2023 PRSA Western District Conference

Call for Speakers

The Western District of the Public Relations Society of America is accepting proposals for speakers at its 2023 Western District Conference, April 26-28, 2023, at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona.

Topic Areas (suggested but not limited to the following):

  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Leadership for Communications
  • Integrated Marketing Communications
  • Issues Management and Crisis Communications
  • Measurement
  • Social Media
  • Technology and Innovation

Presentations should be targeted to mid- to senior-level public relations and communications professionals.

The deadline to submit proposals is THURSDAY, JANUARY 26, 2023.

Application Instructions

Please complete all information in our online form and submit it for consideration no later than January 26, 2023. Applicants will be notified of final selections via email in early February.

Proposals should be for 45-minute breakout sessions, where attendees can take away tools to help them in their day-to-day jobs. All presentations should be detailed, thoughtful and able to provide attendees with knowledge and tools they can implement in their practice. Participation in the conference conveys to PRSA the right to use imagery, content, presentations etc. for promotional purposes.

Speaker Expenses and Compensation

PRSA does not pay for expenses, nor offer speaker stipends. Speakers will receive a complimentary conference registration, which includes access to general sessions and networking events (a $500+ value).

Sample of Previous Speakers at Past Conferences

2023 Western District Conference speakers will be announced in February 2023.

Peter Shankman

Peter Shankman, Opening Keynote | Welcome to the Metaverse: How Your Company Can Take Advantage of What’s Coming Next — Before It Arrives

Here’s a quick stat: Companies have already put billions of dollars into the Metaverse in the past year. Buying virtual “properties,” creating virtual “clubs” and getting prepped for what some are calling the biggest seismic shift in the way we use technology and embrace content since the founding of the Internet. Instead of selling tickets to your next event, your audience can purchase NFTs, a sort of “souvenir” of your event that lives online. Over time, this will shift how communicators work, as well. Virtual desk-side chats in 3D. The latest specs of your latest product beamed in 3D to a reporter’s headset. A virtual walkthrough of your client’s factory floor, from thousands of miles away. A CEO in his office talking to a reporter in hers, each in a different city or country. It’s happening today, and it’s only getting more exciting. Join 5x bestselling author and the founder of Help a Reporter Out, as well as frequent CNN and MSNBC contributor Peter Shankman for an exciting look into where we are — and where we’re headed.

Brandi Boatner

Brandi Boatner, Closing Keynote | Perspectives for Persuasion in the Age of DEIB

Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) are the hottest topics on executive agendas, organizational practices, job listings, workplace training, media and conference/event programs. For communicators, culture plays a critically important role in the DEIB agenda. One of the hottest skills for communications professionals in the age of DEIB is cultural competence. PR practitioners are well positioned to lead inclusive communications for audiences, employees and organizations. This keynote will address how cultural competence drives engagement, celebrates communities and breaks down bias in the age of inclusion.

Scott Simon

Scott Simon, Pre-Conference Leadership Workshop | Great Leaders Create More Leaders ... Learn How in 2 Hours

Kick off your conference experience with an immersive workshop on leadership. Among the most important characteristics of a great leader is their ability to create more leaders around them. Whether as a mentor, coach, sponsor or manager, each mode of leading creates a foundation for bringing out the best in individuals and teams. Developing leadership skills (in ourselves and others) starts with building our understanding and assessing different attributes of leaders. In this pre-conference leadership workshop Scott Simon, an executive coach and founder of the Simon Leadership Group, will tap into your inspiration for leadership and help facilitate a plan for you to lead others. Learn how to stock your leadership toolkit at this 2-hour workshop! (Limited availability)

Session Speakers

Veronica Biczo

Veronica Biczo is the VP of Marketing at Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply, the largest family-owned supplier of landscape, irrigation, agronomic, aggregate, hardscape, and water management products in the United States. Veronica’s marketing experience includes public relations, content marketing, customer lifecycles, event planning, crisis communications, digital marketing and more. She’s worked in a variety of industry sectors, including commercial construction, sustainability, government, hospitality and higher education. Veronica has worked in the private and public sectors, as well as at a PR agency. Veronica has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University. She’s an active member of the PRSA and is a past president of the Phoenix PRSA board.

Mia Bolton

How does your organization or brand recognize heritage, history, awareness and remembrance days, weeks and months? When it comes to marketing, iIt’s common to see engagement with these recognition moments in a prescriptive way. This can (and often does) feel performative to communities and, when the month is over, can leave those same communities feeling like acknowledging their history and culture is a fleeting trend. Even if you’re well intentioned, it’s important to understand how to approach these moments transparently and with a community-centered mindset to ensure your impact matches your intention. There’s no quick fix. Determining your approach will require thoughtfulness and self-reflection – and in turn, your audiences will feel more connected to your vision, your values and the work you do overall. Join this session to explore guiding questions and workshop a four-step process for planning your actions – not just your content – with these recognition moments in mind.

Carolyn Smith Casertano, APR

From crises involving former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to Better.com CEO Vishal Garg and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, ethical lapses and whistleblower accusations continue to demonstrate the painful learning lessons about risk and reputation management. In a new post-pandemic environment, brands need to review their business practices, their internal and external channels, and evaluate strategies for a new world order that demands a higher level of transparency, stakeholder trust and engagement, and a heightened sense of corporate social responsibility, employee activism and the relationship between risk, reputation management and crisis preparation. In a hyperconnected world that thrives on social media and celebrity scandal, public relations professionals are challenged more than ever to help brands identify, diagnose and respond to reputation threats that can overwhelm even the most trusted organizations.

Douglas Chang

Douglas Chang is the General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach, where he oversees overall operations and strategic guidance of Oahu’s first Ritz-Carlton Residences and the largest residential property in the global Ritz-Carlton portfolio. Chang is a seasoned leader with nearly 40 years of luxury hospitality experience who directs a team of more than 200 Ladies and Gentlemen to manage the property and deliver legendary Ritz-Carlton service to residence owners and guests. Prior to joining the resort, Mr. Chang served as General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis and also General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences, Kapalua Bay, a luxury residential property that included whole ownership and fractional-ownership homes. His hospitality experience in the Hawaiian Islands also includes leadership positions at other luxury resort properties. An active leader in the community, Chang currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association (NaHHA), an organization where he has also served as founding board member. During his full tenure in Hawaii, he has also served as Board Member, Chair and Vice Chair of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). Chang was honored with the 2019 Marriott Worldwide Business Council Tom Ladd Award for Government Affairs recognizing his efforts as a lobbyist for Marriott International in Hawaii.

Tara Coomans

As an award-winning, 20+ year veteran of communications for purpose and movements, Tara Coomans is an advocate of authenticity in communications. As an outspoken speaker and writer since 2008, Coomans has established herself as a social media and public relations expert at the forefront and behind the scenes of numerous social, political, and cultural movements including early education, sustainability, women’s rights, technology, and entrepreneurship. Coomans has been a PRSA member since 2014 and also volunteers with several professional organizations, most recently with executive roles at Social Media Club Los Angeles, Vice President for the Los Angeles American Marketing Association. Coomans has also served as a board member for Junior Achievement, TedX, and as a local ambassador for Code for America. Coomans is CEO of Avaans Media where she leads a team of PR professionals who specialize in PR for emerging industries and hyper-growth brands. She lives with her husband and two Standard Poodles in Los Angeles. She is also a (pretty) good cook and an aspirational baker. She is on a perennial mission to make the world’s best lemon meringue pie, you can follow her mishaps and successes on the #masteringmeringue hashtag on Instagram.

Natasha Dressler

Natasha Dressler will guide you through one of the most sought-after requests in the media: Thought Leadership. Learn what Thought Leadership is, how to position you and your clients for more press success – even in the slow seasons, and how Thought Leadership can aid with a positive ROI for you or your client’s business.

Ira Gabriel

Ira Gabriel is a dynamic media executive with more than 20+ years of leading Marketing & PR teams for national media companies. Ira currently is the principal of Integrated Communications, LLC and collaborates with senior executives in automotive, sports, and non-profit verticals to shape integrated marketing, PR, and corporate communications. Bringing together a background in editorial, marketing, and media sales for consumer and trade media brands, Ira provides a unique blend of strategic marketing, corporate communications, and integrated content development to help clients through complex business communications. Ira started his career as an accomplished sports photographer on staff with SPORT Magazine, then led Hot Rod Magazine as their publisher and later Motor Trend Magazine as EVP/Group Publisher. He was selected to run Motor Trend's largest licensee and later joined the executive management team of a non-profit automotive trade association, leading the public relations and marketing teams. Ira received his MBA from Pepperdine University and Bachelor of Science in Technical Journalism from Oregon State University.

Amy Hennessey, APR

Amy Hennessey serves as the senior vice president of communications and external affairs, providing strategic counsel to Ulupono Initiative’s internal team and external partners. She oversees all areas of strategic marketing and communications, government affairs, and community partnerships in support of achieving the mission-driven firm’s goals and objectives. Amy is also responsible for building relationships with focus-area leaders and other internal and external partners. Hennessey has lectured at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and has more than 20 years of experience in corporate, nonprofit and agency public relations. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism/Public Relations from UH. Amy is an accredited member (APR) of the Hawaii chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA Hawaii) and has served as the professional advisor to the UH chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America since 2002. Hennessey holds the distinction of being a 2007 member of Pacific Business News’ Forty Under 40 class and a 2008 Pacific Century Fellow. She was also named PRSA Hawaii’s 2012 PR Person of the Year and a Woman to Watch in the 2015 Pacific Business News “Women Who Mean Business” Awards. In addition, Hennessey is actively supporting her belief in access to education and healthy communities through her service on the board of directors for Helping Hands Hawai‘i and the University of Hawaii Alumni Association, as well as the Regents Candidate Advisory Council and a co-organizer for the annual Manoa Forum.

Kirsten Kagimoto

With a love for all things nature, Kirsten joined the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi's team in 2016. Driven by her desire to see the do good-ers of the islands succeed, while recognizing that the issues that our communities face are complex—she strives to demystify the issues at hand to help the Club build people power for a livable future. Kirsten was a Marine Conservation Fellow at The Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi, a Kupu Hawaiʻi Youth Conservation Corps alumni, and holds a B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. A DIY-er at heart, Kirsten also teaches community yoga classes and enjoys hiking, diving and vegan baking. Now residing on Kauaʻi, she spends her time enjoying country life, exploring the outdoors with her husband and daughter, and cuddling her dog, three cats and Sunny the bunny.

Ku‘ulani Keohokalole

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives are not new, yet inequities exacerbated by the pandemic compelled organizations in Hawaiʻi and around the world ​- and with them, communications professionals -​ to recognize and convey the urgency for change and a renewed commitment to cultivating more inclusive​ and ​​,​equitable companies. Kuʻulani Keohokalole​,​ ​Owner & Principal Consultant of People Strategies Hawaiʻi, ​will share her experience with advancing DEI ​in the workplace​. Kuʻulani will highlight effective strategies and provide insights and actionable takeaways about how ​PR ​professionals and ​organizational ​leaders might advance equity in their own workplaces.

Daniel Lemin

If we have learned anything in the last 24 months, it is this: truth is not absolute. From echo chambers on social media to misinformation campaigns waged by foes, brands and executives have never been more at risk for mis- and disinformation than now. This is an era where consumers and stakeholders distrust brands and institutions more than ever. Technology has made it easy for misinformation to spread, and for bad information to spread like pollen. This session will explore how we got here and, vitally, what communicators need to know about managing brand and executive reputations in this unique era of distrust. This session builds on more than 15 years of experience working in the field of reputation and misinformation, including inside the world’s no. 1 search engine, Google.

Terina Maldonado

Makana McClellan is the director of business development and community relations at Shriners Children’s Hawaii. Prior to this, she served as the public information officer at The Queen’s Health Systems and was a member of the community building team at Communications Pacific (now known as CommPac). She is a dedicated community volunteer, serving in leadership roles within various organizations like the Aloha Festivals, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs and the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, while also serving on the Board of Directors for MasterCare. Makana is a coveted communications and political strategist, and in 2020, Pacific Business News selected her as an honoree for the Women Who Mean Business award.

Makana McClellan

Makana McClellan is the director of business development and community relations at Shriners Children’s Hawaii. Prior to this, she served as the public information officer at The Queen’s Health Systems and was a member of the community building team at Communications Pacific (now known as CommPac). She is a dedicated community volunteer, serving in leadership roles within various organizations like the Aloha Festivals, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs and the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, while also serving on the Board of Directors for MasterCare. Makana is a coveted communications and political strategist, and in 2020, Pacific Business News selected her as an honoree for the Women Who Mean Business award.

Jennifer Strong McConachie

Public relations professional and author Jennifer Strong McConachie shares principles and stories from her worldwide sports and business career to help others succeed via leadership, strategy and mindset. Learn how to GO FAR in your own life with Jennifer’s three-part, total approach to charting your desired course; how to set and accomplish big goals while overcoming obstacles; deep ways for developing personal and professional fulfillment and resilience; and how to adapt to what life throws at you while staying true to your vision for your future. Join Jennifer as she climbs mountains, runs volcanoes, treks deserts, hikes canyons, bushwhacks jungles, and swims seas, and shares how these endurance experiences translate into a winning outlook on life.

Mark Mohammadpour, APR

Mark Mohammadpour is the owner and Chief Well-being Officer at Chasing the Sun. After spending his public relations career as an executive at Edelman and Weber Shandwick, and after losing and keeping 150 pounds over the last decade, Mark launched Chasing the Sun to empower business leaders to prioritize their well-being so they can shine in the family room and the board room. Mark’s keynote speeches, workshops, and individual, team, and enterprise-wide programs deliver relatable, practical, and actionable advice to help increase morale and reduce turnover. Mark is the PRSA’s Strategies and Tactics Workplace Wellness columnist, served as the PRSA Oregon Chapter president in 2016, and was honored to receive the Olga M. Haley Mentorship Award from PRSA Oregon in 2020.

Dr. Monica O’Rourke

Dr. Monica O’Rourke is a professor of kinesiology and the interim co-director for the Leadership Studies Ph.D. program at California Baptist University. O’Rourke has presented nationally and internationally, sharing her 25 plus years of experience in the health, fitness, sports industries, including directing k-12, higher education, and professional sports programs. Her 14 years of public relations and administrative service with professional motocross and action sports athletes keep her actively involved with leadership trends in the kinesiology and sports industry. Dr. O’Rourke’s current role involves extensive involvement in mentoring interdisciplinary leadership studies doctoral students in research development.

Kathleen M. Pahinui

Originally from Chicago and a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Kathleen moved to Hawaii in the late 1980’s. She has worked in sales, marketing, publishing, and managed a few restaurants. At the Board of Water Supply, she brings a wealth of marketing experience that has facilitated the agency in expanding their reach and message including rendering the agency more transparent and accessible to the customer. She manages a sharp team of marketing professionals with skills in strategic planning, social media, website creation and management, video production, and writing. She is dedicated to the North Shore community and has been involved in many efforts to preserve open space, promote agriculture and provide solutions for the homeless community.

Dr. Mary Ann Pearson, APR

Dr. Mary Ann Pearson APR, has more than thirty years of experience in Public Relations, Journalism, Leadership, and Education. Pearson worked in public relations specializing in public relations campaigns in property management, real estate, and nonprofit work. Pearson worked with the Hispanic Literacy Program in Colton, Give Big Riverside, Girl Scouts of America, PRSA Capio, Colton Joint Unified School Districts Superintendent’s cabinet, International Mentoring Association, Dr. Paul and Annie Kienel Leadership Institute fellow, and PRSA as a PRSAIE Board member, Western District board Member and Educators Academy, executive board member. Dr. Pearson holds a doctorate in Education and is an APR.

Dr. Joe Perez

Having received advanced degrees in secondary education, Joe began a 10-year career as an educator. While in that career, he furthered his graduate education, earning a doctorate in education with a double-minor in computers and theology. His career focus changed to IT in the early 1990s when he started as a Computer Consultant at NC State University. Three promotions later, Dr. Perez ended his successful 25-year career at NC State as Business Intelligence Specialist when he took another promotion to become Senior Business Analyst at the NC Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) in the fall of 2017 and has since been promoted to Senior Systems Analyst and Team Lead. In addition to his full-time analytics/BI leadership role at DHHS, Joe was named Chief Technology Officer at a North Carolina corporation in October 2020. A published author with more than 13,000 followers on LinkedIn and several professional certifications, Perez has stayed active in the IT, HHS, and higher education communities as a much sought-after resource, highly-recommended international keynote speaker, data analytics & visualization expert, and specialist in efficiency and process improvement. Perez, a recipient of the IOT Industry Insights 2021 Thought Leader of the Year award, speaks at dozens of conferences each year (with a record-breaking 42 in 2021), and continues to be in high demand to this day, expanding his reach into more than twenty countries on every inhabited continent on earth, impacting thousands.

Mary Prevost

Prevost’s 19 years of public relations experience in the healthcare industry spans both agency and client-side work and she’s helped clients of all sizes with strategic communication initiatives. Prevost previously worked as Director of Communications at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center in Cheyenne, WY, and then transitioned into agency work at a Minneapolis PR agency. She founded Prevost Partners with her husband to broaden their consulting services and they have a combined 36 years of healthcare experience. Prevost graduated with an M.B.A. from Augsburg College, a B.A. in Mass Communications with emphasis in Public Relations and News Editorial from Colorado Mesa University (Grand Junction, CO) and an A.A.S. in Radio/TV Broadcasting from Central Wyoming College (Riverton, WY).

Malia Sanders

Malia Sanders is a detail oriented and goal driven performer in the field of Cultural Tourism. She is currently the Executive Director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association (NaHHA), a non-profit organization deeply rooted in perpetuating the authenticity of the Native Hawaiian culture and values in Hawaii’s Visitor Industry through advocacy, education, training and program development. Sanders is a graduate of the Kamehameha Schools Kapalama Campus, the University of Hawaii, and has over 20 years of upper management experience. She has held various positions on the island of Hawaii, honing her craft within the Hospitality Industry in all areas of guest service. She will celebrate her eleventh year with NaHHA in July of 2022 and leads the non-profit as the Executive Director. Sanders is a founding member and Alakai of Aha Pulama Pau Hololio, a Hawaiian Pau Riding Club and dedicates her personal time to civic engagement and perpetuating authentic Native Hawaiian practices and cultural preservation. Sanders currently serves on the Board of Directors and is the Vice President of the Hawaiian Civic Club of Honolulu and is the Chair of the annual Holoku Ball. Sanders was recently awarded the Social Impact Entrepreneur of 2022 by the Hawaii Venture Capitalist Association and was recently nationally featured as a 2022 Native American Women Leaders in Cultural Tourism by the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association.

Dr. Gaynell Vanderslice

Gaynell is an assistant professor and the Leadership Studies Program Coordinator at California Baptist University Jabs School of Business. Gaynell teaches leadership, human capital development, organizational behavior, change management, ethics, and business communications. She has conducted several workshops on self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and team building. Gaynell has 25+ years of management experience in the technology and service industry. In 2006 she pioneered a shared and self-leadership program that increased job satisfaction, managerial relationships, and trust. She holds a Ph.D. in Leadership from Alliant International University in San Diego and a Certificate of Leadership from Claremont Graduate School.

Cynthia Weaver

Cynthia Weaver is a senior Communications Strategist with more than two decades of Marketing Communications experience in local government, tourism, education and public health sectors. She is the CEO of Cynthia Weaver Communications, LLC, where she helps clients connect with their audiences through authentic communications. A retired spokesperson for the city of Phoenix, Cynthia promoted Phoenix as a destination of choice for Major Events as the Communications Director at the Phoenix Convention Center. Throughout her tenure, she also managed internal communications and media relations for several city departments. Cynthia’s career highlights include coordinating venue media relations, messaging and Crisis Communications for high profile events including Super Bowl XLIX, College Football Playoffs, NCAA Final Four, POTUS/FLOTUS dignitary visits and several Presidential Campaign rallies. She is committed to creating inclusive Communications and currently serves on the board of PRSA Phoenix as the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion liaison. Cynthia is an alumnus and former adjunct professor at Arizona State University where she continues to support the university’s students as a mentor and guest speaker.

Cynthia Zhair

The world has been filled with uncertainty, unpredictability and instability for the past 2 years. As a result, mMany people have experienced anxiety, panic and fatigue, wondering what the future holds. It’s at this uncertain time that pPeople are looking for communication leaders who can speak in a voice that connects with them, unites them and brings a sense of certainty and hope to them. Technology can advance but it won’t replace the leadership presence your voice projects. Your voice has never been as important as of now. How you speak and come across has become vital in uniting people and influencing them. In this interactive, practical and fun session, you’ll master the tools and techniques to speak with a powerful voice that engages, unites, influences and inspires the employees.

Past Speakers













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