi School of Mass Communication and Journalism Hall of Fame.

John served as president of SPRF, and he is a long-time member of the Universal Accreditation Board (where he served as chair and co-chair), representing both PRSA and SPRF.

 Pre-Conference Workshops  

 Courtney Rich
Programs Manager, The South Valley Economic Development Center

Courtney Rich is a former small business owner. At age 27 she went out and started a small local burrito company, and within two years was the only plant to be granted the USDA certification within the state of New Mexico in nine years. Learning how to operate solely with herself and a small group of employees she was able to make her company grow exponentially with the USDA certification. She became an expert in USDA, FDA, and LEAN manufacturing. She then went on to share her expertise by becoming the Programs Manager of the South Valley Economic Development Center where small businesses, whether food industry or non-food industry, are incubated to create higher success rates. She also understands the costs, stress, hurdles, and joy of running a company. In-turn training and implementation has become Courtney's forte, where working with people and their businesses are always productive, positive, and efficient.

Tom Garrity
President, The Garrity Group Public Relations

Working at the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau, Tom Garrity envisioned starting a public relations firm. He was familiar with the blocking and tackling that came with communications but running a business was a different beast.

That was 21 year ago.

Today, The Garrity Group is a leading public relations firm in New Mexico that helps small businesses to be heard and large organizations to be understood.  Focusing on New Mexico, the firm provides issue management, crisis communication, media relations and reputation management for a variety of local and national organizations, corporations and governments.

Chad Perry, PhD, APR, Fellow PRSA

Dr. Chad Perry is an assistant professor of strategic communications at the University of Central Oklahoma. He is accredited in public relations (APR) by PRSA; he served two terms on the PRSA Universal Accreditation Board and was involved with developing a computer based examination for the APR test. Because of his contributions to PRSA and his involvement in numerous professional and social activities in New Mexico, Dr. Perry was inducted into the prestigious PRSA College of Fellows in 2013. Dr. Perry conducts research on intercultural communication. His dissertation was a three-year study of an adult ESL program in New Mexico.