TALENT

LEADERS

Laurel Kennedy

As a published author [St. Martin’s Press] and founder of the food channel crisis management firm Blink, Kennedy knows what it’s like to be on the media firing line, and to have a firm’s future outlook influenced by your statements. That visceral experience has attuned Kennedy to the unique needs of senior executives facing stressful and demanding crises situations that put every ounce of their wile and expertise to the test.

 

Kennedy has proven a popular “talking head” and presenter, appearing on national television including CNBC and Comcast TV, Talk Network Radio, as an expert witness in the Superior Courts, and as a keynote speaker before numerous industry and corporate forums. Kennedy’s opinions and innovative solutions have garnered headlines in a variety of media including Yahoo! Finance, Forbes.com, MarketWatch.com, Morningstar.com, the Copley News Service, Irish Times, Dallas Morning News, Hollywood Reporter Advertising Age, Chamber of Commerce Magazine and Consumer Insight to name a few.

 

While a senior executive with Edelman Worldwide and Ketchum, Kennedy’s marketing and communications work for clients like Johnson Wax, Keebler, Kraft, Kellogg, Nielsen, Quaker Oats, Pepsi, Sara Lee and the YMCA has won dozens of accolades including National Telly Awards, Silver Anvil Awards [PRSA], Golden Trump Awards [PCC], IABC Awards, Addy Awards [AAF], Davey Awards [IAVA], Gold Mercury Awards and CIPRAs. She holds the MBA with honors from the world-ranked University of Chicago Booth  School of Business, where her honors thesis explored the impact of gender differences on field sales performance.

Paula Hahn*

Like her hero, NY Yankee great Roger Maris, Paula Hahn believes that “You hit home runs not by chance, but by preparation.”

 

That philosophy has served Hahn well during an award-winning 25+ year career in public relations, helping clients proactively address business-critical issues and crises.  Combining experience garnered with global agencies (Ketchum, Porter Novelli, Marina Maher Communications) and in-house corporate positions, Hahn has helped brands like Aveda, Dawn, Pepsi Bottlers and Six Flags neutralize potential crises and stage headline-generating special events.

 

Hahn has provided counsel and guidance to senior executives in companies such as Dannon, Miller Brewing, Urban Decay and Volvo dealing with high profile issues and crisis situations.  These scenarios ranged from packaging and food concerns related to nutrition, ingredient safety, sugar/salt and obesity to public safety, unfounded social media rumors, consumer boycotts, strike threats and more.

 

The food and beverage arena has always been Hahn's passion.  And her keen understanding of the food chain is no surprise, since she grew up in America's Dairyland and resides on a farm.

 

For the past 10 years Hahn has evolved into a social media authority, with an unusual  mash-up of crisis/issues experience and social media savvy. Hahn is best known for coaching clients, teaching them how to manage complaints, rumors and misinformation in the 24/7 digital world.

 

*Emeritus

TEAM

Elliot Bloom

From destination dining to white table cloth restaurants to QSRs, Elliot Bloom has spent much of his career in the communications hot seat for food, beverage, travel and hospitality companies, most recently as senior vice president/chief communications officer for Travelport Ltd.

 

Bloom fine-tuned his crisis management chops as senior vice president of corporate communications for Cendant Corporation, where he handled crises ranging from one of the largest-ever financial scandals to the normal service, health and consumer issues related to hospitality operations for brands including Avis, Budget, Cheaptickets.com, Orbitz, Century 21, Coldwell Banker, ERA, Ramada, Wyndham Resorts, Days Inn, Howard Johnson and Super 8.

 

Prior to Cendant, Bloom served as vice president of U.S. communications and advertising for the ACNielsen Marketing Research unit of Dun & Bradstreet, the world’s largest marketing research organization.

 

Bloom got hooked on the food and beverage business while working for several PepsiCo units including Frito-Lay and Taco Bell, where he was an integral part of the team that launched the Value Menu marketing program, widely recognized as a best practices model in the industry.

 

After graduating from State University of New York at Buffalo, Bloom began his career as a trade media journalist.  He is currently wrapping up the manuscript for a book on the Cendant experience with the blessing of founding CEO Henry Silverman.

Cynthia Boles

Boles is known for camera-ready presentation skills, developed during her years as a popular Houston TV news anchor. In addition to an understanding of what it takes to succeed at public relations in a digital and visual world, Boles has extensive experience in crisis management and media relations.

 

As a Senior Vice President at Edelman Worldwide, Boles managed the agency’s national media services department in Chicago and public affairs practice in Los Angeles. Categories served ranged from food (Butterball Turkey and Kentucky Fried Chicken), to cars (Nissan and VW America), to pharmaceuticals (Abbott Laboratories and Searle Pharmaceuticals), to governments (State of California and City of Los Angeles), to non-profits (March of Dimes and John Wayne Cancer Institute).

 

Boles has won five national and international public relations awards, including being honored for her work with the City of Los Angeles, leading the team responsible for public education about curbside recycling.

 

Behind the camera, Boles managed programming and marketing for three start-up independent cable companies with systems in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Indiana and Illinois. CableFAX magazine named her Independent Marketer of the Year for the Cable TV industry.

Amy Briskin

If you enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, toast special occasions with champagne, lunch on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, savor a good guacamole and sneak a divine chocolate now and then, you’re familiar with the work of media relations specialist Amy Briskin. Briskin has reveled in the fast-paced world of media relations for 25+ years, and although her experience covers a wide range of industries, she savors the unique challenges of food and beverage public relations.

 

Briskin’s fine-honed understanding of media editorial interests and content needs in the food and beverage category reflects lessons learned during campaigns for consumer packaged goods companies and national food associations. Clients have included Avocados from Mexico, Ben & Jerry's, Dorot Frozen Herbs and Garlic, Godiva Chocolate, Heinz Ketchup, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, Jif, the National Coffee Association (NCA), Piper Heidsieck Champagne, Roland Foods, Smucker's, the Soyfoods Association of North America and Whole Foods.

 

The range and caliber of Briskin’s work, running the gamut from product launches to consumer education to cause marketing, has resulted in placements in media outlets including The Boston Globe, Bon Appetit, AP, US News & World Report, Gannett syndicates and daily newspaper food sections across the U.S.

 

Briskin’s achievements have earned peer recognition and numerous awards, most notably, the Public Relations Society of America's (PRSA) Silver Anvil for a four-year program with the NCA.

 

Briskin earned a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Brown University.

Patti Costantino

Everyone wants Patti Costantino at their party. In addition to an upbeat outlook, her work on brands like Bacardi, Hennessy, Smirnoff and Guinness makes Costantino a premier mixologist. Costantino is an accomplished marketing communications professional with proven brand-building expertise. Throughout her career, she has promoted and protected a diverse roster of food and beverage brands that includes household favorites like Pepperidge Farm and Kellogg’s.

 

Costantino’s skill set includes strategic planning, traditional and social media relations, digital content and press material development, media coaching, issues management, events management, and in-depth knowledge of the federal and state regulations governing the beverage alcohol industry.

 

Most recently, Costantino served as interim US public relations lead at Bacardi USA, overseeing rum brand programming, including the new superpremium sipping rum collection, Facundo. During her tenure as Senior PR and Events Director at Diageo North America, Costantino developed a global experiential marketing program for Smirnoff that reached more than 90 million consumers and continued the brand’s partnership with the James Bond film franchise.

 

Costantino is a cum laude graduate of Susquehanna University with a B.A. in Communications.  An avid runner and yogi, Costantino has been a practicing vegetarian for more than 20 years.

John Cullen

If you ever wanted to “Be All You Can Be,” thank John Cullen. As Army Recruiting advertising media director, Cullen managed one of the largest fulfillment operations in the country. The hugely successful and ubiquitous “Be All You Can Be” campaign is widely credited as a major factor contributing to the re-imaging of today’s Army.

 

Cullen is accustomed to both the limelight, and the hot seat, having served as the national spokesperson and public affairs officer for Army Recruiting and for several Catholic dioceses and religious orders coping with volatile and highly-publicized personnel issues.  Cullen has earned a reputation for being unflappable, retaining his calm under fire [literally and figuratively], a real plus when counseling executives preparing to serve as company spokesperson in a crisis situation.

 

During his public relations career, Cullen has helped clients cope with a wide spectrum of crises ranging from groundwater contamination, to labor unrest, responsible drinking issues and wildlife endangerment.

 

Affectionately known around the office as “The Colonel,” Cullen began his second career in the private sector as a senior executive with Ketchum Public Relations and subsequently as partner/vice president with the highly-regarded Chicago public relations agency Janet Diederichs & Associates.

 

 A West Point graduate, Cullen retired from the Army after a successful 21 year career, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Laurie Graff

Some people attend the theater. Others, like Laurie Graff, believe life is a daily opportunity for creating theater, where she can apply her stage experience to framing and pitching dynamic media stories. A PR professional who is led by her passion, Graff has 15+ years experience working with some of the world’s most well-known brands and influential corporate public relations firms. A tenacious team player, she knows how to work with clients to tailor strategies that produce effective media results.

 

Graff’s work as a media relations consultant has taken her to top agencies like Porter Novelli, Marina Maher Communications, Cairns and Associates, Childs Play Communications, and Brouillard, as well as in-house to Revlon and TheLadders.com. Her contributions have resulted in both traditional and digital placements for consumer, small business, trade associations, start-ups and individuals. Highlights include Today with Hoda and Kathie Lee, NY Magazine “The Cut,” Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, NY1, Time, Shape, CNN, Oprah and Sirius XM for global brands like Hewlett-Packard, Gillette, American Family Publishers, Dannon, M&M's and Nickelodeon.

 

Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from Binghamton University, Graff is a published author whose contributions include novels such as the bestselling You Have to Kiss A Lot of Frogs, Looking for Mr. Goodfrog and The Shiksa Syndrome, as well as many anthologies. As a produced playwright, her one-act short play, All My Problems, has been published. An accomplished public speaker, Graff has made national broadcast appearances, recorded TV/radio commercials and has performed in the theater. Her favorite role? Playing “Frenchy” in Grease on Broadway.

Jacqui Liberman

An official Net-izen of the World Wide Web, Jacqui Liberman has lived and worked in the 24/7 world of social media since graduating college [which she did in just three short years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison]. Living in a hyper-connected world of instantaneous communication has helped Liberman fine-tune her team’s response time during crisis situations, where a fever pitch is just “business as usual” for the Blink social media group.

 

From the kitchen [for clients Hefty bags and Reynolds aluminum foil] to the classroom [Northwestern University], Liberman has mastered the fine art of crisis management in response to situations such as product recalls, contentious lawsuits, management restructuring and politically-charged issues. Her online communications arsenal for addressing these matters ranges from proactive postings to live blogger events, and from interactive consumer conversations to moving the dialogue offline for one-on-one briefings.

 

Social media so dominates Liberman’s life that she considered naming her Havanese dog “hash tag” until it dawned on her that those ubiquitous digital symbols may become passé during the pup’s lifetime. As a result, Alfie [the winning moniker] acquired a new name and a new daily hangout as the official office mascot. All employees are encouraged to bring their dogs to work, because a quick walk or empathetic paw has been proven to de-fuse even the most fraught crisis situation.

Kevin McGirr

McGirr believes that effective crisis management is all about evaluating, mitigating and minimizing risk wherever possible.  As a consultant and insurance executive, McGirr has an inherent understanding of the financial risk and exposure public and private companies may face as a result of their crisis management and recovery decisions. From bankers to investors, from consumers to social media, McGirr brings decades of experience assessing stakeholder and market reactions to management decisions, coupled with a strong left-brain discipline.

 

To help clients quantify risk, McGirr has acquired a mind-boggling number of professional and management certifications, including an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business, the national Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner designations, to name a few. McGirr is also a Registered Investment Advisor on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


Firmly rooted in the financial sector, McGirr began his career as an accountant with then-Big 8 firm Arthur Young & Co. From there, McGirr joined JPMorgan Chase where he worked overseas auditing Pacific Rim operations. Prior to focusing on financial planning exclusively, McGirr was a full-time instructor of accounting at alma mater Loyola University, where his riveting style garnered Teacher of the Year accolades.

Maria Poulos

Maria Poulos is a seasoned communications counselor and media relations consultant with more than 15 years of big agency experience.  She has a keen ability to understand an organization’s unique needs in time of turmoil, and has helped shape, direct and counsel companies and executives on a variety of crisis-driven issues.

 

As a public relations executive working at global agencies such as Porter Novelli, Ketchum, M Booth & Associates, Deutsch and Marina Maher Communications, Poulos has collaborated closely with Fortune 500 companies to develop strategic integrated marketing plans that reinforce reputation and mitigate risk for clients in the food, beverage, technology and consumer product categories.

 

As a media relations consultant, Poulos has worked with the highest levels of media – both traditional and digital – garnering national broadcast, print and online placements in a variety of outlets, such as CBS This Morning, the Associated Press, Yahoo.com, that have driven relevant and impactful coverage for her clients.

 

While working for clients such as Cadbury Adams, Dannon, Kellogg's, Samuel Adams, Snapple, Dawn, IKEA, HP and DreamWorks, Poulos and her teams have been awarded Silver Anvil awards for best new product introductions.

 

Poulos holds a B.A. in English Literature from Gettsyburg College, and is also a certified health and wellness coach credentialed by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, part of Columbia University's Teachers College.  Poulos's deep-seated passion for the wellness and food industry drives her ongoing interest, knowledge and understanding of food news and issues.

 

 

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